By Jason Shoot
After the Havre Northstars lost to the Great Falls Sparkies for just the third time in the last 20 years in the opener and trailed 4-0 in the third inning of the second game, Coach Mickey Williams was at his wit's end.
Thankfully for him, however, the Northstars began driving in runs 14 of them, in fact earning a split of an American Legion doubleheader Friday night at Legion Field.
The Northstars won the nightcap 14-4 in six innings after dropping the opener 5-4.
Havre struggled mightily to get runners across home plate in both games, whether it was because the team failed to get a clutch hit or due to base-running miscues. The Northstars finished the twinbill with 20 runners left on base.
With the score tied 4-4 in the first game, Tony Tamberino led off the inning for Great Falls and reached first base on an error. He advanced to second on a single, stole third and scored on another Northstars error to give the Sparkies a one-run lead.
Great Falls reliever David Romsa shut down the final six Havre batters in order to preserve the win.
"I was really (angry)," Williams said. "I'm disappointed because when we play great teams, we play great. But when we play a lesser team, we play down at their level. That's not to take anything away from Great Falls, but this is like our third loss to them in 20 years."
The Northstars amassed just three hits in the ball game and left eight runners on base.
"You can't win any ball games with three hits," Williams said. "That was almost ridiculous. Anything that could go wrong, did go wrong."
Starting pitcher Kyle Sheppard was just about the only bright spot for Havre, though he was responsible for the loss. He pitched a complete game and had a three-run triple that tied the game at 4-all in the fourth.
While some teams win games the old-fashioned way, the hard way or the easy way, Havre won the nightcap the painful way.
Havre batters were hit by pitches five times, helping the team rally from a 4-0 third-inning deficit.
After Havre cut the gap to 4-2 with two runs in the third inning, Danny Wirtzberger and Jordan Anderson were both hit by pitches to open the bottom of the fourth. Sheppard laced an RBI single to left field to score Wirtzberger and convince Great Falls to bring in reliever Tyler Marble.
Marble, however, walked Tyler Boyce to load the bases and gave up an RBI single to Garrett Hanson to tie the game 4-4. Marble then hit Kevin Jurenka with a pitch to drive in Sheppard and give the Northstars a 5-4 lead.
That was actually the second consecutive inning Jurenka drove in a run by being hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. The Northstars player finished with four RBI in the game.
Jurenka added a two-run double in the fifth, and Sheppard also had an RBI as the Northstars scored four runs in the fifth to take control of the game with a 9-4 advantage.
In the sixth, Havre punched in five more runs as Hanson ripped a two-run double and C.J. Reichelt had a game-ending, run-scoring single.
Havre pitcher Eric Lipp struck out 11 and walked two in his complete-game effort to pick up the win.
"He had a great outing," Williams said of Lipp. "He got stronger over the last three innings. He's a deceiving little guy. He had good control and a pretty good curve ball. His key was staying ahead in the count."
Schultz, Romsa (4) and Anderson; Sheppard and Hanson. W Romsa. L Sheppard.
Upton, Marble (4) and Demarais; Lipp and Hanson. W Lipp. L Upton.