BILLINGS — The Helena Senators eliminated the Billings Scarlets on Saturday, earning themselves a second consecutive appearance in the AA State Legion championship.
Helena was looking to rebound following a heartbreaking loss to the Billings Royals on Friday evening in the undefeated semifinal. The Scarlets dropped their first game of the tournament but had responded and were looking for their third win in a row.
Both teams already had one loss over the week, meaning that it was win or go home for both sides.
The Scarlets came out hot and were able to notch the first run of the game when Nathan McDonald tagged up on a sacrifice fly from Jaden Sanchez.
The Senators are the returning champs for a reason though, and that experience paid dividends in the game. They used some solid base running paired with a couple of successful bunts to take a 3-1 lead going into the second inning.
Helena starting pitcher Hunter Bratcher was dominant all game, however in the top of the fifth inning he needed a little help from his defense.
The Scarlets had the bases loaded with one out, and although they managed to earn one run, a deep fly ball nearing the warning track didn’t quite have the distance, giving the Senators the last out of the inning.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Senators would gain a little bit of insurance. With runners on second and third, Walker Bennet punched the ball out to right field for a two-run base hit and the final two scores.
Bratcher would finish the Scarlets off in the seventh earning himself a complete game win and extending the Senators’ season. He only allowed seven hits in the 8-2 victory.
Following Helena’s win, the Royals eliminated the Kalispell Lakers by a score of 14-5 setting up a rematch of last year’s state championship.
The Senators will have their work cut out for them. Because the Royals haven’t lost yet, the Senators will have to beat them twice on Sunday to repeat as state champions. The game is scheduled to begin at 11 am.