Safe At Third

Belgrade's Brandon Matthews slides into third during the Bandits' first game against Anaconda in the Southern A District Tournament July 18 at Heroes Park.

Ben Jones jumped up and down in pure exhilaration.

He had just cranked out a three-run home run to give his team a five-run lead over the district’s top-seeded team. As Jones crossed home plate, the Cubs joined him by jumping, flexing their muscles and yelling in jubilation. And all Belgrade could do was stand in the field and watch.

After falling to No. 5-seeded Butte on Friday, the season of the No. 1-seeded Bandits ended as No. 4 Dillon took a 7-3 win in a Southern District A Tournament elimination game July 20 at Heroes Park.

Though the Bandits’ season ended, manager Johnny Graham feels his team shouldn’t have regrets.

“Sometimes it’s a lot harder to stomach when you have a bevy of mistakes,” Graham said. “It wasn’t the case tonight. We couldn’t string hits together.”

Belgrade (37-18-1) took control early with one-run singles by Coby Richards and Mason Jacobsen in the first and second innings, respectively, for a 2-0 lead.

But Dillon tied it up with a two-run double by Jones in the third, and he wasn’t done. After Jade Morast scored on an error in the fourth, Jones launched a 1-1 pitch well over the right-field fence for a 7-2 lead.

“Crap. Dang it,” Jacobsen thought to himself. “What can you do? There’s nothing you can really do.”

Belgrade never gave up though. The Bandits hit two singles with two outs in the bottom of the seventh to keep the inning alive. They appeared ready to score when Richards blasted a hit deep to left field.

Fist Bump

The Belgrade Bandits celebrate a run by Cole Thomas during their first game against Anaconda at the Southern A District Tournament July 18 at Heroes Park.

But it was caught, and the Cubs began to celebrate again. Richards crouched down and put his head in his hands in disappointment.

Jacobsen said he’ll remember his teammates for their heart, integrity and their desire to play. He just wishes they could play more.

“It’s not that things didn’t go right, the cards just didn’t fall our way,” Jacobsen said. “It was a tough game. We should’ve beat them.”

Graham kept thinking the Bandits would put together the scoring they needed, even in a single frame, to tie or take the lead. Following hugs with his players, some who will play next year and some who finished their American Legion careers, he admitted the hits the Bandits needed just didn’t happen.

“For some reason, we couldn’t do that tonight,” Graham said. “Just couldn’t string (hits) together, and not just hits but quality (at-bats).”

Graham gushed about his seniors after the game, about how they’re “top-notch kids” and that he hopes to keep in contact with them.

He didn’t really talk much about baseball when his team gathered in left field following the game. But baseball, he said, isn’t really what he’ll remember his team most for anyway.

“I’ll remember our guys,” Graham said, “for the type of human beings they are.”

Belgrade began the tournament with a 10-0 five inning rout of Anaconda. Gavin Waters led the team on the mound, tossing a 1-hitter in the victory, while Marcos Verdeja was 3 of 4 at the plate with a home run.

The Bandits were upset in the second round by Butte 14-10. They rallied to knot the game at 10-all in the bottom of the sixth, but the Miners scored four in the seventh to win the game.

Verdeja was 4 of 4 at the plate with a double out of the lead off spot, while Kash Fike was 2 of 3 with a double.

Belgrade bounced back to bat Bozeman 8-3 in loser-out action. The Bandits rallied from a 3-2 deficit to win the game. Seth Green was 2 of 4 with a triple.

Note: Belgrade News Sports Editor Dan Chesnet contributed to this story.

Southern A District Tournament

(at Heros Park, Bozeman)

July 18 results

Butte 8, Dillon 6

Belgrade 10, Anaconda 0

Gallatin Valley 20, Livingston 2

Bozeman 8, Helena 4

July 19 results

Dillon 13, Anaconda 8, loser-out

Bozeman 11, Livingston 0, loser-out

Butte 14, Belgrade 10

Gallatin Valley 8, Helena 2

July 20 results

Belgrade 8, Bozeman 3, loser-out

Dillon 11, Helena 10, loser-out

Gallatin Valley 15, Butte 5, semifinal

Dillon 7, Belgrade 3, loser-out

July 21 results

Dillon 18, Butte 16, third

Gallatin Valley 12, Dillon 2, champ

— Top 2 teams advanced to state

Belgrade 10, anaconda 0

Anaconda                  000 00  -   0    1   2

Belgrade                    540 01  -  10  10  0

Brandon Shaw, Tommy Sawyer (3) and n/a. Gavin Waters and n/a. W - Waters. L - Shaw.

ANACONDA - Mason Worl 1-2, Breadon Sawyer 0-1, Unavailable 0-1, Patrik Galle 0-1, Luke Jensen 0-2, Connor Sampson 0-2, Sean Kellegher 0-1, Shaw 0-2, Andrew Tallon 0-2, Sawyer 0-2.

BELGRADE (36-16-1) - Marcos Verdeja 3-4 (HR), Cole Thomas 2-4, Brandon Matthews 2-3 (2B, 3B), Coby Richards 0-2, Seth Green 1-2, Lane Neill 0-1, Cooper VanLuchene 0-3, Mason Jacobsen 1-3, Isaiah Brandhorst 0-2, Kash Fike 1-1.

Butte 14, Belgrade 10

Butte                     300 142 4  -  14  12  3

Belgrade               101 044 0  -  10  11  4

Ryan Wahl, Rylan Richards (7) and n/a. Coby Richards, Kash Fike (5), Lane Neill (6), Cole Thomas (7) and n/a. W - R. Richards. L - Neill.

BUTTE (29-23) - Scout Allen 3-5, Egan Lester 2-5, Wahl 0-6, Peyton Hattick 1-3, Aidan Lee 2-4, Eric Hart 2-3, Richards 0-3, Reece Cox 0-2, Evan Starr 2-3.

BELGRADE (36-17-1) - Marcos Verdeja 4-4 (2B), Thomas 0-3, Brandon Matthews 1-4, Richards 2-4, Green1-4, Neill 0-3, Cooper VanLuchene 1-4, Alex Casas 0-2, Keaton Carter 0-1, Mason Jacobsen 0-1, Fike 2-3 (3B).

Belgrade 8, Bozeman 3

Bozeman                  102 000 0  -  3  7  3

Belgrade                   200 033 x  -  8  6  0

Kaden Thomson, Preston Fileman (6) and n/a. Cooper VanLuchene and n/a. W - VanLuchene. L - Thomson.

BOZEMAN (29-23) - Liam Bailey 0-4, Preston Flieman 3-3, Brooks Talbot 1-3, Corbin Holzer 2-3 (2 3B), Rhett Hays 0-3, Colter Russell 0-3, Ryan Barnes 0-3, Branden Tarabochia 0-2, Ethan Faure 1-3.

BELGRADE (37-16-1) - Marcos Verdeja 0-2, Cole Thomas 0-3, Brandon Matthews 0-4, Coby Richards 2-4 (2B), Seth Green 2-4 (3B), Lane Neill 0-3, Cooper VanLuchene 1-4 (2B), Mason Jacobsen 1-3, Alex Casas 0-1.

Dillon 7, Belgrade 3

Dillon                        002 500 0  -  7  7  0

Belgrade                   110 010 0  -  3  9  2

Jace Fitzgerald, Hunter Wentworth (6) and n/a. Easton Page, Mason Jacobsen (6) and n/a. W - Fitzgerald. L - Page.

DILLON (23-21) - Pete Gibson 1-3, Fitzgerald 0-3, Wentworth 2-4, Ben Jones 2-2 (2B, HR), Connor Curnow 0-4, Kale Konen 0-3, Michael Hupp 0-3, Jade Morast 1-2, Cole Pulliam 0-0, Nicholas Johnston 1-4.

BELGRADE (37-18-1) - Marcos Verdeja 0-4, Cole Thomas 1-3, Brandon Matthews 2-2, Coby Richards 2-4 (2B), Seth Green 1-3, Lane Neill 0-3, Cooper VanLuchene 1-3 (2B), Jacobsen 2-3, Alex Casas 0-2, Kash Fike 0-1.