Comets playoff hopes fading quickly
Chris Peterson Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
Needing a victory to keep their fading hopes of making the Northern District baseball tournament alive, the Havre Comets American Legion baseball team came up painfully short against the Lewistown Redbirds on Wednesday night at Legion Park. The Comets lost both games of their doubleheader against Lewistown. Now, with just two games remaining, the Comets season is teetering on the brink of disaster. The Comets held a two-game advantage over the Great Falls Stallions in the standings entering the final week of the regular season. As a result of a Stallions’ sweep of Fort McLeod on Wednesday, the Comets’ lead would evaporate if they failed to get a win against the Redbirds. Unfortunately, the Comets need and desire to win was not enough to knock off the Redbirds, as Lewistown rolled to the sweep by scores of 12-1 and 15-4. In the first game, the Comets got off to an inauspicious start, surrendering four runs in the first inning after five of the first six Lewistown batters got hits off starting pitcher Seth Jensen. Things got worse before they got better for Havre. In the top of the third inning, with the Comets trailing 5-0, the Redbirds’ offense struck again, this time blowing the game wide open. The inning started off with Tyler Quinlan reaching on an error, followed by a single by Kam Pearson that moved Quinlan into scoring position. Two batters later, Lewistown made Havre pay for its mistakes, as Miles Pennell ripped a two-run double to push the lead to 7-0. Pennell then scored on a double by Colby Tognetti, and Tognetti later scored on a sacrifice fly by Kyle Rector, giving the Redbirds a commanding 9-0 lead. Meanwhile, Rector, the Redbirds’ starting pitcher, was completely stifling the Comets’ batters, retiring 16 of the first 18 batters he faced to preserve the Redbirds’ nine-run advantage.
“Their pitcher was really tough in that first game,” Comet head coach Steve Fanning said. “And we didn’t really help out a whole lot defensively. We made too many mistakes and we gave up way too many runs that we probably shouldn’t have.” The Redbirds tacked on three more runs in the top of the seventh inning to extend their lead to 12-0. In the bottom of the seventh, with the wind blustering, the Comets finally managed to get on the board when Andrew Lindquist singled and scored on an error. Nevertheless, the Comets could muster no more offense. Rector earned the complete-game victory for the Redbirds after seven stellar innings of work in which he allowed just one run on four hits, as well as striking out nine batters. Seth Jensen was hit with the loss for the Comets, as he surrendered nine runs on 12 hits in just three innings of work. Lindquist led the way for the Comets at the plate going 2-for-3. Josh Haas also went 2-for-3. Leading the way for the Redbirds at the dish was Tognetti, who went 3- for-5 with an RBI. Dillon Fugate had a good day at the dish batting 3-for-3 with two RBIs. Knowing they desperately needed a split against the Redbirds, the Comets came out fired up in the second game in hopes of salvaging their season. Havre got off to a positive start in the bottom of the first inning when Jeremy Jensen scored on a double by Haas, giving the Comets the 1-0 lead. The Comets held that lead into the top of the third inning when the Redbirds finally got their offense reignited with some help from the Comets’ defense. With two outs and two runners on base, the Comets had a chance to get out of the inning. Fugate hit a lazy fly ball to first bate, but Nick Nault mishandled the ball, allowing two runs to score. Then Craig Nelson doubled to score Tognetti and the Redbirds were up 3-1.
The Comets wouldn’t trail for long, as they abruptly tied the game in the bottom of the third inning. Nault quickly redeemed himself for his costly error in the top half of the inning by belting a clutch two-run single with the bases loaded and two outs to square things up at 3-3. The score stayed tied until the top of the fifth inning when things began to unravel for the Comets. With two runners on base and two outs, Orrin Pyrah ripped a two-run single, putting Lewistown ahead once again 5-3. Pyrah would then score on a triple by Pearson. When it was all said and done, the Redbirds held a four-run advantage, 7-3. “We just didn’t make the plays in the field that we had to make,” Fanning said. “We had chances to get out of innings on a number of occasions, and we just couldn’t make the physical plays needed to do that.” Each team posted a run in the seventh inning, making the score 8-4 and setting the stage for a nightmarish final inning. The Comets appeared to be on their way to a 1-2-3 inning, giving them a chance to possibly make a run at tying the score in the bottom half of the inning. But once again with two outs, everything unraveled. The next six batters all reached base for the Redbirds, three on errors, two hit by the pitcher and one walked. All six runners would go on to score along with a seventh, Pyrah, who scored on a single by Dustin Scotten. When the damage was done, the Redbirds notched seven runs on three hits and three errors, all coming with two outs. The score was now 15-4 and the game was over. The Comets failed to score in the bottom half of the inning and the Redbirds held on for an easy 15-4 win. “I think that both Logan and Seth pitched pretty well,” Fanning said. “They each pitched well enough to give us a chance to win, we just didn’t make the plays behind them to stay in the game.” Tyler Quinlan got the win for Redbirds, and Logan Reichelt was saddled with the loss for the Comets. Nault led the way for the Comets offensively, with one hit and two RBIs. Andrew Lindquist also had one hit and one RBI. The Redbirds were led by Pyrah, who went 3-5 at the plate with three RBIs in the win. The Comets now have to sit back and wait to hear the results of the Stallions’ doubleheader against Lethbridge. If the Stallions sweep Lethbridge, then the Comets are eliminated from the district tournament. If the Stallions win one game, then the Comets’ only hope of qualifying for the district tournament will be to sweep Vauxhall, which they play on Saturday. A Lethbridge sweep means the Comets will need just one win against Vauxhall to qualify. The Comets’ doubleheader against Vauxhall will be at Legion Park on Saturday. Things will get under way at 7 p.m.