By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editorfirstname.lastname@example.org
The Havre Comets had every opportunity to win both of their games against the Great Falls Sparkies early on. But what fun would that be?
The Comets instead needed extra innings in the first game and waited until their last at-bat in the second game to pick up a sweep over the Sparkies in Northern District baseball action Tuesday at Legion Field.
In the opening game, Havre needed 10 innings and a little help from the Sparkies to pick up a 7-6 win.
The scrappy Comets rallied from a 3-0 deficit to tie the game in fifth inning.
However, the Comets had three runners thrown out at home plate in the final two innings and were unable to win the game in regulation.
"We should have won that game in seven innings," said Comets head coach Bob Evans. "Our baserunning absolutely killed us."
Indeed, Havre had three other baserunning gaffes that ostensibly killed rallies earlier in the game.
Despite all of that, Havre had a chance to win in the bottom of the seventh. However, Jeff Tibbals flyball to right was knocked down by the wind allowing Great Falls to throw out Patch Wirtzberger, who was tagging up, at home plate.
After both teams went scoreless in the eighth, the Sparkies exploded for three runs in the top of the ninth off of Tibbals to grab a 6-3 lead.
But the Comets remained resilient. Ben Erickson got things going after getting hit with a pitch and Tyson Anderson reached on an error. Erickson scored on a Wirtzberger single. Tibbals got some sweet revenge as he laced a single up the middle scoring Anderson and Wirtzberger and tying the game at six. But the Comet rally ended as Sparkie pitcher Tyler Whitaker got Coda Tchida to pop-up to end the inning.
After Tibbals held the Sparkies scoreless in the top of the tenth, the Comets got a little help from Great Falls to win the game. Trent Normandy reached on an error to lead off the inning. A sacrifice bunt by Jordon Patterson moved Normandy to second. Normandy promptly stole third base on the first pitch of Kaare Engebretson's at bat.
Evans called for a suicide squeeze on the second pitch of the at bat. Normandy broke for home a little early, which flustered Whitaker as he tried to throw Normandy out at home. However, when Whitaker broke from his wind-up, he balked and Normandy was awarded home, ending the game.
"Kaare said he could squeeze the run in," Evans said. "Trent just left a little too early and their pitcher kind of panicked. I wasn't sure what the pitcher exactly did to balk, but it didn't look right."
While Evans could do without the mental mistakes, he was pleased with his team's heart in the comeback.
"I wasn't very pleased with how we played," Evans said. "But we didn't roll over and die. We fought our way back into the game."
Tibbals got the win in relief for the Comets. Wirtzberger led the Comet offense with three hits and three stolen bases. Tibbals, Patterson, Anderson and Eric Fanning all had hits in the win.
The nightcap didn't need extra-innings, but it did need every last at-bat for the Comets. Wirtzberger's bases-loaded RBI-single in the bottom of the seventh broke a 1-1 tie to give the Comets a 2-1 win and a conference sweep.
Patterson led off the inning with a walk and was followed by a Tibbals single. Another walk to Tony Christian set up Wirtzberger's heroics.
Havre scored its first run in the third inning as Mike Olson lead off with a single and eventually scored on a Sparkie's error.
Comet ace Trent Normandy continued his solid pitching going the distance, allowing one run on five hits while striking out 11 Sparkies and not walking a batter.
"Trent pitched really well," Evans said. "He's been our most consistent pitcher this year. He's cut down on his walks and is making teams put the ball in play. It's amazing how much of a difference that makes."
Tibbals led the Comets with three hits while Engebretson and Bret Magelssen each added hits.
The Comets return to action this weekend when they, along with the Northstars, host the Havre Baseball Jamboree.
G.F. Sparkies 200 100 003 0 - 6 8 6
Havre Comets 000 030 003 1 - 7 7 4
Blase, Whitaker (LP) and Jacobson; Jeff Tibbals (WP) and Patch Wirtzberger.
SPARKIES - King 0-5, Johnson 1-6, Corwin 2-6, Whitaker 0-3, Egan 1-4, Jacobson 0-3, Chaon 1-4, Stubbs 2-4, Swartz 1-4.
COMETS - Patch Wirtzberger 3-5, Tony Christian 0-3, Jeff Tibbals 1-2 (2 RBI), Coda Tchida 0-4, Trent Normandy 0-3, Jordon Patterson 1-4, Kaare Engebretson 0-4, Ben Erickson 0-2, Tyson Anderson 1-2, Bret Magelssen 0-2, Eric Fanning 1-4.
2B - Corwin, Egan
3B - none
HR - none
Great Falls Sparkies 000 001 0 - 1 5 1
Havre Comets 001 000 1 - 2 5 1
King (LP) and Patterson; Normandy (WP) and Wirtzberger.
SPARKIES - King 3-3, Johnson 0-2, Corwin 1-3, Whitaker 0-3, Egan 1-3, Fabian 0-2, Swartz 0-3, Patterson 0-3, Feller 0-2.
COMETS - Tibbals 3-4, Christian 0-4, Wirtzberger 1-4 (1 RBI), Normandy 0-3, Tchida 0-3, Engebretson 1-3, Magelssen 1-3, Mike Olson 1-3, Bryden Vukasin 0-2, Patterson 0-0.
2B - King, Corwin
3B - none
HR - none