Havre Daily News Sports Editor
The Havre Northstars got some much-needed rest this past week, but maybe it was a little too much.
After two days of non-baseball activity, Havre looked a little sluggish early on in Great Falls, but rallied to take a 14-7 win over the Stallions in a Northern District conference game. The second game of the doubleheader was rained out after three innings.
After taking a 2-0 lead early on RBI singles by Sean Peterson and Jeff Tibbals, things turned ugly for the Northstars in the bottom of the second.
Northstar starting pitcher Ben Erickson - normally a pitcher with pinpoint accuracy - suddenly couldn't find the strike zone. And when he did, the Northstars didn't field any of the balls that the Stallions hit.
Erickson walked the lead-off hitter and then hit the next batter. A sacrifice bunt moved the runners into scoring position. Erickson struck out the next batter and appeared to be almost of out of the inning. However, Sean Peterson committed an error at third, allowing two runs to score.
To make matters worse, Erickson walked the next two batters, loading the bases. Great Falls got two more runs as shortstop John Christian booted a ground ball and leftfielder Bryden Vukasin committed a throwing error after picking the errant ball. Erickson finally struck out the ninth hitter he faced in the inning for the third out.
The Stallions scored five unearned runs without recording a hit in the inning.
"That was just a terrible inning," said Northstars head coach Mickey Williams. "Ben couldn't find the strike zone, and we couldn't make a play behind him. We looked like we hadn't played in a long time."
Great Falls pushed the lead to 7-2 in the bottom of the third, but Havre ended a possible big inning with a 4-6-3 double play. The defensive gem seemed to calm Erickson and the Northstar defense. The Stallions would go scoreless for the remaining four innings.
The Northstars bats finally came to life in the top of the fifth as Tibbals got things going with a lead-off double. He later scored on a Stallion error. Peterson ripped an RBI triple and later scored on a passed ball to cut the lead to 7-5.
Havre retook the lead in the sixth as Tibbals walked and later scored on a passed ball, and Erickson helped himself with a three-run home run.
"We were really flat for the first three innings," Williams said. "But we played pretty decent after that. We started hitting the ball hard and our defense was sharper."
The Northstars added plenty of insurance runs in the seventh with five more runs as Erickson laced a two-run double, while Patch Wirtzberger and Eric Fanning added run-scoring singles.
Of the Stallions' seven runs, just two of them were earned. Erickson limited Great Falls to just four hits, but walked five batters and hit two.
"That's just too many free bases to give a team," Williams said. "Ben settled down after that and pitched fine."
Offensively, Wirtzberger was 4-for-5 with three runs scored. Erickson had two hits and five RBIs, while Tibbals and Peterson had two hits each.
With the win, Havre improved its record in the Northern District to 21-3. The Northstars have a firm hold on the regular season title. They will be in action on Wednesday in Medicine Hat against the Knights and stay on the road with a doubleheader on Thursday in Lethbridge.
Meanwhile, the Havre Comets picked up one in four tries against the Tri-County Cardinals. Havre split a doubleheader on Friday in Conrad. No official results were available from the two games.
On Sunday in Havre, the Cardinals swept the Comets by scores of 11-7 and 7-6.
In the opener, the Cardinals broke open a 4-4 game with three runs in the fourth off of Comet starter Anthony Wirtzberger to take a 7-4 lead.
The Comets cut the lead to 7-6 in the bottom of the fifth as Marshall Cartwright ripped an RBI single and another run scored on a Cardinal error. Tri-County pushed the lead to 8-6 with a run in the top of the sixth, but Havre stayed within one, picking up a run in the bottom half of the inning on a Jeremiah Moog RBI single.
The Cardinals pulled away in their final at-bat of the game. Three costly Comet errors led to three runs in the top of the seventh. Havre couldn't overcome of the four-run deficit in its final at-bat.
Wirtzberger took the loss, allowing 11 runs on 13 hits. Offensively, Havre got two hits each from Moog, Richard Jarvis and Tanner Abdallah.
In the nightcap, Havre jumped out to a 4-2 lead in the first inning, taking advantage of three walks and an error from Tri-County. The Cardinals tied the game in the top of the fourth as a balk call on Comet starter Michael Erickson led to a run, while another scored on a fielder's choice.
Tri-County grabbed a brief 5-4 lead in the top of the fifth, but Havre tied the game in the bottom half of the inning as Bryan Heath led off the inning with a single and later scored on a passed ball.
The Cardinals took the lead for good in the sixth as Josh Pyette slammed a two-run double to push the lead to 7-5. Havre tried desperately to get back into the game, scoring a run in the bottom of the sixth on a Ryan Callahan RBI single. However, the Comets could not scrape together the tying run, stranding a pair of runners in the inning. Tri-County held Havre scoreless in the seventh to secure the win.
Erickson took the loss, allowing seven runs on 2 hits. Wirtzberger had two of the Comets' six hits in the game.
The Comets will be in action tonight in Fort MacLeod with a doubleheader against the Royals. They will travel to Vauxhall on Wednesday for a doubleheader with the Spurs.
Northstars 14, Stallions 7
Havre Northstars 110 034 5 - 14 14 2
Great Falls Stallions 052 000 0 - 7 4 2
Ben Erickson and Patch Wirtzberger; Bates and Coleman.
WP - Erickson; LP - Bates.
NORTHSTARS HITTING - Jeff Tibbals 2-3; Patch Wirtzberger 4-5 (RBI); Josh Lowe 0-1; Scott Ladenburg 0-2 (RBI); Ben Erickson 2-4 (5 RBI); Sean Peterson 2-4 (2 RBI); John Christian 1-4; Austin Small 1-4; Eric Fanning 1-4 (RBI); Bryden Vukasin 1-4.
STALLIONS HITTING - Griffith 1-2; Wilke 1-3; Lewis 0-3; Coleman 0-4; Blair 0-3; Meredith 1-3; Pallet 1-2; Sutherland 1-3; Stuker 0-3.
2B - Tibbals, Erickson, Christian
3B - Peterson, Pallet
HR - Erickson
Cardinals 11, Comets 7
Tri-County Cardinals 004 301 3 - 11 13 3
Havre Comets 004 021 0 - 7 9 5
Adam Oien and Josh Pyette; Anthony Wirtzberger and Ryan Callahan.
WP - Oien; LP - Wirtzberger.
CARDINALS HITTING - Colby Johnson 2-5 (2 RBI); Judd Engelhard 0-4 (RBI); Craig Smith 2-2 (RBI); Burns Brown 2-5 (3 RBI); Josh Pyette 1-4; Dusty Ahrens 1-4 (RBI); Robin Christian 2-4; Logan Schmidt 0-3; Zach Styrea 2-4; Adam Oien 0-1.
COMETS HITTING - Jess McLain 0-3; Anthony Wirtzberger 2-3; Logan Reichelt 0-3; Jeremiah Moog 2-4 (RBI); Ryan Callahan 0-2; Seth Jensen 1-3 (RBI); Richard Jarvis 2-3 (2 RBI); Tanner Abdallah 2-4 (RBI); Scott Vigliotti 0-3; Bryan Heath 0-1.
2B - Smith, Abdallah
3B - Johnson
HR - none
Cardinals 7, Comets 6
Tri-County Cardinals 200 212 0 - 7 12 1
Havre Comets 146 006 X - 6 6 2
Zach Styrea and Josh Pyette; Mike Erickson and Ryan Callahan.
WP - Styrea; LP - Erickson.
CARDINALS HITTING - Colby Johnson 1-5; Adam Oien 1-3; Craig Smith 2-3; Burns Brown 1-4; Josh Pyette 1-4 (2 RBI); Dusty Ahrens 1-3; Robin Christian 3-4; Judd Engelhard 1-4; Cody Pyette 1-3, Zach Styrea 1-3.
COMETS HITTING - Jess McLain 0-1; Anthony Wirtzberger 2-5; Logan Reichelt 0-3; Jeremiah Moog 1-4; Ryan Callahan 1-3 (RBI); Bryan Heath 1-2; Seth Jensen 0-2; Marshall Cartwright 1-3; Spencer Ivers 0-2.
2B - J. Pyette.
3B - none
HR - none