Havre Daily News Sports Editor
Patch Wirtzberger's prized new bat was the envy of everyone in the Havre Northstars dugout. Unfortunately for his teammates, he wasn't about to let any of them use it - that is, until he got the first hit with it.
Wirtzberger's first hit with said bat - a bases-loaded triple in the bottom of the fourth inning - broke open a one-run game and propelled the Havre Northstars to an 11-1 win over the Havre Comets Wednesday night at Legion Field.
Hitless in his first two at-bats, Wirtzberger ripped a Michael Erickson fastball to center and the sinking line drive scooted past a charging Logan Reichelt, emptying the bases and breaking open a 2-1 game.
Teammate Sean Peterson followed it up with a single to center to score Wirtzberger and push the lead to 6-1.
The Northstars tacked on five more runs in the bottom of the seventh as, fittingly, Wirtzberger ripped a double to score Josh Morse and end the game via the 10-run mercy rule.
The Northstars got an RBI double from Josh Morse and RBI singles from Scott Ladenburg and Jeff Tibbals in the inning.
After getting swept by the AA Great Falls Stallions on Sunday, head coach Mickey Williams was pleased with his team's effort.
"I liked how we responded from Sunday," Williams said. "Obviously, there is a difference in competition. But I thought we came out much more focused at the beginning."
Indeed, the Northstars got on the board first as Austin Small notched the game's first hit and later scored on Chase Castloo's soft single to right. The Northstars added another run in the second as a lead-off walk from Tibbals would come back to haunt Erickson as Josh Lowe launched a sacrifice fly to center.
Down 2-0, the Comets cut the deficit in half in the fourth inning as catcher Ryan Callahan singled and moved to third on a base hit from Jeremiah Moog. Callahan later scored on a wild pitch from Northstar starter Austin Small.
However, the one run was bittersweet, as Small managed to get out of the inning, stranding runners on second and third. It was a familiar trend for the Comets, who left eight runners on base, six of which were in scoring position.
"We had our opportunities," said Comets head coach Andy Smith. "We just couldn't seem to get the big hit when we had runners in scoring position. You just can't leave that many runners on base."
The Comets managed six hits off of Small and reliever Ben Erickson, but they struck out five times, which irked Smith some.
"We need to do a better job of putting the ball in play, especially with two strikes," he said. "But it's early. We've only played one game and Northstars have played more than six. I really think our hitting is going to get better with each game."
The Northstars banged out 10 hits in the game and appeared to really get going in the later innings, with eight of the hits coming in the last three innings.
"I think we hit the ball better than we have," Williams said. "We've worked on hitting a lot individually, trying to correct some things, and it's getting better."
Small picked up the win for the Northstars, pitching five innings and allowing just the one run, while striking out five and walking one. Ben Erickson pitched a scoreless final two innings with three strikeouts.
"Austin came out pretty strong," Williams said. "He started leaving the ball up a little and they started hitting him. He just needs to remember to keep the ball down in the strike zone."
Wirtzberger finished 3-5 with four RBIs, while seven other Northstars players added hits.
Michael Erickson was saddled with the loss, despite throwing a pretty good game. Of the six runs Erickson surrendered, only two were earned, as the Comets were plagued by five fielding miscues. Reichelt also allowed just two earned runs in his three innings of relief.
"I think our pitchers did their job," Smith said. "They threw strikes and kept us in the game. We just made some mistakes behind them. Obviously, we're not going to make every play defensively."
The Comets were paced offensively by Jeremiah Moog, who had a pair of singles. Callahan, Anthony Wirtzberger, Tanner Donoven and Tanner Abdallah each added singles.
"Overall, I was pretty pleased with our kids' efforts," Smith said. "We played hard and we were competitive. If we get a couple of key hits, the game might have been a little different."
The Comets will be back in action on Sunday at Legion Field when they host the Glasgow Reds at 1 p.m. The Northstars won't be in action until next Wednesday when they face the Comets again.
Northstars 11, Comets 1
Havre Comets 000 100 0 - 1 6 5
Havre Northstars 110 400 5 - 11 10 1
Michael Erickson (4), Logan Reichelt (3) and Ryan Callahan; Austin Small (5), Ben Erickson (2) and Patch Wirtzberger and Josh Morse.
WP - Small; LP - M. Erickson.
COMETS HITTING - Logan Reichelt 0-4; Anthony Wirtzberger 1-4; Tanner Donoven 1-4; Bryan Heath 0-3, Seth Jensen 0-1; Ryan Callahan 1-2; Michael Erickson 0-1; Tanner Abdallah 1-1; Jeremiah Moog 2-3; Marshall Cartwright 0-2; Scott Vigliotti 0-3.
NORTHSTARS HITTING - Patch Wirtzberger 3-5 (4 RBI); Sean Peterson 1-4 (RBI); Austin Small 1-3; Bryden Vukasin 0-1; Ben Erickson 0-3, Chase Castloo 1-4 (RBI); John Christian 0-3; Scott Ladenburg 1-1 (RBI); Jeff Tibbals 1-3 (RBI); Eric Fanning 1-3, Jess McLain 0-1, Josh Lowe 0-0 (RBI); Josh Morse 1-2 (RBI).
2B - Morse, P. Wirtzberger
3B - P. Wirtzberger
HR - none