By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editorfirstname.lastname@example.org
When your postseason hopes are hanging by a proverbial string, you'll take any win you can get - even if it seems like the other team is handing it to you.
The Havre Comets, who are fighting down to their last games to get into the Northern District tournament, grabbed a much needed doubleheader split against the Fort MacLeod Royals Tuesday night at Legion Field.
"Basically, we need to win five of our last 10 games to even have a chance of qualifying for the district touranment," said Comets head coach Andy Smith. "So to rally and get a split like this is really big for our kids."
Trailing 7-0 going into the bottom of the sixth inning, the Comets appeared headed for another conference loss, making things even tougher on their postseason hopes.
But something strange happened in that sixth inning. All those breaks that never seemed to go the Comets way, finally did.
Havre roared ahead, scoring eight runs on five hits and capitalizing on three Royal errors to take the lead.
The inning started innocently enough with Richard Jarvis drawing a lead-off walk. The Comets got their first break when Jess McLain's tailor-made double-play ball to second was botched, leaving both runners safe.
Austin Small followed that up with a short single to left that fell in between a charging leftfielder and the shortstop, leaving bases loaded for Tyson Anderson.
And Anderson delivered, lacing a single to left that scored Jarvis and McLain. Fort MacLeod went to reliever Josh Hutchins to try and stop the momentum. However, pinch-hitter Mike Olson fought off several pitches on two strikes and delivered an RBI single to center, cutting the lead to 7-3.
"Mike just had a great at-bat," Smith said. "He fouled off a lot of pitches and finally was able to win the battle."
Havre wasn't through yet. Hutchins walked John Christian to load the bases again. This time it was Bryden Vukasin's turn to deliver in the clutch. Vukasin ripped a single through the left side, scoring Anderson and pinch-runner Sean Peterson, trmming the lead to 7-5.
Josh Lowe kept the rally alive, delivering a single up the middle to score Anderson and Jarvis reached base on an error. McLain drove in the game-tying run with a ground ball fielder's choice. With the score tied at 7-7. Fort MacLeod went to another reliever in the inning. However, Dale Scobie didn't seem quite warm, walking Tyson Anderson with the bases loaded for the go-ahead run.
"We've been on the other end of those innings," Smith said. "I was proud of our kids for fighting back. They had a couple of mistakes and gave us some breaks and we capitalized on them."
With an 8-7 lead, Havre still had to hold MacLeod scoreless in the top of the sixth to get the win. Smith, who has seen his team lose seven one-run games this season, was just a little on edge.
But Peterson came up with a pair of brilliant catches at shortstop - one a leaping grab on a hard line drive and the other a tough over his shoulder grab on a soft pop fly to left to get Havre within an out of the win. A ground-ball out to Jarvis at third sealed the win.
Small got the win on the mound, pitching seven innings and allowing six hits and seven runs - none of which were earned.
"We didn't do a very good job of helping Austin out," Smith said. "We basically spotted them seven runs with errors. It's tough to win games like that."
Anderson led the Havre offense with three of the team's seven hits while driving in three runs. Lowe, Small, Olson and Vukasin had the other hits.
"That was just an unbelievable win," Smith said. "We really needed to get a split after losing the first game, and the kids found a way to do that."
The second-game win was a little bittersweet for Smith because he felt the first game was very winnable as well.
Havre looked solid early on, but a base-running and mental mistakes came back to haunt the Comets in a 7-3 loss in the opening game.
Fort MacLeod broke open a 3-3 game in the top of the fourth, scoring four runs on five hits off of starter John Christian to get the win.
As has been the case for most of the season, the Comets suffered through one bad inning which cost them the game.
Havre's bats struggled against Fort MacLeod starter Josh Gibbs and carried over to the second game against starter Greg Gibbony.
"Their pitchers weren't throwing very hard," Smith said. "Our kids need to make some adjustments. They can't take the same approach to every at-bat for every game. They need to adjust according to the pitcher."
When the Comets did have runners on, base-running mistakes hurt them. They had two players picked off second.
"Getting picked off like that just kills rallies," Smith said. "We have to be better than that. We get some things going and a little momentum and we run ourselves out of the inning."
Havre's three runs came early. Olson drove in a run on a fielder's choice in the first, while Anderson ripped an RBI double. Lowe had an RBI single in the second inning.
Christian took the loss, going seven innings and allowing seven runs on nine hits.
Still, the bad taste of the first game was washed away with the win in the second game.
"The kids' goal all season has been to make it to the district tournament," Smith said. "We can do it if we play hard and play smart. Hopefully, we can carry some of the momentum of tonight's win into our games with Tri-County."
The Comets travel to Conrad today to face the Tri-County Cardinals at 3 p.m.
Fort MacLeod 7, Havre 3
Fort MacLeod Royals 120 400 0 - 7 9 1
Havre Comets 120 000 0 - 3 12 3
Josh Gibbs (WP); John Christian (LP) and Mike Olson.
ROYALS HITTING - not available
COMETS HITTING - Josh Lowe 3-4 (RBI), Jess McLain 1-3, Mike Olson 0-4 (RBI), Austin Small 2-3, John Christian 1-3, Richard Jarvis 2-3, Tyson Anderson 2-2 (RBI), Sean Peterson 0-3, Scott Ladenburg 1-2.
2B - Anderson
3B - none
HR - none
Havre 8, Fort MacLeod 7
Fort MacLeod Royals 200 140 0 - 7 6 4
Havre Comets 000 008 0 - 8 7 5
Greg Gibbony (6), Josh Hutchins (LP), Dale Scobie; Austin Small (WP) and Josh Morse
ROYALS HITTING - not available
COMETS HITTING - Josh Lowe 1-3 (RBI), Richard Jarvis 0-3, Jess McLain 0-4 (RBI), Austin Small 1-3, Tyson Anderson 3-3 (3 RBI), Josh Morse 0-4, Bill Siebrasse 0-2, Mike Olson 1-1 (RBI), Tom Knudson 0-1, Bryden Vukasin 1-2 (2 RBI).
2B - none
3B - none
HR - none