Havre Daily News Sports Editor
For an inning, it looked like the Havre Comets might just be ready to knock off their older counterparts, the Havre Northstars.
Unfortunately for the Comets, it lasted only an inning. The Northstars overcame a sluggish start and a four-run deficit to pick up a 9-4 conference win on Wednesday night at Legion Field.
In the third game of the four game series between the two Havre squads, the younger Comets showed little if any intimidation for the Northstars early on, peppering starter Sean Peterson for four runs in the first inning.
The Comets got consecutive singles from Logan Reichelt and Anthony Wirtzberger to open the game. Ryan Callahan scored Reichelt with a double down the left-field line past the outstretched glove of Northstar third baseman Eric Fanning. The 1-0 lead was the first that the Comets have had this season. And it would only grow.
With runners on the corners, Peterson tried to work out of the jam, striking out Brian Heath. However, Tanner Donovan lifted a line drive to the left-center gap, which Northstar left fielder Jess McLain tracked down and appeared ready to catch. However, the sinking liner hit off the top of McLain's glove, allowing both runs to score. Donovan would later score on Jeremiah Moog's sacrifice fly to center field.
Peterson finally worked out of the inning two batters later, getting Marshall Cartwright to ground out to second.
Getting down 4-0 wasn't exactly how Northstar head coach Mickey Williams wanted to start the game.
"I thought we looked flat when we took infield," Williams said. "And it carried over to that first inning. We've had some trouble coming out mentally ready to play and the Comets took advantage of it."
The early Comet outburst forced the Northstars to play from behind early. There's two ways to rally: either chip away one run at a time, or score runs in bunches - the Northstars did both.
The Northstars got single runs in each of the first two innings. In the bottom of the first, Peterson drew a lead-off walk and worked his way around the bases to score on Ben Erickson's ground ball to second. In the bottom of the second, Jeff Tibbals ripped a line drive to the right-center gap, and appeared headed for an easy stand-up triple. However, he stumbled in between second and third and barely made it in time. He later scored on John Christian's long sacrifice fly to left.
The small bunch of runs came in the bottom of third as the Northstars scored three runs. Austin Small ripped a triple over the head of Reichelt in center to score Peterson and Patch Wirtzberger. Small would score soon after on an infield single from Chase Castloo. In three innings, the Northstars erased the deficit, grabbed a 5-4 lead and crushed any momentum the Comets had remaining from the first inning.
"I thought we did a good job of getting ourselves back in the game," Williams said. "We manufactured some runs and we were able to get some big hits. Offensively, I think we are starting to come around."
While the Northstars were stringing together runs and hits in every inning, the Comets found life against Peterson a little more difficult after the first inning. After surrendering four hits in the first inning and a single to Reichelt in the second, Peterson started throwing his curveball for strikes, giving the Comets some major problems. He erased Reichelt's single, getting Anthony Wirtzberger to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
From there, the Comets would go hitless and scoreless in their next 24 at-bats. Peterson's only mistakes came in the form of three walks and a hit-batsmen.
"Sean pitched well after that first inning," Williams said. "I think he might not have been warm enough in the first inning. Because after that inning, he was able to spot his curveball and his fastball stayed lower in the strike zone."
After squandering bases loaded in the fourth, the Northstars tacked on two runs in the fifth. Tibbals ripped a single, stole second and scored on John Christian's double. Christian later scored on Scott Ladenburg's bouncing ball off pitcher Tanner Donoven's glove. They added two more insurance runs in the eighth as Patch Wirtzberger scored on a wild pitch and Josh Lowe doubled in Ben Erickson.
Still, the nine runs could have been more, according to Williams.
"We kind of let down after the fifth inning," he said. "It's like we lose focus once we make a few substitutions. We need to maintain that intensity that we showed early on throughout the game."
Peterson picked up the win, going the distance and allowing five hits and four runs, two of which were earned. He also struck out eight Comets. Patch Wirtzberger led the Northstars' offense with three hits, three stolen bases and two runs scored. Christian and Tibbals had two hits each and combined for three RBIs.
Donovan took the loss for the Comets, pitching five innings and allowing seven runs and seven hits.
The Comets were paced by Reichelt, who had two hits and a run scored, while Wirtzberger, Callahan and Michael Erickson all collected hits.
The Northstars will host the Medicine Hat Knights in a Northern District doubleheader on Saturday at 5 p.m., while the Comets will take on the Knights on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Northstars 9, Comets 4
Havre Comets 400 000 000 - 4 5 4
Havre Northstars 113 020 02X - 9 11 3
Tanner Donovan (5), Tanner Abdallah (3) and Ryan Callahan; Sean Peterson and Patch Wirtzberger, Josh Morse.
WP - Peterson; LP - Donovan.
COMETS HITTING - Logan Reichelt 2-4; Anthony Wirtzberger 1-4; Ryan Callahan 1-4; Brian Heath 0-2; Seth Jensen 0-2; Tanner Donovan 0-3; Michael Erickson 1-4; Marshall Cartwright 0-1; Spencer Ivars 0-1; Scott Vigliotti 0-2; Tanner Abdallah 0-1.
NORTHSTARS HITTING - Sean Peterson 0-3; Patch Wirtzberger 3-4; Ben Erickson (RBI) 0-4; Austin Small 1-5 (2 RBI); Chase Castloo 1-3; Josh Lowe 1-1 (RBI); Jeff Tibbals 2-4 (RBI); John Christian 2-2 (2 RBI); Josh Morse 0-1; Jess McLain 0-1; Scott Ladenburg 1-2 (RBI); Eric Fanning 0-3.
2B - Wirtzberger, Lowe, Christian
3B - Small, Tibbals
HR - none