After making a valiant comeback to get even with the Clackamas Cavaliers, the Helena Senators were edged 6-5 when the Oregon state champions scored the winning run in their last at-bat during the third day of the Keith Sell Invitational on Saturday.
In an evenly contested, see-saw battle at Kindrick Legion Field, the score was tied at 2 at the end of three complete innings. The Senators' runs were provided by Jackson Maynard, Eamonn Byrne, Conor McCarvel and Ryan Arntson.
Then, Clackamas erupted for three runs in the fourth to surge ahead, 5-2. The crucial hit for the Cavaliers came off of Bubba Jaha's bat for an RBI-single.
In the bottom of the fifth, hometown catcher Carter Pappas gunned a throw to third baseman Ray Moore Jr. on the Cavalier's attempt steal, for the third out of the inning.
Trailing by three going into the top of the sixth, and running out of time against the solid pitching of Jeff Nelson, Senators shortstop Colin Sassano stroked a one-out single. After Kienan Stief reached on an error, Moore ripped an RBI-single to close the gap to two runs.
Up to plate stepped catcher Carter Pappas, who proceeded to lace a hard-hit line drive down the right field line. The ball was slicing and appeared it may go foul, but landed just inside fair territory as the Clackamas right fielder made a diving attempt but couldn't quite reach it.
The ball rolled all the way to the fence, as Pappas hustled around to third with a bases-clearing triple, and the score was knotted at 5.
In the bottom of the sixth, Carter's twin, Payton Pappas, who came in relief in the fourth frame, set the Cavaliers down in order. Payton helped his cause with a fine play on a bunt down the third base line, to get his man at first by a step.
The game went into the bottom of the seventh still tied. With one out, Greg Mehlaf belted a double to right center. Then, with two down, Mehlaf pulled a daring steal of third, and when the ensuing throw went into left field, he popped up and streaked for home plate.
Mehlaf slid under the throw home from left, the umpire signaled safe, and his Oregon teammates mobbed him in celebratory fashion.
Mehlaf finished with two hits and two RBIs. Nelson went the distance for the win, allowing just one earned run, with three strikeouts and a walk.
Moore worked 3 innings, giving up five hits and two runs. He gave way to Jackson Maynard, who permitted three runs, before the ball was handed to Payton Pappas, who was saddled with the tough loss, going 3 1/3 frames, allowing two hits and one unearned run. He fanned one and did not walk a batter.
"It was certainly a rough way to lose, and it's been a difficult weekend," said Helena coach Dave Thennis, whose Senators slip to 1-3 in the tourney. "However, these guys continue to play hard and stick together. I like my guys."
Saturday's 9:30 p.m. game was to determine if the Senators will play on Sunday. If Bitterroot won, Helena will play at 9 a.m.; if Calgary won, the Senators are out of the tourney.
Other results in the tourney were Friday's late game, Eastside over Butte 5-0; and on Saturday, Clackamas over Mount Vernon 7-4, Bozeman over Eastside 10-2 and Columbia Basin over Calgary 9-0.
Sunday's championship game is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.