BILLINGS – There was never a doubt.
Not through the entire 2019 State AA Tournament did the Bozeman Bucks appear anything but poised to win their first American Legion title in 12 years, which they did Wednesday afternoon with a convincing 6-1 win over the Billings Royals. It lasted only about one hour and 40 minutes.
“It’s almost incredible how these last five days are going to be some of the most memorable moments of my life,” said Bucks’ pitcher/outfielder Kehler Murfitt during the on-field celebration. “I mean this has been four years of just waiting. I mean, in AA we lost in 2017, that really sucked. And then last year went oh-and-two at state, so it’s kind of been in the back of everybody’s minds… especially mine. I want to win it.”
The Bucks’ next closest tournament game was a six-run margin. They put up an astounding 48 runs in five games. They looked like a regional-caliber team just a year after finishing two-and-out at state.
Wednesday’s tournament win started like most others — with an explosive offensive output. The Bucks jumped out to a 3-0 lead thanks to Finn Snyder’s 2-run double to deep center field and an Alton Gyselman RBI. Snyder finished 2-for-4 at the plate with two RBI and a run scored. Gyselman 2-for-3 with an RBI.
The Royals got one back to start the 2nd with an RBI double from Hayden Yarbrough, but Bozeman counter-punched with another run in the bottom half for a 4-1 lead.
Royals starter Nick Eliason threw his first scoreless inning in the third, but Sage McMinn opened the fourth by driving a double to right field and Bozeman was back on the scoring train. After advancing to third base on a sacrifice, McMinn wheeled home on a wild pitch to make it 5-1 Bozeman.
Bucks’ starter Hunter Williams kept the Royals at bay icing 12 of 13 batters in one stretch. Billings showed some spark in the top of the 6th with two aboard but Williams pitched out of the jam.
“I felt pretty confident because I’d beaten these guys before,” said Williams, who was also named Tournament MVP. “But I knew it was going to be a tough game since they were battling for the championship, too. I knew I had to give it everything I had, and I did.”
After loading the bases in the bottom of the 6th, Bozeman pushed one more run across on Zander Petrich’s long sac fly.
Williams went the distance allowing only one run on four hits, with six strikeouts.
“We get to play more baseball, go on to regionals,” said Bucks head coach Garrett Schultz. “So, I think our guys are going to attack that just like they’ve done (here).”
Schultz started to continue, but sensed he was about to get soaked from behind with a celebratory water cooler bath.
“I think something is coming,” he said wincing, “I’m just going to let it happen.”
And sure enough, splash.
Full tournament results can be seen here.