Belgrade has boasted a potent offensive attack throughout the season, but it sputtered at an inopportune time Friday in Lewistown.
The Bandits were limited to just two hits en route to a 6-1 second round loss to the Billings Blue Jays at the Montana-Alberta Class A State Tournament. The defeat also snapped the team’s 12-game win streak dating back to July 18.
Lance Schaaf shut down Belgrade’s offense by allowing just two hits and striking out 14 in six innings of work. Hunter Eliason, who closed out the game on the mound in the seventh, struck out two more.
“We just didn’t adjust. He threw well, Schaaf, he threw really well,” Belgrade manager Johnny Graham said. “But our guys, at some point and time, you got to hunt what you want instead of what you get, and I guess our guys couldn’t make that adjustment.”
The Bandits (39-16) drop into the loser’s bracket where they’ll play conference rival Gallatin Valley at 10 a.m. Saturday. It will be the seventh meeting between the teams, and Belgrade won the previous six games, including two at last week’s district tournament.
In order to come through the loser’s bracket to win the state championship, the Bandits need to win twice on Saturday and then three times on Sunday.
“We put ourselves on a path that’s going to be a tough one. You gotta win five in two days,” Graham said. “But we told them, ‘Hey, we got 11 hours to get on minds on the task at hand, the next 200-feet.’ If we can do that, then it’s still very much possible. It’s a tougher road, but it’s still a possibility.”
The contest was a pitcher’s duel between Schaaf and Mason Jacobsen through five innings. Billings scratched out runs in the third and fifth to take a 2-0 lead, but the Bandits trimmed the deficit to 2-1 in the sixth after Cole Thomas scored on an error.
But in the bottom half of the frame, the Blue Jays capitalized on four walks, an error and a pair of singles en route to scoring four runs. Jacobsen didn’t make it out of the inning and finished with five walks, while scattering three hits and striking out five.
“He didn’t pitch his best, but he got himself out of trouble when there was trouble. All in all, I thought he pitched good enough,” said Graham. “But again, that game came down to our inability as an offense, which is kind of surprising. We’re a pretty good offensive team. We make that adjustment typically, but for whatever reason we didn’t tonight.”
Coby Richards had a double for the Bandits, while Thomas had the team’s other hit.
Gallatin Valley fends off elimination
After losing on an error in the bottom of the seventh Thursday, Gallatin Valley found itself on the flipside of the coin Friday afternoon.
The Outlaws rallied to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh and then scored the game-winning run on an error to keep its season alive. Brady Jones made it home from third on an error committed by Miles City third baseman Dalton Polesky as Gallatin Valley escaped with a 7-6 loser-out victory.
The Outlaws (31-26) scored three runs in the fourth to take a 5-2 lead, but Miles City trimmed the deficit to 5-4 in the sixth. The Mavericks then took a 6-5 lead after scoring twice in the top half of the seventh.
Trevor Doud tied the game with and RBI single — pinch runner Wyatt Barney scored from second — before Gallatin Valley scored the winning run in walk-off fashion with two outs.
Billings 6, Belgrade 1
Belgrade 000 001 0 - 1 2 4
Billings 001 014 x - 6 5 2
Mason Jacobsen, Lane Neill (6), Gavin Waters (7) and Seth Green. Lance Schaaf and Gunner Thompson.
BELGRADE (39-16) - Lane Neill 0-4, Cole Thomas 1-2, Green 0-2, Coby Ricahrds 1-3 (2B), Jacobsen 0-2, Cooper VanLuchene 0-2, Aidan Kulbeck 0-2, Keaton Carter 0-2, Wyatt Lambeth 0-1, Isaiah Brandhorst 0-3.
BILLINGS - Austin Schaaf 1-4, L. Schaaf 1-3, Jessen West 0-1, Davis Mosler 0-2, Kruz Slevira 1-2, Thompson 1-2, Hunter Eliason 0-3, Bryce LaForest 1-4, Eli Nickisch 0-2.
Gallatin Valley 7, Miles City 6
Miles City 002 002 2 - 6 8 2
Gallatin Valley 020 300 2 - 7 7 2
Jacksen Watts, Brennan Hager (6) and Jayden Venable. Mayson Shively, Caleb Kamerman (7) and Cyrus Richardson.
MILES CITY - Joel Christopherson 2-4, Jack Cline 0-4, Jess Bellows 1-2, Cam Muri 0-3, Jayden Venable 2-4 (3B), Julian Link 0-1, Dylan Homlund 0-2, Kayden hager 1-2, Dalton Polesky 1-3, Carson Hunter 1-2.
GALLATIN VALLEY (31-26) - Brady Jones 1-4 (3B), Josh Wisecarver 1-4, Bo Hays 0-1, C. Richardson 1-3 (2B), Brody Ayers 2-4, Isaac Richardson 0-3, Brandon Beedie 0-2, Wyatt Barney 0-0, Austin Devers 0-2, Trevor Doud 2-4 (2B).