By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
If one inning could sum up an entire season, it would be the first inning of Monday's game between the Havre Comets and Medicine Hat Knights at Legion Field.
With a berth in this week's Northern District tournament at stake, the Comets needed to sweep the Knights in the doubleheader to advance to the postseason.
After pulling off a dramatic 3-2 win in the opener, Havre seemed poised to pull off the sweep.
But in the end, as has been the case so many times this season, one bad inning came back to haunt the Comets.
Medicine Hat scored six runs off of starter John Christian on four hits in the top of the first. The Knights capitalized on four Comet errors to take a 6-0 lead.
Havre, which had been plagued all season by one bad inning per game, just couldn't seem to find a way, or get a break, to make the inning end.
"That one bad inning seemed to just haunt us all season," said head coach Andy Smith. "We're not an explosive offense team like the Northstars. We have to chip away to get runs. You just can't dig yourselves into a hole like that."
Having dug themselves into a canyon, the scrappy Comets still tried to fight their way back into the game and prolong their season.
The Comets grabbed one run in the bottom of the first as Josh Lowe led off the inning with a walk and later scored as Small hit into a fielder's choice.
Medicine Hat tacked on runs in the second and fourth to go up 8-1.
But Havre continued to peck away, scoring two runs in the bottom of the fourth to trim the lead to 8-3.
Austin Small came in for relief for Christian and settled into a rhythm and kept the Knights off balance after the tough first inning.
The Comets added two more runs in the fifth on RBI singles from Tyson Anderson and John Christian to pull with three at 8-5. But Havre missed out on a golden opportunity in the bottom of the sixth, stranding runners on second and third.
Small started to tire a little in the seventh and surrendered three runs on five hits as Medicine Hat took a comfortable 11-5 and ended the Comets' season a half-inning later.
"We also didn't help ourselves with some baserunning mistakes," Smith said. "We just couldn't come up with the big hit when we needed it. We left some runners on base in scoring position.
Small and Christian had two hits and drove in a run each to lead the Havre offense. Anderson, Jess McLain and Richard Jarvis each added hits for the Comets.
Christian took the loss for Havre. Of the 11 runs Havre surrendered, only three were earned.
"You just can't give them four outs an inning," Smith said. "We've done that a lot this year. It gives the other team momentum and opportunities."
Havre was in position to qualify for districts thanks largely to the first-game pitching performance of Sean Peterson, who picked the right time to have one of his best games of the season.
Peterson pitched all seven innings allowing just two earned runs on four hits as the Comets picked up a 4-3 win.
"Sean pitched awesome," Smith said. "It was one of his better starts all year. He knew we had to have the win and he rose to the occasion. He had a rough start the day before in Fort MacLeod, but he really showed a lot of heart coming back and throwing well."
Both of Peterson's earned runs came in the first inning, after that he settled in holding the Knights scoreless until the seventh inning when a dropped ball cost him another run.
Havre answered Medicine Hat's early runs with two runs in the bottom of the seventh. Anderson was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and later scored on Peterson's RBI single up the middle. Peterson scored the game-tying run on a Scott Ladenburg fielder's choice.
Despite Peterson's solid pitching, Havre still found itself trailing 3-2 in its final at-bat. However, Bryden Vukasin was hit by a pitch to open the inning and Lowe followed up with a single to put the tying and winning runs on base in scoring position.
With the game in the balance, McLain, who had dropped the ball the inning before, laced a single to left, scoring both runs and winning the game in walk-off fashion.
"Jess came up with a big hit when we needed it," Smith said. "He was upset about the inning before. It was good to see him get that hit."
Peterson also led Havre offensively with two hits and an RBI. On the mound, he struck out six batters and walked just three.
"The kids did a great job by coming back and winning that first one to give us an opportunity at the district tourney," Smith said.
This past weekend wasn't quite as kind as the Comets dropped four games on a tough Canadian road trip. Lethbridge and Fort MacLeod roughed up the Comets in a pair of doubleheaders.
"It was a tough trip," Smith said. "Those teams are pretty good and we didn't play very well and that's not a good combination."
"The Comets finished the season with a 14-35 season.
"In hindsight, and you look back on the season, it should have never came down this last game," Smith said. "We had opportunities to be in better position throughout the year.
While Smith was disappointed to see the season end, he found plenty of positives.
"Overall, we were a game away from going to districts," Smith said. "They need to take this feeling and use it for some motivation. You know our record might not show it, but I think we got better throughout the season. The kids got to play a lot of games and get plenty of experience which is what the whole point of the Comet program is. I really enjoyed coaching them this season and it was a lot of fun."
Havre 4, Medicine Hat 3
Medicine Hat Knights 200 000 1 - 3 4 3
Havre Comets 020 000 2 - 4 6 2
Sean Peterson (WP) and Jess McLain
KNIGHTS HITTING - not available
COMETS HITTING - Josh Lowe 1-4, Jess McLain 1-3 (2 RBI), Austin Small 1-3, Tyson Anderson 0-1, John Christian 1-3, Sean Peterson 2-3 (RBI), Richard Jarvis 0-2, Josh Morse 0-2, Scott Ladenburg 0-1 (RBI), Mike Olson 0-1, Bryden Vukasin 0-0.
2B - none
3B - none
HR - none
Medicine Hat 11, Havre 5
Medicine Hat Knights 610 100 3 - 11 14 2
Havre Comets 100 220 0 - 5 8 6
John Christian (LP), Austin Small and Josh Morse.
KNIGHTS HITTING - not available
COMETS HITTING - Josh Lowe 0-2, Jess McLain 1-4, Austin Small 2-4 (RBI), Tyson Anderson 1-3 (RBI), John Christian 2-4 (RBI), Sean Peterson 0-3, Richard Jarvis 1-2, Josh Morse 0-3, Bill Siebrasse 0-1, Mike Olson 0-1, Scott Ladenburg 1-1.
2B - none
3B - none
HR - none