By Kim Staudinger
The Havre Comets saw the Lethbridge Miners hand their in-town rival, the Havre Northstars, its first conference loss Sunday night. The loss gave the Comets all the ammunition necessary to beat the Miners Monday afternoon.
Despite enduring a devastating 15-4 loss in the opener, the Comets showed resilience, winning the second game, 7-6, in an American Legion doubleheader at Legion Field.
"That was a huge win for us, especially after getting thumped that first game," Comets coach Bob Evans said. " Now they know if they play good defense all the time, they can win every game."
The Comets nearly gave the game away, though. Havre took a 6-2 lead into the seventh inning. Pitcher Alex Chenoweth recorded the first two outs of the inning with ease.
But disaster came next.
A tiring Chenoweth gave up an infield single followed by an RBI double by Shaun Sedgwick. Consecutive singles plated Sedgwick and set up a dangerous situation. Centerfielder Ken Fuglerud, who drilled two two-run home runs in the first game, just missed his third homer of the day with a shot to deep right. Fuglerud's ball hit the top of the wall and was deep enough for the tying two runs to score. Fuglerud ended at third with a triple.
Chenoweth recorded the final out of the inning, striking out catcher Rory McLeod.
The Miners changed pitchers in the bottom of the inning, bringing in Cole Balog. The move appeared to be a good one as Balog struck out the Comets first two batters. Then the Comets showed some two-out magic of their own.
Centerfielder Patch Wirtzberger legged out a bunt, putting the potential game-winning run on base. For the third time in the game, Evans gave Garrett Drake the hit-and-run sign. Drake, who botched the other opportunites, didn't miss it.
"He gave me the hit-and-run earlier in the game and kind of got mad at me when I missed it," Drake said. "He gave it to me again and I figured this time I would hit it no matter what. I was kind of lucky I hit it, kind of glad I hit it."
Drake took the outside pitch and hit it toward second base. The Miners bobbled the throw and Drake reached first. The throw was errant and Wirtzberger raced around third to score the game-winning run.
Wirtzberger said he knew he was going to score when the ball went off the first baseman's glove.
"It's fun to play in games like that, especially being the winning run," Wirtzberger said, noting the win was extra sweet because of the Northstars loss the night before. "It was a great job by Garrett to put it in play even. We planned the hit-and-run and he missed it twice earlier. It was a big play."
The win was crucial for the Comets for seeding in the upcoming Northern Class A District tournament. If the Comets continue to win, they likely won't take the eighth-place seed into districts. An eighth-place seed would mean the Comets could possibly face the Northstars in the opening round.
"That's a huge conference win for us to get our spirits back up," Wirtzberger said. "It gives us confidence. Now we know we can play with anyone in this conference."
In the opener, the fifth inning was costly for Havre. The Comets allowed eight runs on eight hits. Fuglerud blasted his second home run of the day to highlight the inning. Allen Peters scored once and had two RBI singles, and Luke Malcom scored twice and drilled a double and a triple. Balog drove home the other run of the inning.
The Comets scored two runs in the first and two more in the fifth for their only runs.
The Comets are at home Wednesday against the Great Falls Sparkies for two seven-inning games beginning at 3 p.m.