By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editorfirstname.lastname@example.org
While Major League Baseball had its official opening day almost a month ago, the official opening day for the Havre Comets will be on Saturday in Eureka.
The Comets will open their 2003 season at the Eureka tournament and face off against the host team at 3:45 p.m.
Comets head coach Bob Evans, who was coaxed out of his supposed retirement, is excited to see his team in its first real game situation.
"I really don't know what to expect," Evans said. "We have quite a few inexperienced kids. It should be interesting."
The Comets feature nine 17-year-olds returning from last year's team and five 16-year-olds making the transition from Babe Ruth.
That transition has taken some time, according to Evans, but it's starting to show some results.
"I saw a lot of improvement in the 10 days since we played the Northstars" in a scrimmage, Evans said. "They've come a long ways in terms of attitude and intensity at practice. They're coming to practice and really working hard."
One thing that has become evident to Evans is that age-old cliche: You can never have enough pitching. In his team's case, there isn't a whole lot of it.
The Comets lost their best two pitchers from last year in Brandon Morse and Chazz Hurlburt, both of whom moved up to the Northstars. That left Evans with only a handful of pitchers going into this season.
"We have to develop some pitching," Evans said. "Right now, I only have about three or four kids with much pitching experience."
The trio of Trent Normandy, Bret Magelssen and Ben Erickson all logged time on the mound for the Comets last season and will be counted on to throw plenty of innings this season.
The Comets' pitching staff should be bolstered by the addition of Chase Castloo, who moved to Havre from Texas.
"He's pretty fundamentally sound," Evans said. "I'm hoping he can step up and be a starter for us."
Besides pitching, Evans is also in need of leadership. He believes that Normandy and Patch Wirtzberger could fill that role. Both played with the Northstars in the early games this season and were major contributors on the Comets last season.
"Patch and Trent need to be leaders for us," Evans said. "Of all the 17-year-olds, they have to step up and take charge."
Wirtzberger, who is probably the team's most consistent hitter, will play all over, including catcher, outfield and a little infield. Normandy is also versatile and can play shortstop and outfield when he's not pitching.
Another player who could play multiple positions is Jordan Patterson, who played mostly outfield last season. Patterson has been hitting the ball well in practice and will find time on the field.
Erickson, Jeff Tibbals, Eric Fanning and Tony Christenson will see time in the infield while Coda Tschida, Tyson Anderson, Bryden Vukasin and Kaare Engebretson will patrol the outfield, with Mike Olson also handling the catching duties.
Evans isn't about to limit his players to certain positions. Because the Comets are a feeder team that prepares players for the Northstars, he wants kids to be able to play more than one position and play a lot.
"Every kid will get a start in a doubleheader," Evans said. "It's important that the kids get playing time and experience and get them ready for the Northstars."
The Comets open the tournament with Eureka on Saturday and play against the Glacier Twins at 6 p.m. On Sunday, they will face the Kalispell A squad at 10 a.m. and the Libby Loggers at 12:30 p.m.
"There's some good teams up there," Evans said. "It should be interesting to see how they react."