BILLINGS — The Bozeman Bucks have been the hottest team at the State AA American Legion Baseball tournament at Dehler Park in Billings. Monday night was no different, as the Bucks defeated the Billings Royals 10-0, ending the game due to run-rule after five innings.
The Bucks jumped on the Royals with four runs in the bottom of the first inning. RBI singles by Michael Freund, Alton Gyselman and Carsten Simcox put Bozeman up 3-0. Preston Fliehman then ripped a double down the left-field line to score another.
Bozeman kept the pressure on in the bottom of the second inning, as Freund scored another with a single to left. After a two-run single from Gyselman, the rout was on. Bozeman tacked on a run on an error and a sacrifice fly to lead 9-0.
“I expected them to hit the ball. I just don’t think maybe we were ready defensively today,” Billings Royals head coach Bryan Benjamin said. “We came out a little bit flat defensively. … They were swinging it, but we expected them to swing it. Just kind of disappointed in myself a little bit not having the guys more prepared, more ready for it.”
Bozeman showed tremendous patience at the plate through the tournament’s first two days. On Monday, though, the Bucks pounced on pitches in the zone early in the count.
“It’s part of our overall plate discipline to be honest. I think our guys are so locked in and really seeing the baseball well right now,” Bozeman head coach Garrett Schultz said. “Again we jumped at good pitches in the zone and somehow were able to lay off those pitches we don’t want to swing at. That’s been a difference maker for us.”
“If the pitch is over the plate, our coaches tell us to be aggressive but don’t be too aggressive — chase up or chase way out on non-two-strike pitches,” Freund said. “I think we did a really good job (Monday) seeing a pitch that was a pretty good pitch to hit and just going with it.”
Gyselman finished 2-2 with three RBI. Freund finished 3-3 and drove in three runs.
Bozeman was able to keep its top three arms fresh for the stretch run of the tournament by ending Monday’s game in five innings.
With the win, Bozeman is the lone undefeated team remaining and moves on to Tuesday’s semifinal against Missoula. First pitch for Bozeman and Missoula is slated for 7 p.m. on Tuesday night.
“It’s nothing different (Tuesday). We’re going to attack hitters in the zone, invite contact and let our defense work,” Schultz said.
Bozeman will play for a state title Wednesday night. For updated scores and pairings click here.
Lethbridge 4, Helena 1
Lethbridge had a pair of two-run innings on its way to a 4-1 win over Helena in loser-out play of the State AA American Legion Baseball tournament. The Senators cut the 2-0 lead in half, but the Elks plated two on a double to left by Skylar Braun. Lethbridge will face the Billings Royals at 4 p.m. on Tuesday in loser-out action.
Missoula 3, Billings Scarlets 0
Missoula stayed alive in the hunt for a State AA American Legion Baseball title on Monday with a 3-0 win over the Billings Scarlets in loser-out play. Missoula managed just six hits to Billings’ seven, but the Mavericks were aggressive on the base paths. Missoula scored on a wild pitch and a Dane Fraser steal of home on back-to-back pitches in the bottom of the third inning. The Mavs added an RBI single in the fourth inning from Dalton Bay. Billings was unable to capitalize with runners on base leaving nine stranded. Missoula will play the lone unbeaten Bozeman at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.