Havre Daily News Sports Editor
Sometimes the best way to break a losing streak is not to play a game at all. Mired in the midst of a six-game losing streak, the Havre Comets benefited from a weekend of rest, picking up a much-needed doubleheader split with the Great Falls Sparkies on Monday night at Legion Field.
"I really think that weekend off helped us," said Comets head coach Andy Smith. "Starting with the Bozeman tournament and three conference doubleheaders, we played 12 games in eight days. Having last weekend off allowed our pitchers to rest up a little."
With winds gusting in the mid 30s and reeking havoc on fly balls, eye balls and overall enjoyment, the Comets finally got back on the winning track in come-from-behind fashion in the nightcap. After dropping the first game in a disappointing 10-7 decision, the Comets fought off a possible sweep by rallying for six runs in the bottom of the sixth to steal an 8-5 win and salvage the split.
Great Falls jumped out to an early 5-0 lead, scoring two runs in the first inning off of Comet starter Tanner Abdallah. The Sparkies added another run in the second and two more in the third as a pair of errors proved costly.
The Comets answered with two runs of their own in the bottom of the third as Bryan Heath and Ryan Callahan led off the inning with back-to-back singles. The duo advanced around the bases on a series of wild pitches by Sparkie starter Nick Taylor that allowed both of them to score.
But the Comets' fortunes turned for good in the bottom of the sixth. Callahan led off the inning with a double down the left field line. Jess McLain reached on an error and Seth Jensen drew a walk to load the bases. Scott Vigliotti then drew a bases loaded walk for an RBI, while McLain scored on a wild pitch.
Anthony Wirtzberger kept the inning alive with an RBI single and Logan Reichelt gave the Comets the lead with a scorching line drive to the left-center gap, which scored a pair of runs. Heath added a little insurance with an RBI single to center to cap off the six-run inning.
In the bottom of the seventh, Abdallah allowed a lead-off double to Jake Meierhoff, but got Sparkie clean-up hitter Zach Semenza to strike out looking and a pair of ground balls to Richard Jarvis at third to end the game.
"It was nice to come from behind late in the game like that," Smith said. "We've really preached to the kids all season about keeping ourselves in games and giving us the opportunity to win the game at the end. We were able to do that."
Abdallah got the win on the mound, going all seven innings and allowing five runs on seven hits. He settled down after the third inning, holding the Sparkies to just two hits in the final four innings.
"Tanner pitched a nice game," Smith said. "He fell behind a couple batters early, but overall, I was really happy with the way he pitched."
With two starters missing, Smith was forced to juggle his line-up some defensively. But his team responded, making some key defensive plays down the stretch.
"That's something we need to do to win close games is make big plays defensively," Smith said. "We haven't done that much this season, but we made some nice plays. Richard Jarvis played well at third and we made two or three nice catches in the outfield that saved some runs."
Offensively, Havre got two hits each from Callahan, Heath and Wirtzberger. Reichelt and Michael Erickson added a hit apiece.
In the opener, the Comets made a few costly mental mistakes early to dig themselves into a six-run hole after two innings. But they battled gamely in the 10-7 loss.
Great Falls jumped out early on Comet starter Wirtzberger. The Sparkies got three runs in the first inning on RBI singles from Semenza, Cody Dobson and Tyler Brinka. They tacked on three more in the second inning as two errors proved costly, while Brinka ripped a two-run single.
"The first two innings we made some mistakes in the field that hurt us," Smith said. "We didn't do much to help out Anthony on the mound."
Havre rallied for two runs in the bottom of the third as Semenza struggled with his control leading to a Reichelt scoring on a wild pitch, while Callahan scored on a Sparkie error.
Great Falls pushed the lead to 8-2 in the fourth as Brinka stung the Comets for another two-run single. The Sparkies tacked on another run in the fifth to go up 9-2.
The Comets trimmed the lead to 9-6, scoring four runs in the bottom of the sixth as reliever Cody Dobson struggled with his control, loading the bases with a hit batsmen and two walks. Vigliotti ripped an RBI single, while Spencer Ivers and Heath each scored runs with bases-loaded walks. But Havre never came up with a hit to break open the inning.
"I really feel like we missed out on an opportunity that inning," Smith said. "We loaded up the bases right away, but we never got that clutch hit. I think we were one hit away from tying the game up."
Great Falls added an insurance run in the top of the inning to go up 10-6. Havre had one last gasp in its final at-bat. The Comets scored a run on Ivers' RBI single, but couldn't get anything else going.
Wirtzberger took the loss, going all seven innings and allowing all 10 runs on 14 hits.
"Anthony didn't pitch that bad," Smith said. "He's had trouble with leaving the ball up in the strike zone. They hit him hard early, but he started getting the ball down later in the game."
The Comets were led by Callahan's 2-for-3 performance at the plate. Ivers and Vigliotti had Havre's other hits.
"It was good to get a win considering we're kind of shorthanded," Smith said.
Havre will return to action on Thursday when it takes on Vauxhall at 3 p.m. at Legion Field.
SPARKIES 10, COMETS 7
Great Falls Sparkies 330 210 1 - 10 14 3
Havre Comets 002 004 1 - 7 4 3
Zach Semenza (5), Sean Doran (1), Cody Dobson (1) and Tyler Brinka; Anthony Wirtzberger and Bryan Heath.
WP - Semenza; LP - Wirtzberger
SPARKIES HITTING - Taylor Shanna 0-3; Jake Meierhoff 3-5; Zach Semenza 3-4 (3 RBI); Ryan Beecroft 1-5; Cody Dobson 1-4 (RBI); Tyler Brinka 3-4 (4 RBI); Colin Egan 1-4; Taylor Fera 0-3; Darren Halbig 0-3; Lei Xu 2-2.
COMETS HITTING - Logan Reichelt 0-5; Ryan Callahan 2-3; Bryan Heath 0-2 (RBI); Seth Jensen 0-2; Jess McLain 0-2; Richard Jarvis 0-3; Michael Erickson 0-2; Scott Vigliotti 1-4 (RBI); Spencer Ivers 1-1 (2 RBI); Tanner Abdallah 0-1.
2B - none
3B - Meierhoff
HR - none
COMETS 8, SPARKIES 5
Great Falls Sparkies 212 000 0 - 5 7 2
Havre Comets 000 206 X - 8 8 3
Nick Taylor (5), Cody Dobson (1), Tyler Brinka (1) and Sean Doran; Tanner Abdallah and Ryan Callahan.
WP - Abdallah; LP - Dobson
SPARKIES HITTING - Taylor Shanna 1-3; Jake Meierhoff 1-2; Zach Semenza 1-4; Ryan Beecroft 1-4; Cody Dobson 1-3; Colin Egan 0-3; Austin Crisman 1-3; Sean Doran 1-3 (RBI); Nick Taylor 0-3; Tyler Brinka 0-1,
COMETS HITTING - Marshall Cartwright 0-1; Anthony Wirtzberger 2-4 (RBI); Logan Reichelt 1-4 (2 RBI); Bryan Heath 2-4 (RBI); Ryan Callahan 2-4; Jess McLain 0-2; Seth Jensen 0-2; Michael Erickson 1-2; Scott Vigliotti 0-2 (RBI).
2B - Meierhoff, Reichelt, Callahan
3B - none
HR - none