Havre Daily News Sports Editor
On a Wednesday evening where long fly balls were reduced to mere pop outs by a nasty east wind, and temperatures left fans clinging to blankets and each other in the stands, the Havre Northstars were able rip enough hard ground balls and timely singles to defeat their counterparts, the Havre Comets, 12-4 at a cold and windswept Legion Field.
The Northstars banged out 14 hits - 13 of them singles - and capitalized on five Comet errors to improve their record to 2-0 in the Northern District and 2-0 over their younger cohorts.
"It was a tough night to play," said Northstars head coach Mickey Williams. "The wind caused plenty of problems and it wasn't very warm, but I thought both teams did a good job overcoming the conditions."
While the numbing 30 mph wind not only sent chills through the body, it also wreaked havoc on hard hit balls, forcing both teams to manufacture runs since extra base hits were non-existent.
"We hit some balls hard tonight, but they just died out there in that wind," Williams said. "We weren't able to get any type of extra bases that way. Instead, we had to steal some bases and be more aggressive running to make up for that."
The Northstars, who were the visiting team this game, scored in their opening at-bat. Patch Wirtzberger led off with an infield single and later scored on Sean Peterson's RBI single to left. Chase Castloo plated Peterson with a hard sacrifice fly to center to give the Northstars a 2-0 lead.
The Comets tried to answer, loading the bases in the bottom of the second with just one out, but Northstar starter John Christian worked his way out of trouble, getting Tanner Abdallah to pop up and Scott Vigliotti to ground out to end the threat.
The Northstars looked as though they may turn the game into a seven-inning rout in the top of the third, scoring five runs off Comet starter Logan Reichelt.
Peterson got things going with a double and later scored on Castloo's bloop single to right. Jeff Tibbals delivered a big two-run single down the left field line and Josh Lowe added a sacrifice fly as the Northstars batted through the lineup. They tacked on another run in the fourth to go up 8-0 and appeared headed for a warm place indoors in a few innings.
However, as has been the case for much of the season, the Northstars weren't able to put a team away for good.
The Comets scraped out two runs in the the bottom of fourth. Bryan Heath drew a lead-off walk and Ryan Callahan followed up with a single. Heath would score on a Jeremiah Moog grounder to short, while Michael Erickson plated Callahan with a single to left.
"John got behind on some batters and they got some good pitches to hit," Williams said. "We walked the lead-off guy in the inning and that seems to always lead to a run."
The Northstars answered the Comet spurt with two runs of their own in the fifth and another in the sixth as walks by reliever Seth Jensen and three Comet errors led to RBI singles from Castloo, Christian and Josh Morse.
Still, the Northstars could've put the game away in the sixth as they had bases loaded with just one out. However, Jensen got Peterson to pop up and Small to fly to left.
"We haven't been able to put teams away like we should have this season," Williams said. "We had a chance with bases loaded, but we didn't come up with a hit."
The Comets added two more runs in the bottom of the sixth. Erickson reached on an error and Spencer Ivers singled to start the inning. Seth Jensen scored both of them on a hard line drive to right-center to cut the lead to 11-4.
With a seven-run lead and Christian nearing his pitch limit, Williams went to Ben Erickson, who shut the Comets down over the final three innings to secure the win.
Christian got the win for Havre, pitching six innings, allowing just four runs on six hits, while striking out seven and walking one.
"For the most part, John did a good job of throwing strikes," Williams said. "He got behind a few times and got hit, but when he was able to get ahead, he was pretty effective."
Castloo led the way offensively with two hits and three RBIs, while Tibbals added two hits and drove in a pair of runs. Peterson and Ben Erickson also had two hits each.
Reichelt took the loss for the Comets, lasting three innings and allowing seven hits and eight runs, four of which were earned.
Jensen, Heath, Vigliotti, Callahan, Ivers, Anthony Wirtzberger and Michael Erickson each had hits for the Comets, who dropped to 1-5 on the season.
"Obviously, the weather didn't make for great baseball, but both teams have to overcome that, because there are going to be plenty of times when they aren't playing in optimal conditions," Williams said.
The Northstars will be in Great Falls on Friday to face the AA Great Falls Electrics at 7:30 p.m. and will return to Great Falls on Sunday at 1 p.m. The Comets will be in Lewistown on Saturday at 1 p.m. to face the Redbirds in a nonconference doubleheader.
Northstars 12, Comets 4
Havre Northstars 205 121 010 - 12 14 3
Havre Comets 000 202 000 - 4 7 5
John Christian (6), Ben Erickson (3) and Patch Wirtzberger, Josh Morse; Logan Reichelt (3), Seth Jensen (6) and Ryan Callahan, Bryan Heath.
WP - Christian; LP - Reichelt.
NORTHSTARS HITTING - Patch Wirtzberger 2-5; Sean Peterson 2-4 (RBI); Austin Small 1-5; Chase Castloo 2-5 (3 RBI); John Christian 1-6 (RBI); Scott Ladenburg 1-2; Eric Fanning 0-2; Jeff Tibbals 2-4 (2 RBI); Jess McLain 0-1; Ben Erickson 2-3 ; Josh Lowe 0-1 (RBI); Josh Morse 1-3 (RBI).
COMETS HITTING - Logan Reichelt 0-2; Seth Jensen 1-3 (2 RBI); Anthony Wirtzberger 1-5; Tanner Donoven 0-5; Bryan Heath 1-3; Ryan Callahan 1-2; Marshall Cartwright 0-2; Jeremiah Moog 0-4 (RBI); Michael Erickson 1-3 (RBI); Tanner Abdallah 0-2; Spencer Ivers 1-2; Scott Vigliotti 1-4.
2B - Peterson
3B - none
HR - none