State AA American Legion Baseball: Hot Bozeman bats push Bucks past Billings Scarlets, Billings Royals scratch past Lethbridge

BILLINGS — The Bozeman Bucks pounded the ball all over the yard on Saturday against the Billings Scarlets in the first round of the State AA American Legion Baseball tournament at Dehler Park in Billings. The Bucks advanced with an 11-4 win.

Bozeman struck quickly in the bottom of the first, plating three runs all off Billings errors. The Bucks tacked on two more runs to take a 5-0 lead in the bottom of the second on a two-run single by Michael Freund.

“I thought our offense was really good. Our offense really won that game for us,” Bozeman head coach Garrett Schultz said. “The emphasis for us is to put a lot of pressure on the other team. … If you put enough pressure on a team, you end up scoring runs.”

The Scarlets bounced back in the top of the fourth with four runs. Koby Croft drove in a run on a single to center and Logan Meyer scored two more with an RBI double to left.

That would be the end of Billings’ run production, though, as Freund came in and shut the door for the final three innings.

Bozeman, on the other hand, continued to test the Scarlets’ defense. Sage McMinn ripped a double to the center field wall in the bottom of the fourth inning that plated a run, and Bozeman scored again on a pair of errors by the Billings defense.

The Bucks pounded out eight hits and Billings committed eight errors in all. Freund with up with a pair of hits and three RBI.

Bozeman advances and will play Helena on Sunday at 4 p.m. Billings will face Kalispell in loser-out play at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

Billings Royals 3, Lethbridge 1

It took the Billings Royals nearly all game to get a base hit, but they led for nearly the entirety of Saturday’s first-round matchup against Lethbridge at the State AA American Legion Baseball tournament at Dehler Park in Billings.

Billings gained a 1-0 advantage in the top of the second after a throwing error allowed a run to cross. Errors again allowed a run to cross in the top of the third for the Royals. Lethbridge’s only run came on a fielder’s choice in the bottom of the fifth inning.

With the Royals holding a 2-1 lead over Lethbridge in the top of the seventh inning, Chase Hinkley delivered an RBI double to right field to give Billings a 3-1 advantage and the Royals their first hit of the game.

Royals ace Dann Blanchard wasn’t coming off the mound, and he wasn’t going to lose. Blanchard delivered a six-hit complete game, allowing one run while throwing 107 pitches.

“(Blanchard’s) got great composure up there. It was a tight game all the way through, and he just stayed within himself,” Billings Royals head coach Bryan Benjamin said.

Lethbridge left-handed ace Thomas Little matched Blanchard, until he was pulled midway through the top of the sixth inning. Little didn’t allow a hit, but issued seven walks and allowed two unearned runs.

“We knew it was going to be tough. We knew we were going to have to scratch some runs together. We talked to the boys at the beginning of the game and said to just have quality at-bats and make him work,” Benjamin said of the matchup against Little. “Our kids had quality at-bats and got him out of there. … He’s got great location and he’s right on top of you when he throws the ball. He really knows how to pitch.”

Billings advances to play Missoula on Sunday at 7 p.m. Lethbridge will Great Falsl in loser-out action on Sunday at 1 p.m.

For updated scores and pairings please click here.

Alec Bofinger

Alec Bofinger

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