By Kim Staudinger
The Lethbridge Miners came to town Sunday with hopes of putting a dent in the Havre Northstars' perfect conference record. After losing the first Northern District Class A game, 8-7, in extra innings, the Miners accomplished their goal, defeating the Northstars 4-1.
"We knew going in they were going to be tough but we expected to win both of them, definitely," rightfielder Daine Solomon said. "We made a few mental mistakes and had some missed signs that probably cost us the game. We had one inning that killed us."
Defense saved the Northstars (17-1) in the second, third and fourth innings, but finally fell apart in the fifth when the Miners scored three runs to take a 3-1 lead.
"I'm not happy at all, whatsoever," Northstars coach Mickey Williams said. "We mentally collapsed today. I counted 13 mental mistakes that cost us. I'm very disappointed in my team."
A lead-off walk followed by an infield single by Jared Ruff set the stage for a costly two-run error by Havre pitcher Eric Lipp. Lethbridge (10-5) shortstop Cole Balog bunted back to Lipp who threw the ball over first baseman Tyson Roe's head. The ball sailed into foul ground, allowing Ruff and Allen Peters, who led off with a walk, to score. Balog ended up at third base and scored on a sacrifice fly by Ken Fugelrud.
The Miners added an insurance run in the seventh inning as Peters with the bases loaded. The Miners, though, left the bases loaded as Lipp settled down to strike out the next two batters and force the third out on a fly ball to center field.
Havre's only run came in the first inning when Solomon drove home shortstop Steve Heberly on a fielder's choice. Heberly led off with a single and advanced to third on consecutive infield singles by catcher Adam Jensen and Danny Wirtzberger.
The loss was the Northstars' first conference loss of the season.
"Lethbridge is a good team," Williams said. "They are always well coached. We know that. We just need to work a little harder."
In the first game, Solomon drove in Wirtzberger with a two-out infield single in the bottom of the ninth inning to secure the Havre win. Wirtzberger had smashed a two-out double down the right-field line and advanced to third on a passed ball.
The extra-inning game saw five lead changes before the Northstars finally pulled out the win.
Havre took an early 4-0 lead, but two Lethbridge runs in each of the second, third and fourth innings put the Miners ahead 6-4. The Northstars bounced back in the bottom of the fourth to tie the game at six. The Miners regained the lead in the top of the fifth inning but Havre came back again and tied the game at seven.
Wirtzberger led Havre with two doubles, two runs scored, including the game winner, and two RBI.
Lethbridge is in town again today to play the Comets at 3 p.m.