BILLINGS - An explosive fifth inning lifted the Kalispell Lakers past the Missoula Mavericks 7-5 on Wednesday at Montana's American Legion Baseball State AA Tournament in Billings.
Trailing 3-2 in the tournament's opening game, the Lakers blew up for five runs in the fifth and never looked back. Caden Willis singled on a 2-2 count for Kalispell's go-ahead run.
Danny Kernan threw three and a third innings in the start for Kalispell, allowing three runs on four hits and striking out two. Ethan Diede led the Lakers offensively going 2-for-3 batting. He also made six plays on defense in a game played error-free by Kalispell.
Peyton Stevens opened Missoula's scoring with a single in the second. Stevens, Skye Palmer and Dane Fraser each turned in multiple hits for the Mavs.
Charlie Kirgan belted a two-run homer in the sixth to draw Missoula within 7-5. The Mavs then placed the tying run at the plate in the bottom of the seventh, but Kalispell ended it without damage.
PHOTOS: MONTANA STATE AA BASEBALL BEGINS IN BILLINGS
In Game 2, second-seeded Helena's Cy Miller and Tyler Tenney combined for a no-hit shutout in Helena's 6-0 win over Great Falls.
Miller stuck out seven through five innings of work. Tenney threw the final two innings.
The Senators jumped on top 2-0 in the bottom of the first, tacked on another in the second and added three more in the sixth.
Helena (16-9) and Kalispell (15-10) square off Thursday in a 4 p.m. winners-bracket showdown. Missoula (9-16) faces Great Falls (6-19) in Thursday's 1 p.m. loser-out contest.
In Wednesday's nightcap, the Billings Royals scored first and last to send the crosstown Scarlets into loser-out play, 14-3.
The Royals quickly moved up 1-0 in the first and made it 3-0 halfway through the second inning.
The Scarlets rallied to tied it at 3-3 in the third, but after giving up another pair in the fourth, got into pitching trouble in the top of the fifth. The Royals loaded the bases with nobody out before a run walked in. Moments later, Noah Aufdengarten, batting in the nine hole, delivered a 2-RBI single for an 8-3 Royals lead, still with nobody out. Nick Eliason continued the onslaught with a bases-clearing single. Eliason ended up at third when the catcher was overthrown.
The Royals ultimately scored seven runs in the fifth inning for a 13-3 lead. Eliason led the offense with a 3-for-5 effort at the plate, two runs scored and six RBI. Aufdengarten was 1-2, scored three times, drew two walks and delivered 2 RBI.
Defending State AA champion Bozeman (21-3) now draws the Royals (10-15) Thursday night at 7 p.m.
The Scarlets (10-15) don't play again until loser-out action on Friday.