By Kim Staudinger
It was a game of defensive struggles Wednesday night at Legion Field.
Early miscues in the field appeared to be the undoing of the Havre Northstars, but ultimately led them to victory.
The Northstars committed two errors in the second inning which allowed the Havre Comets to score five runs. But three straight Comet errors in the bottom of the ninth allowed Danny Wirtzberger to score and gave the Northstars a 6-5 conference win.
"We didn't beat them by any means," Northstars coach Mickey Williams said. "It's a game of miscues and taking advantage of miscues. They did it to us in the second and we did it to them in the ninth. It's too bad for those guys. I would rather win with a base hit."
Coming on in relief of starting pitcher Doug Ireland, Eric Lipp struck out the side in the top of the ninth inning. Tied at five heading into the bottom of the inning, shortstop Steve Heberly popped out to second and Lipp followed with a strikeout.
Then the wheels began to fall off for the Comets.
Wirtzberger and Bobby Bergren reached on consecutive errors by Comet infielders. With Wirtzberger in scoring position, catcher Adam Jensen rifled a shot off second baseman Chris Chandler's glove, allowing Wirtzberger to race home with the winning run.
"We just made a couple of mistakes," Comets coach Bob Evans said. "They didn't even get the ball out of the infield (in the ninth) and they scored a run."
Said Williams: "Chris played so well the whole game. I hated to see it end like that."
After capitalizing on two Northstar errors in the second inning, the Comets took a lead and held it for most of the game.
The Comets sent 10 men to the plate in the inning, hitting five singles and scoring five runs all coming with two outs. Chandler delivered the big blow in the inning with a two-run single to right field.
The Northstars had a chance to get out of the inning without a run scoring, but Cory Junck bobbled a double play opportunity and the inning continued for the Comets.
After Kaare Engebretson reached on an error, Ben Erickson, Patch Wirtzberger, Levi Briese and Chandler followed with consecutive singles. Briese and Chandler were left stranded as Chazz Hurlburt grounded out to shortstop for the second time in the inning.
"We were prepared to play the Northstars tonight," Chandler said. "We played defense on their level. We were hitting on their level. It just didn't happen to end that way."
The Northstars came back and scored three runs on two hits in the bottom of the second inning, as Wirtzberger tripled home two and Ireland helped himself out with an RBI single. The Northstars added another run in the third inning, cutting the deficit to 5-4. They would tie the game at five on an RBI double by Ian Spencer in the fifth.
The Comets stranded six runners after the second inning four in scoring position.
"We had runners on base in the third and fourth and couldn't score." Evans said. "We have to learn to get those runners in and we just didn't do it."
Ireland and Lipp combined to strike out 13 Comets and held them to seven hits.
The Northstars had just six hits in the game.
"We're still not hitting yet but it's better than striking out," Williams said. "We have got to get the ball in play."
Evans sees the near win as marked improvement for his team.
"We're getting closer every time we play them," he said, noting the two teams will not meet again during the regular season this year. "Now we'll get them at the district tournament."
The two teams combined for nine errors in the game.
Northstars Doug Ireland and Eric Lipp (9), Adam Jensen; Comets Ben Mader and Brandon Morse (6), Houim.