By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
Little things - an extra base here, a missed bunt there, maybe it a missed bunt coverage, or forgetting how many outs there are - are killing the Havre Comets.
The Comets dropped a perfect opportunity to pick up a split against a solid Fort MacLeod Royal squad because of those darn little things.
Fort MacLeod used a perfectly executed suicide squeeze play in the top of the eighth inning to outlast the Comets in the nightcap of a Northern District doubleheader Wednesday night at Legion Field.
The fact that the game even went to extra innings was due to missed opportunities by the Comets.
"We should have won the game in seven innings," said head coach Bob Evans. "It should never had to go to extra innings. We made a couple of baserunning mistakes and an error in the field that hurt. If just one of those things doesn't happen, we win the game."
The Comets certainly had their chances to win. They grabbed a 4-0 lead after two innings, powered by a two-run single from Kaare Engebretson and an RBI single from Jeff Tibbals.
However, Fort MacLeod regained the lead in a hurry, scoring six runs in the top of the third. Comet starter Trent Normandy retired two of the first three batters of the inning, but a pair of walks would come back to bite him. Nick Tillsley and Ben Paskal drove in runs to cut the lead to 4-2.
Normandy was close to getting out of the inning without much more damage, but Quade Armstrong's single to right field skipped under Engebretson's glove scoring three additional runs in the inning.
When the dust settled in the third, Fort MacLeod was left with a 6-4 lead. The Comets could have easily rolled over after the debacle, but instead chose to fight back. In the bottom half of the inning, Tibbals ripped a bases-loaded double scoring Tyson Anderson, Bret Magelssen and Bryden Vukasin allowing the Comets to retake the lead 7-6.
Fort MacLeod capitalized on a Comet error as Tillsley drove in the tying run an inning later. With Tillsley on second and only one out, Normandy bore down and struck out the remaining two batters to get out of the inning.
Both teams went scoreless through the next two innings, forcing it into extra innings. But Havre missed golden opportunities as Patch Wirtzberger was thrown out at third trying to advance on a booted groundball in the fifth inning, and Tony Christian was picked off at first base in the seventh.
"Our baserunning just kills us in close games," Evans said. "We just shoot ourselves in the foot."
After being held scoreless for three innings, the Royals finally got to Normandy in the top of the eighth. Paskal led off by reaching on an error and Dale Scobie drew a walk. Fort MacLeod attempted to bunt the runners over to get them in scoring position. Normandy pounced on the bunt quickly and reeled to throw to third to get the lead runner, but there was no Comet player covering third and he was forced to take the out at first base.
With the winning run on third, Fort MacLeod's Jeff Kenly laid down a suicide squeeze bunt, scoring Paskal and giving the Royals a 8-7 lead. Normandy walked the next batter, but struck out the next two to end the inning.
Havre had an opportunity to tie the game in the bottom of eight as Tibbals led off with a single and was sacrificed to second by Wirtzberger. However, Jordon Patterson popped up to first and Normandy flew out to right to end the game.
"We didn't always play smart, but we played hard and intense the entire game," Evans said. "All the kids showed a lot of enthusiasm and were really fired up."
Normandy went the complete game and took the loss. The Comet ace allowed only three earned runs in eight innings while striking out eight. Tibbals led the offensive attack with three hits and four RBIs. Engebretson also drove in a pair of runs and Anderson added another RBI for the comments.
In the opening game of the doubleheader, Fort MacLeod roughed up starter Bret Magelssen by scoring eight runs in the first two innings en route to a 13-2 win.
"Bret was leaving the ball up in the strikezone a little in those first two innings," Evans said. "You can't do that to good hitters like Fort MacLeod has."
Magelssen settled down after the early trouble and allowed just five more runs over the next five innings. But the Comets couldn't muster much offense as they finally scratched a pair of runs across in the bottom of the seventh.
"We hit the ball pretty hard in the game," Evans said. "It just seemed like it was always right at somebody."
Engebretson led the Comets offensively with three hits and an RBI.
Havre will head north to Medicine Hat on Friday for a three-day tournament. Evans said he wasn't sure exactly how it would play out because the Comets host Lethbridge on Tuesday of next week.
"I want to save Trent for Lethbridge, so I might not throw him at all this weekend," Evans said. "He's logged a lot of innings already this year. If he does pitch it will only be an inning or two to stay sharp."
Fort MacLeod Royals 530 100 4 - 13 14 3
Havre Comets 000 000 2 - 2 6 3
Payne and Tillsley; Magelssen and Wirtzberger, Olson. WP - Payne; LP - Magelssen.
ROYALS - Schwindt 2-5, Wilson 1-5, Tillsley 4-5, Paskal 1-5, Scobie 0-3, Payne 3-3, Kenly 1-4, Armstrong 2-3, Morkin 0-4.
COMETS - Jeff Tibbals 0-4, Patch Wirtzberger 1-2, Mike Olson 0-2, Trent Normandy 1-3, Coda Tchida 0-2, Jordon Patterson 0-3, Ben Erickson 1-3, Kaare Engebretson 3-3 (RBI), Eric Fanning 0-2, Tony Christian 0-3.
2B - Wilson, Payne
3B - Kenly
HR - none
Fort MacLeod Royals 006 100 01 - 8 10 2
Havre Comets 133 000 00 - 7 10 7
Tillsley, Wilson and Kenly, Tillsley; Trent Normandy and Patch Wirtzberger.
ROYALS - Schwindt 0-3, Wilson 0-4, Tillsley 2-4, Paskal 1-4, Scobie 1-3, Payne 0-3, Kenly 3-5, Armstrong 1-4, Chester 0-4.
COMETS - Jeff Tibbals 3-5 (4 RBI), Patch Wirtzberger 1-3, Jordon Patterson 0-3, Trent Normandy 1-4, Kaare Engebretson 1-4 (2 RBI), Tyson Anderson 0-1 (RBI), Coda Tchida 0-1, Chase Castloo 0-3, Bret Magelssen 2-4, Bryden Vukasin 2-2, Tony Christian 2-2.
2B - Tillsley, Wirtzberger, Tibbals
3B - none
HR - none