By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
On the first night that seemed perfect for baseball, the Havre Northstars wrapped up their season series with the Havre Comets with a pair of resounding wins to sweep the season series.
But it wasn't just the pleasant weather that was a first. For the first time all season, Northstars head coach Mickey Williams had his full team at his disposal. There was no graduation or other spring sports and, most important, nobody missing.
"That was the big thing for us, to get everybody back," Williams said. "With school done, it's time for our kids to start focusing on baseball. It's tough to play with any consistency when you have a different lineup every game and kids missing practices and games."
One of those players that had missed recently was game one pitcher Chase Castloo. Because he was helping Havre High win a state tennis title and the week's worth of rain, Castloo, who is expected to be a key starting pitcher, hadn't thrown in a game since May 2.
After shaking off the rustiness that comes with a month-long break and a few miscues from his teammates, Castloo settled in to pick up an 8-4 win.
"I thought Chase did what he had to do to win," Williams said. "He wasn't particularly sharp with his command. But we kind of expected that since he hadn't pitched in a game in so long. You can work on it in practice, but you can't simulate game conditions."
It looked like Castloo and the Northstars would cruise to any easy win early. They jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first inning as lead-off walk from Patch Wirtzberger off Comet starter Sean Peterson led to the game first score. Ian Spencer added an RBI-single later in the inning.
But the Comets rallied in the top of third. Josh Morse singled and scored on Jeff Tibbals' double to the left-center gap. Tibbals later scored on a throwing error from Spencer and Jess McLain added a deep RBI triple to right-center to give the Comets a 4-2.
The Comets rode the momentum to a scoreless bottom half of the inning and appeared poised to keep the game close.
But it didn't happen. The Northstars' bats came to life in the fourth, as Jordon Patterson drew a lead-off walk and later scored on Wirtzberger's single to center. Havre then got consecutive hits from Trent Normandy and Solomon, and a sacrifice fly from Spencer to score two more runs and retake a 5-4 lead.
"We really got on the kids after the fourth inning and they responded," Williams said. "We didn't seem to be too into the game early on. But we aren't that good of a team where we can just show up and expect to win."
With his team back in the lead, Castloo settled into a rhythm, allowing just three hits in the remaining three innings to secure the win.
The Northstars tacked on some insurance runs in the fifth on an RBI single from Brandon Morse and two-run single from Solomon.
Castloo gave up four runs on seven hits with only one of the runs earned. Solomon, who had been slumping a little and is fighting some injuries, seems to be returning to his old self, picking up two hits and two RBIs. Wirtzberger also had two hits and scored a pair of runs, while Normandy was 2-3 with two runs scored and an RBI.
Peterson took the loss for the Comets, going the distance and giving up eight runs with just five of them earned. Josh Morse led the Comet offense with a 3-3 performance. Tibbals chipped in with two hits, a run scored and a run batted in.
"We didn't seem to be too into the game early on," Williams said. "With a team like the Comets, you can't let them stay in the game, because it gives them confidence. We did a good job of getting back into the game, but we can't just turn it on when we want to. It has to be there from the first pitch."
Any possibility of the Northstars coming out sluggish in the nightcap was erased in the first inning. The Northstars scored three runs in the first inning as Spencer, Tony Christian and Bret Magelssen had run scoring singles to take a 3-0 lead.
The three-run first was a solid start, but pitcher Trent Normandy would have only needed one run on this night.
After suffering a tough 6-4 loss to the Great Falls Stallions almost two weeks ago, Normandy was almost perfect against the Comets. He worked seven near-perfect innings to lead the Northstars to a 12-0 shutout win.
Normandy almost replicated teammate Brandon Morse's mastery of the Comets, pitching seven innings and allowing just one hit - a soft line drive up the middle by Billy Siebrasse.
With the Comets' bats stymied, the Northstar offense continued to roll. Ricky Houim and Spencer added RBIs in the second inning to push the lead to 5-0.
It ballooned in the fifth, as Wirtzberger drove in two runs with a single to right-center and Solomon drove in two more runs with a line-drive to left.
The Northstars tacked on three more in the seventh. Houim spanked an RBI single and the Northstars took advantage of pair of Comet throwing errors to add two more runs.
"We're finally starting to get some hits with runners in scoring position," Williams said. "We couldn't do that the last time Trent pitch. Although, it wouldn't matter much tonight the way he pitched."
Indeed, in baseball slang, Normandy was "straight dealing."
He breezed through the first four innings, as just two runners reached base on a hit by pitch and an error.
His only trouble came in the fifth. After striking out Bryden Vukasin, Normandy surrendered his lone hit to Siebrasse. He battled back to strike out Knudson, but then walked Tibbals. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch to give the Comets their best scoring opportunity of the game with runners on second and third with two outs. But Normandy struck out John Christian on a 3-2 count to end the threat.
"Trent found a way to get himself out of the inning," Williams said. "He made some big pitches in the inning."
With the threat gone, Normandy struck out five of the next six batters he faced to end the game.
He faced 26 batters and allowed just the one hit while striking out 14 Comets and walking just one.
"That was a good performance from Trent," Williams said. "He had a pretty long break between his last start and he seemed to get stronger as the game went on."
Solomon led the Havre offense with four hits and two RBIS. Spencer was 2-4 with three RBIs, while Wirtzberger and Magelssen added two hits apiece. With the wins, the Northstars improved to 10-7 on the season, while the Comets fell to 3-11.
The Northstars return to action today as they travel to Glasgow for two seven-inning games starting at 5 p.m. They will travel to Fort MacLeod for a pair of conference games on Saturday and return home on Sunday to face Vauxhall. The Comets will host Vauxhall in a doubleheader on Saturday at 6 p.m.
Northstars 8, Comets 4
Havre Comets 004 000 0 - 4 7 3
Havre Northstars 200 330 X - 8 9 1
Sean Peterson (LP) and Josh Morse; Chase Castloo (WP) and Ricky Hoium.
COMETS HITTING - Jeff Tibbals 2-3 (RBI), Sean Peterson 0-3, Mike Olson 0-4, Austin Small 0-3, Jess McLain 1-3 (RBI), John Christian 0-2, Josh Lowe 0-3, Scott Ladenburg 1-3, Josh Morse 3-3.
NORTHSTARS HITTING - Patch Wirtzberger 2-3 (RBI), Trent Normandy 2-3 (RBI), Daine Solomon 2-4 (2 RBI), Ricky Houim 0-2 (RBI), Ian Spencer 1-2 (RBI), Cory Junck 0-4, Ben Erickson 1-4, Jordon Patterson 0-2, Brandon Morse 1-2 (RBI).
2B - Tibbals
3B - McLain
HR - none
Northstars 12, Comets 0
Havre Northstars 320 040 3 - 12 15 1
Havre Comets 000 000 0 - 0 1 2
Trent Normandy (WP) and Ricky Houim; Tom Knudson (LP), Jess McLain (3), Jeff Tibbals (2) and Mike Olson.
NORTHSTARS HITTING - Patch Wirtzberger 2-4 (2 RBI), Cory Junck 1-3, Daine Solomon 4-5 (2 RBI), Ricky Houim 1-5 (RBI), Ian Spencer 2-4 (3 RBI), Tony Christian 1-2 (RBI), Jordon Patterson 1-2, Bret Magelssen 2-4 (RBI), Chase Castloo 1-4, Eric Fanning 0-3.
COMETS HITTING - Jeff Tibbals 0-2, Sean Peterson 0-2, John Christian 0-1, Richard Jarvis 0-3, Austin Small 0-1, Scott Ladenburg, Mike Olson 0-3, Jess McLain 0-2, Josh Lowe 0-1, Bryden Vukasin 0-3, Bill Siebrasse 1-3, Tom Knudson 0-2.
2B - Spencer
3B - none
HR - none