By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
The Havre Comets did everything right for six innings, but unfortunately American Legion baseball games are seven innings. The Comets blew a 9-3 lead in the top of the sixth inning as the Lethbridge Miners scored 10 runs in one inning to rally to win the opening game of Northern A doubleheader, 13-12, at Legion Field on Wednesday afternoon.
The Miners completed the sweep with a 6-2 win over the Comets in the nightcap.
But it was the opening game that left Comets head coach Bob Evans shaking his head at the missed plays and the missed opportunities.
"We just flat gave that game to them," Evans said. "When you score runs in six of the seven innings, you should win the game. But we give up 10 runs in one inning and we should have probably given up only a couple runs."
Indeed, on a day when blustery winds turned every fly ball into an adventure, the Comets were capitalizing on Miner mistakes.
With the game tied at one, the Comets broke open the game in the bottom of the third, scoring five runs on four hits. Patch Wirtzberger had an RBI single and Trent Normandy had a sacrifice fly, but the big blow was Coda Tchida's bases-loaded double, which cleared the bases.
Lethbridge answered the Havre outburst with a run on its own an inning later. But the Comets tacked on two runs in the fourth and another in the fifth, thanks to a triple off the wall by Tony Christian and an RBI single from Ben Erickson to take a 9-3 lead.
But in the top of the sixth, the proverbial wheels fell off for the Comets. After an error and a single to open the inning, Comet starter Chase Castloo walked the next two batters and gave up a single as three runs scored. Evans went to Bret Magelssen to stop the bleeding, but Lethbridge came up with four consecutive hits, that coupled with a few mental mistakes by the Comets, led to seven more runs in the inning.
"We didn't make a play when we needed to," Evans said. "I think we got a little tight in that inning when we saw we were beating the top team in the conference. We had some errors and some mental mistakes that killed us. You can't do that against teams like Lethbridge because they will make you pay."
As bad as the inning was, the scrappy Comets didn't pack it in. Instead, they fought back in their final at bat. Wirtzberger drove in Ben Erickson while Jeff Tibbals scored on a booted ground ball to cut the lead to one - all with two outs. However, Lethbridge closer Matt Erickson managed to get Normandy to hit a hard ground ball to short to end the game.
Castloo took the loss for the Comets, despite pitching solidly up until the sixth inning. Wirtzberger finished with three hits and a pair of RBIs while Normandy, Erickson and Tchida combined to drive in six runs.
"The kids didn't give up, which was good to see," Evans said. "After that bad inning, they could have just rolled over, but they didn't and we had the winning run in scoring position and a chance to win the game."
In the nightcap, the scoring slowed along with the wind. While the Miners didn't have any more 10 run innings, they scored just enough runs to beat Havre, 6-2, to complete the sweep.
Lethbridge got to Normandy, the Comet ace, early - picking up single runs in each of the first three innings.
The Comets finally got on the board with a run in bottom of the third as Bryden Vukasin reached on an error and later scored on single from Wirtzberger. It could have been more, but Tyson Anderson's hard drive to left with bases loaded was caught, ending the inning.
"Tyson hit it pretty hard, but just right at him," Evans said. "If that gets down, it's a whole different ballgame."
The Miners answered with a pair of runs an inning later. A dropped fly ball and singles by Cole Balog and Dustin Smith led to a pair of runs. Lethbridge tacked on another run in the seventh as Balog scored on another Comet error.
Havre couldn't muster much of an offensive rally. They picked up a run in the fifth as Anderson drove in Wirtzberger, but that was it.
"We didn't get the hits when we really needed them," Evans said. "Trent pitched well, but we didn't hit and made a few mistakes that didn't help him much."
Despite the losses, Evans wasn't too disappointed, since his team gave the conference leaders a pretty good scare.
"We played hard and weren't intimidated by them," Evans said. "It should give us a little confidence."
The Comets will be on the road this weekend they travel to Lethbridge on Saturday and Fort MacLeod on Sunday to wrap up the regular season.
Lethbridge Miners 100 11 10 0 - 13 12 3
Havre Comets 015 21 1 2 - 12 11 6
M. Smith, Erickson (7) and Troutman; Chase Castloo, Bret Magelssen (6) and Patch Wirtzberger. WP - Smith, LP - Castloo, S - Erickson.
MINERS - D. Smith 2-4, Balog 1-4, Peters 2-4, LeClair 1-5, Mazurek 2-4, McLeod 2-3, Troutman 1-4, Granberg 1-3, Sedgewick 0-2.
COMETS - Tibbals 1-4, Tony Christian 2-4, Patch Wirtzberger 3-5 (2 RBI), Trent Normandy 1-5 (2 RBI), Jordon Patterson 1-4, Coda Tchida 1-3 (3 RBI), Ben Erickson 2-4 (RBI), Kaare Engebretson 0-2, Eric Fanning 0-2, Tyson Anderson 0-1.
2B - Granberg
3B - Peters, Christian 2,
HR - none
Lethbridge Miners 111 200 1 - 6 10 0
Havre Comets 001 010 0 - 2 5 2
Leavitt and McLeod; Trent Normandy and Mike Olson. WP - Leavitt, LP - Normandy.
MINERS - D. Smith 3-4, Balog 2-4, Peters 1-3, LeClair 1-4, Mazurek 1-4, McLeod 1-3, M. Smith 1-4, Erickson 0-3, Sedgewick 0-3.
COMETS - Jeff Tibbals 0-4, Tony Christian 0-1, Patch Wirtzberger 1-4, Trent Normandy 2-4, Kaare Engebretson 0-2, Jordon Patterson 0-1, Tyson Anderson 1-2, Bret Magelssen 0-3, Mike Olson 1-3, Bryden Vukasin 0-3.
2B - McLeod, M. Smith
3B - none
HR - none