BUTTE — The inaugural high school state baseball tournament opened at 3 Legends Stadium in Butte on Thursday.
Eight teams converged at Copper Mountain Park to begin determining who will become Montana's first-ever sanctioned high school baseball champion.
The four winning teams will advance to tomorrow's semifinals while the losers will fall into loser-out games. Following is a roundup of Thursday's action:
Florence-Carlton 6, Butte 5 (8 innings)
On paper, this was a Florence team hailing from a Class B school staring down a Bulldogs team fielded from a AA school loaded with players who had been part of American Legion district, state and regional titles last summer. The Falcons didn't blink.
Isaac Bates notched a walk-off RBI to end a game that extended to eight innings, and Florence punched a ticket to Friday's semifinals with a 6-5 victory that stunned Butte.
The Bulldogs scored in the top of the first inning after Cayde Stajcar attempted to steal second base and an errant throw allowed him to eventually steal home. Florence's Patrick Duchein then hit in a sac fly in the bottom of the first to tie the game, built a 3-1 lead after three innings and eventually led 5-2 at the end of four.
Stajcar hit an RBI single in the top of the fifth to pull the Bulldogs within two and Butte managed to get the tying runs in the seventh — Anthony Knott and Stajcar both with RBI doubles — to force the eighth inning. Duchein came in as relief pitcher and held Butte scoreless in the top of the eighth, setting the stage for Bates' winning hit.
Bates led Florence with a pair of RBIs on two hits and also had three stolen bases. Drew Wagner and Jake Roth also had RBIs for the Falcons. Sean Ossello, Zach Tierney and Alex Jorgensen notched RBIs for Butte. Knott had three stolen bases and Stajcar had four.
Polson 6, Eureka 4
Both the Lions and Pirates turned in big fifth innings, but Polson's scores proved to be decisive.
The Pirates outscored Eureka 4-3 in the fifth to go up 6-4 for what ended up being the final score. Polson will face Florence-Carlton in a 9:30 a.m. semifinal on Friday while Eureka will take on Butte in a loser-out game at noon.
Polson scored in the bottom of the first and led Eureka 2-1 heading into the high-scoring fifth inning.
Sophomore left fielder Landon Shoemake led the Pirates with two RBIs on two hits and Jarrett Wilson scored three runs. Relief pitcher Espn Fisher earned the win with 2.2 innings pitched.
Eureka was led by a three-hit, two-RBI two-run performance from Tristan Butts.
Whitefish 7, Frenchtown 2
An early scoring spree proved to be decisive as the 1NW Bulldogs fended off the Broncs and gave No. 1 seeds a 3 for 3 record in the third game of the tournament.
Whitefish piled up five runs in the first inning and the Bulldogs didn't allow a Frenchtown score until the fifth inning. The Broncs scored runs in the fifth and sixth inning before Whitefish tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth to seal the win and setup a noon semifinal between the winner of Belgrade/Hamilton.
Fynn Ridgeway batted in three Bulldogs runners on two hits and also notched a triple. Clayton Godsey chipped in with a pair of RBIs on three hits.
Pitcher Jacob Polumbus threw a complete game, earning the win in 6.2 innings, surrendering two runs, walking one batter and striking out seven.
Connor Michaud and Jordan Warner each had an RBI for the Broncs.
Hamilton 12, Belgrade 6
The Broncs emerged as the only No. 2 seed to stay in the hunt for a state championship.
Hamilton ripped off three runs in the third inning and went on a 9-4 spree across the final three innings to upend the No. 1 East seed Panthers in a day that saw both programs from AA schools fall into the consolation bracket.
The Broncs will now take on Whitefish in the semis and Belgrade falls into a loser-out game against Frenchtown.
Jacob Westberry paced Hamilton with three RBIs on two hits and Liam O'Connell and Emerson Widmer each batted in a pair of runners.
Westberry earned the win with six full innings pitched and allowing just one earned run on three hits.
Jayden Jacksha notched Belgrade's lone RBI and Diego Casas had two hits.