By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
After coming back so many times, the Havre Comets finally ran out of magic against the Great Falls Sparkies. The Comets rallied from deficits four different times only to see the Sparkies answer every comeback and hold on to an 8-7 win in 10 innings Sunday at Legion Field. Great Falls completed the doubleheader sweep with a 6-1 win in the nightcap.
They were the opening conference games for both teams and the play reflected it.
Great Falls grabbed an early lead as Comet starter John Christian walked the first batter of the game, who later scored on a sacrifice fly.
Havre answered in its first at-bat of the game, capitalizing on three Sparkie errors. Jeff Tibbals and Richard Jarvis singled and Austin Small drew a walk to start the inning. All three later scored on Sparkie miscues to give Havre a 3-1 lead.
After the opening inning, both teams' pitchers settled down. Christian cruised until the sixth inning before running into trouble. Great Falls scored two runs in in the sixth aided by a pair of Havre errors to tie the game at 3-3.
But the Sparkie lead was shortlived. Josh Morse led off with the bottom of the sixth with a walk. After stealing second, Morse scored on Josh Lowe's single through the left side to give Havre the lead back at 4-3. The Comets, however, squandered a good scoring opportunity, stranding runners on second and third.
Taking a 4-3 lead into the top of the seventh, the Comets were unable to close out Great Falls. The Sparkies got three clutch singles and benefited from a Havre error on a sacrifice to bunt to score three runs in the inning to take a 6-4 lead. The Comets escaped further damage as Christian battled back to get a strike out and Anderson tossed out a runner at the plate trying to score on a sacrifice fly to end the inning.
Down two in its last at-bat, Havre managed to rally yet again as Mike Olson, Anderson and Morse got things going with three consecutive singles. Lowe came up big again with another RBI single scoring Olson. Anderson scored as Bryden Vukasin grounded into a fielders' choice to tie the game at 6-6. But the Comets once again stranded runners at second and third to push the game into extra innings.
After a scoreless eighth inning for both teams, Great Falls took a brief lead in the ninth, capitalizing on a Havre error and two passed balls.
The Comets answered the Sparkies once again. Anderson led off the bottom of the ninth with a single to center. Anderson was advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Morse, setting things up again for Lowe, who came through with his third consecutive RBI single to tie the game at 7-7.
"Josh Lowe had really good game for us," said head coach Andy Smith. "He came up with some really big hits for us in some clutch situations. He's started to be a little more patient at the plate. He waited to get a good pitch to hit and delivered in some clutch situations."
Lowe's heroics would prove for naught. Back-to-back doubles in the top of the 10th off of reliever Anderson put Great Falls back ahead 8-7. And this time the Comets couldn't come up with any comeback magic.
Anderson took the loss for Havre in relief. Christian pitched probably his best game of the season, going nine innings and allowing no earned runs and striking out seven while walking three. Havre's five errors proved costly, as only one of Great Falls' eight runs was earned.
"I was really pleased with the way John pitched," Smith said. "He battled out of some tough situations and kept us in the game. It's too bad we couldn't get him the win."
The Comets pounded out 12 hits in the game and were led by Lowe's 4-4, three RBI performance. Anderson was 2-5 with two runs scored, while Jarvis also added a pair of hits and scored a run. Havre hitters did strike out 13 times in the game.
"We showed a lot of heart coming back so many times in the game," Smith said. "We just couldn't seem to put them away when we got a lead. But our kids played really hard with a lot of enthusiasm in the game."
In the nightcap, the marathon first game definitely took its toll on Havre. Great Falls took the momentum of the first-game win and carried it over into the second, grabbing a 3-0 lead on Comet starter Tyson Anderson and never looking back. The Sparkies added runs in the third, fourth and seventh inning to cushion the lead.
Havre struggled a little at the plate, coming up with just one run on five hits. Olson scored Havre's only run in the game after leading off the bottom of the fourth and later scoring on Anderson's double to left-center. Anderson took the loss for Havre on the mound.
Olson led the Comet bats with a pair of hits. Anderson, Lowe and Morse each added hits for Havre.
The Comets will be back in action on Wednesday when they take on the Havre Northstars in conference action. Austin Small will get the nod on the mound for the Comets. The two Havre squads will square off in a nine-inning game, starting at 7 p.m.
Great Falls 8, Havre 7
Great Falls Sparkies 100 002 301 1 - 8 9 4
Havre Comets 300 001 201 0 - 7 12 5
John Christian (9), Tyson Anderson (LP) and Josh Morse.
SPARKIES HITTING - unavailable
COMETS HITTING - Jeff Tibbals 1-6, Richard Jarvis 2-6, Austin Small 1-4, Mike Olson 1-4, Tyson Anderson 2-5, Josh Morse 1-4, Josh Lowe 4-4 (3 RBI), Bryden Vukasin 0-5 (RBI), Tom Knudson 0-4.
2B - none
3B - none
HR - none
Great Falls 6, Havre 1
Great Falls Sparkies 104 200 0 - 7 8 3
Havre Comets 146 006 X - 17 17 3
Tyson Anderson (LP), Tom Knudson and Mike Olson.
SPARKIES HITTING - unavailable
COMETS HITTING - Jeff Tibbals 0-2, Richard Jarvis 0-3, Austin Small 0-3, Mike Olson 2-3, John Christian 0-3, Tyson Anderson 1-2 (RBI), Josh Lowe 1-1, Tom Knudson 0-2, Bill Siebrasse 0-3, Josh Morse 1-3.
2B - Anderson
3B - none
HR - none