The Bandits took a four-day road trip out to the Bitterroot Tournament in Florence July 7-10, and managed just two wins while losing two more games by a run each.
Their opening game against Havre started off with a rocky, three-run deficit. By the bottom of the third, the tide turned with two Belgrade home runs. However, the scoring stalled and Havre banged out another four runs to beat them the Bandits 8-3.
Belgrade’s fortunes took a turn with a 5-2 win over Bitterroot. The Bandits scored all five runs in the first three innings, keeping the Bucs to just two runs to end the first. Seniors Lane Neill and Kash Fike held their own, each notching a home run against tournament hosts.
Game 3 would be one of two close losses for the Bandits, as they fell to the Lewistown Redwings, a team that has skunked them all season. The game started off like Thursday’s opener, with an early deficit as the Bandits dropped four runs in the bottom of the second. The Bandits weren’t able to pile on the runs until the fourth inning.
A two-run inning kept them down by only two. After a scoreless fifth, the Bandits kept the scoring pace, gaining two in the sixth and seventh. Unfortunately, one run in the seventh was only enough to shorten the lead, as the Redbirds were able to keep a slim lead and overcome the Bandits 6-5.
The Bandits then kept their winning streak against Bitterroot teams with a dominant 21 runs, keeping the Red Sox scoreless in the blowout. After a goose egg for both teams in the first inning, the Bandits started racking up runs. They scored a combined nine runs in the second and third innings before letting off 12 straight runs rip in the fourth.
Caleb Hoppe managed to go 2 for 4 with a double, while Kash Fike made out like a bandit with a 3 for 4 hitting performance, nearly completing the cycle with only a first base appearance missing.
Their final game was a rematch against the Redbirds where they also came just short of the win. The matchup started with a scoreless first inning before erupting into a quick 5-5 tie at the bottom of the third. Belgrade managed to push two runs in the fourth inning while holding Lewistown to nothing to close it out.
However, the Redbirds tied it up once again, gaining one run in the fifth and finishing the sixth with two more runs. No runs made it past either team in the seventh, eventually leading to extra innings. An unfortunate walk-off led to the Bandits’ downfall as they finished third in the tournament, sending them back home to play Anaconda for their final home regular season game of the year.
Bandit’s Senior Night sweep of A’s capped off with no-hitter
On July 12, Belgrade hosted the Anaconda A’s for their final home game of the regular 2022 season. On a night celebrating the Bandits’ eight seniors, they wanted to send the crowd off with a dominant 2-0 finish against the visitors.
After the seniors were recognized and emotional families walked out with their boys for the final time, the game was over before it started.
The A’s weren’t able to gain a run to start the first inning while the Bandits were laying out the ball. Seven runs capped off the first, followed by another scoreless inning for Anaconda. Another 10 runs put Belgrade up 17-0 with three innings to spare.
A slow two-run third inning for the home team kept the crowd humble before another seven runs were hauled in by the Bandits. The final score of 26-0 was met with cheers of the home crowd and murmurs of mercy from the A’s visiting families.
Almost every senior managed a hit, with senior Kash Fike going 3 for 3 with a double in his bag. Collin Delph, Drew Dunning, Aidan Kulbeck, and Gavin Waters all managed to triple.
A 30-minute cake break let the A’s relax after a tough first loss as the Bandits and their families enjoyed dessert, mingled with one another, and viewed a table with old photos celebrating the eldest of the Belgrade Bandits.
A rejuvenated Bandits squad kept its scoring spark against Anaconda with a leadoff nine runs at the bottom of the first. Six runs were let up in the second, and the third was left with a modest four scores.
The bottom of the fourth was graced with nine runs, putting the Bandits up 27-0, but the real fun came in the final inning of the game. At the top of the fifth, senior Cale Livergood had managed to keep his cool and allow no hits.
Like clockwork, Livergood struck out batter after batter until the final A’s player made his way to the home plate. Each pitch flew over the bag with ease as the home crowd held its breath in anticipation.
Livergood wound up, punched his final throw down the middle, and closed out a perfect game. Gloves were flung high, and his team stormed the mound as Livergood – on the eve of his 18th birthday – pitched a no-hitter in his home stadium.
“When we were huddled up at the end of the game, you can tell how valuable everybody is. Whether you get in the game or not, the energy and picking teammates up, it just means so much to everybody,” Manager Ryan Johnerson said.
The Bandits blanked the A’s double-header with a total score of 53-0. In the first game, the Bandits won 27-0, with five batters going perfect from home plate. They managed a total 53 home runs on 37 hits, while allowing Anaconda only one hit and zero runs.
“Everybody on the team knew that this is the start of a big week. They did. They responded exactly how we needed them to with pitching, defense, hitting, and base-running,” Johnerson said.
Belgrade ends the season with away game doubleheaders, taking on the Bozeman Bucks on Thursday, July 14, at 5 p.m., before making their way to Silver Bow County to face the Butte Miners at 6 p.m. on Friday.