GREAT FALLS — The Helena Senators continued their thrilling run at the State AA Legion Baseball tournament in Great Falls, with a pair of wins to claim a state championship. Helena topped Kalispell 4-3 to move to the title game against No. 1 seed Billings, and knocked off the Royals with a 7-5 win.
After topping the Billings Scarlets 5-4 on Friday, the Senators had to win twice on Sunday to hoist the trophy. In the first game of the day, the Senators played the Kalispell Lakers to a 3-3 which prompted extra innings.
With the bases loaded and nobody out in the bottom of the ninth, a wild pitch would bring in the game winning run in walk-off fashion. Mike Hurlbert and Tyler Tenney each had three hits in the win. Victor Scott earned the win on the mound with 4.2 innings of scoreless relief. He allowed three hits and struck out four batters.
The win meant a rematch between the Senators and Royals for a state championship in the final game of the tournament. The Royals had topped the Senators 5-4 on a walk-off single during Friday’s winners bracket match-up.
But Helena would have the edge in the second contest, coming from behind twice to win 7-5.
The Royals struck first with one run in the bottom of the second inning. Helena would answer with three runs in the third. Ethen Keintz drove in two runs on a double, and Judson Seliskar added an RBI on a ground out.
Billings would respond with a run in the bottom of the frame, and two more in the fourth following back to back doubles to move back on top 4-3.
Three Royals errors in the fifth inning allowed Helena to tie the game at 4, and then a Seliskar hit an RBI single to put the Senators back on top 5-4. Hurlbert added another RBI, and Helena led 6-4 after five. Each team would add another run in the seventh, but Billings couldn’t close the gap.
It’s Helena’s first state title since 2003. Hurlbert earned hitting MVP honors, while Tenney was the overall MVP. Both teams now advance to the Legion Baseball Northwest Regional in Gillette, Wyoming which starts Wednesday August 4.
"We've got guys we've had since they were 13 years old in the program on our B team," Senators Head Coach Jon Burnett explained. "Watching them come up as 18, 19 year-olds not just physically mature but mentally and seing how much they've grown, it's just an awesome thing to watch."
Helena will face Idaho Falls in the first round, while the Royals square off with Washington champion Yakima.