BILLINGS – Last Wednesday, the Billings Royals earned a new title – 2018 State AA Legion champions. They also earned a new nickname – the Cardiac Kids.
“We went into every game just expecting to get a hit in the first inning or something, and it just didn’t come through until fifth, sixth, seventh inning,” said outfielder Jarret Leinwand. “The whole weekend will be something none of us will ever forget.”
“I’m proud of these boys,” gushed manager Bryan Benjamin. “They’ve worked hard for this. They were close last year getting to that championship game. This year, for sure, I knew what they wanted coming out, and they went out and got it.”
It was anything but easy. Two come-from-behind walk-off victories, one come-from-behind extra-inning win, and a hold-on-for-dear-life win over the rival Billings Scarlets. In the championship game, the Royals trailed 5-0 before even getting a plate appearance. Seven innings later, it was 5-5 and Leinwand stepped to the plate.
“I hit it and I saw it dropping, and I hit first base and just see this swarm of my team coming at me and I was scared for my life,” Leinwand said of his walk-off RBI single. “We got a big team, and they came at me and tackled me to the ground. We were just going crazy. It was just unbelievable.”
“When it got down, I was just so excited,” echoed infielder Dawson Smith. “The helmet came off. I was sitting in the on-deck circle, and right as he hit it, I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s down.'”
Benjamin said he never lost confidence, but there was one thing that surprised the manager: the postgame Gatorade bath.
“I did not see this one coming,” admitted the manager. “I was getting interviewed on the TV there in Kalispell, and they got me good with that one. It was great.”
That celebration lasted only a few days. The Royals begin play in the Northwest Legion Regional on Wednesday at 4 p.m. in Missoula against Hawaii. The scouting report? Well, there really isn’t one.
“We know nothing about these teams, and they know nothing about us,” said Leinwand. “So we’re just going to play the same baseball we’ve been playing all year and hopefully we can just come out with the win.”
“We’ve been playing some pretty good defense,” Benjamin said. “I think we got an opportunity out there in the regional tournament – go out there and win some games.”