The pitching staff’s inability to consistently find the strike zone cost Belgrade a victory on Saturday, and then the team struggled with it again Sunday in their home finale.
The Bandits walked 21 batters, and hit seven more, in a pair of Southern A conference doubleheaders. That led a split in Dillon Saturday as Belgrade lost the opener 13-8 before rallying to win Game 2 with a seven-run seventh inning, 10-8.
On Sunday, the Bandits won the opener 13-3 in six innings before posting a 13-7 victory in Game 2 against Livingston..
“We let them hang around just simply because of the walk. That’s it,” Belgrade manager Johnny Graham said following Sunday’s sweep. “We eliminate those and these two things are pretty quick games.”
The Bandits took command of the opener in the second inning after Brandon Matthews belted a bases loaded double to stretch a 3-run lead to six. Belgrade twice loaded the bases in the frame and finished with six runs for an 8-0 lead.
The Bandits nearly halted the game in the fifth via the 10-run rule, but Easton Page was thrown out at home to end the inning after trying to score from third on a fly out to center.
But the Bandits capitalized on a double by Lane Neill, an error, and a hit batsman en route to scoring three runs in the sixth to win the contest. Cole Thomas singled in the game-winning runs.
Belgrade jumped up to a 6-0 lead in Game 2 before Braves rallied to get within 6-5 in the fourth. Livingston capitalized on a hit batsman, two walks, a pair of singles and a bases loaded triple by Caid Cox.
“That whole five (run) inning of theirs was putting guys on. Putting the hitter in leverage counts whether it be a 3-ball count, 1-0 count, 2-0 count or 2-1 or 3-1,” said Graham. “That was it, and that was yesterday too in Dillon in Game 1.”
The Bandits countered with three runs in the bottom half of the frame and then added four in the fifth to regain control of the contest, 13-5.
Belgrade had taken a 3-0 lead against Dillon in the opener, but the Cubs countered with five runs in the second and four in the fourth to take a 9-4 lead. Dillon capitalized on six walks and tallied 13 hits in the victory.
“We didn’t challenge the hitters well enough I don’t think with pitches in the strike zone,” said Graham. “And Dillon played pretty well yesterday too.”
The Cubs appeared to be headed for a sweep after taking an 8-3 lead into the seventh in Game 2, but Marcos Verdeja led off the frame with a single to center to spark an improbable rally. Belgrade tallied five hits in the inning and capitalized on three errors en route to taking the lead.
Cooper VanLuchene knocked in a pair of runs on a single to center to tie the game at 8-all, and then Mason Jacobsen brought in the final two on a single to left to make it 10-8.
The doubleheaders capped a busy seven games in five days stretch for the Bandits, who used seven different starting pitchers as the team finished 6-1 in those contests.
“And it’s not finished yet. We have three more (this week),” noted Graham. “But we rolled out a seven man rotation this week, which kind of says something about the depth of arms we have.”
The Bandits (30-12-1) improved to 12-2 in league play Tuesday with a 12-1 five inning rout of the Bozeman Bucks A in a makeup game at Hero’s Field.
Page and Lane Neill belted a triple and double, respectively, to lead the offense, while Coby Richards tossed a 1-hitter and struck out four on the mound.
Belgrade returns to action with a doubleheader in Livingston on Wednesday.
Dillon 13, Belgrade 8
Belgrade 301 000 4 - 8 9 3
Dillon 050 431 x - 13 13 5
Marcos Verdeja, Wyatt Lambeth (6) and Seth Green. Hunter Wentworth, Johnny Reser (7), Michael Hupp (7) and Cole Pulliam. W - Wentworth. L - Veredja.
BELGRADE (26-12-1) - Easton Page 1-3, Cole Thomas 0-4, Brandon Matthews 1-4 (2B), Coby Richards 4-4 3 2B), Green 1-3, Lane Neill 2-4, Cooper VanLuchene 0-4, Isaiah Brandhorst 0-3, Lambeth 0-0, Mason Jacobsen 0-1, Verdeja 0-2.
DILLON - Pete Gibson 2-2, Jake Fitzgerald 2-4, Wentworth 4-4 (2 2B), Ben Jones 0-4, Michael Hupp 3-4, Kale Konen 0-3, Jude Morest 0-3, Pulliam 0-3, Cole Johnson 2-2.
Belgrade 10, Dillon 8
Belgrade 100 011 7 - 10 11 2
Dillon 003 500 0 - 8 12 7
Mason Jacobsen, Lane Neill (7) and Seth Green. Jake Fitzgerald, Ben Jones (7) and Cole Pulliam. W - Neill. L - Jones.
BELGRADE (27-12-1) - Easton Page 2-3 (2B), Neill 0-4, Cole Thomas 2-4, Coby Richards 0-4, Green 0-4, Cooper VanLuchene 1-3, Jacobsen 1-3, Keaton Carter 2-3, Brandon Matthews 1-1, Marcos Verdeja 2-3.
DILLON - Pete Gibson 2-4, Fitzgerald 2-5 (2B, HR), Hunter Wentworth 0-3, Jones 1-3, Michael Hupp 3-4, Preston Hales 0-1, Cole Johnston 0-1, Connor Curnow 0-2, Johnny Reser 0-1, Cole Pulliam 2-3, Kale Konen 2-4.
Belgrade 13, Livingston 3
Livingston 000 012 - 3 5 3
Belgrade 261 103 - 13 10 1
River Smith, David Osen and Caid Cox. Alex Casas, Wyatt Russell (5) and Kash Fike (6) and Connor Reid. W - Casas. L - Smith.
LIVINGSTON - Wyatt Saile 0-3, Caid Cox 2-4, Smith 0-1, Osen 0-2, Rob Wolf 0-3, Simon C. 1-2, Max Stern 0-0, Scott Tatum 0-1, Brayden Duncan 1-3, Jakob Cipriani 1-2, Casey Miller 0-2.
BELGRADE (28-12-1) - Easton Page 1-2, Cole Thomas 2-4, Brandon Matthews 1-3 (2B), Coby Richards 0-4, Lane Neill 3-4 (2 2B), Cooper VanLuchene 2-4, Reid 0-3, Isaiah Brandhorst 1-3 (2B), Marcos Verdeja 0-2.
Belgrade 13, Livingston 7
Livingston 000 500 2 - 7 5 3
Belgrade 303 340 x - 13 14 1
Wyatt Saile, Casey Miller and David Osen. Gavin Waters, Isaiah Brandhorst (4), Lane Neill (5) and Kash Fike. W - Waters. L - Saile.
LIVINGSTON - Saile 0-2, Oser 0-3, Caid Cox 2-3 (3B), River Smith 1-2, Rob Wolf 0-4, Scott Tatum 0-3, Miller 1-4, Brayden Duncan 1-4, Max Stern 0-2.
BELGRADE (29-12-1) - Cole Thomas 0-2, Lane Neill 2-4, Mason Jacobsen 0-3, Coby Richards 2-3, Seth Green 1-4 (2B), Cooper VanLuchene 3-4 (2B), Fike 3-4 (2 2B), Alex Casas 1-3, Marcos Verdeja 2-4.
Belgrade 12, Bozeman 1
Belgrade 127 2 0 - 12 9 2
Bozeman 000 1x - 1 2 1
Coby Richards and Seth Green. Kaden Thomson, Colter Russell (3) and Brooks Talbot. W - Richards. L - Thomson.
BELGRADE (30-12-1) - Easton Page 1-4 (3B), Cole Thomas 1-3, Brandon Matthews 1-3, Richards 2-4, Green 1-2, Lane Neill 1-2 (2B), Cooper VanLuchene 1-1, Isaiah Brandhorst 0-1, Marcos Verdeja 1-2.
BOZEMAN (24-20) - Liam Bailey 0-2, Preston Flieman 1-2 (2B), Talbog 0-2, Corbin Holzer 0-2, Rhett Hays 1-2, Ethan Faure 0-1, Reece Stanish 0-1, Ryan Barnes 0-1, Branden Tarabochia 0-1.