The Helena Senators, winners of eight of their last 10 games, will begin their quest to reach the championship of the Montana-Alberta Class AA Legion baseball tournament on Wednesday in Bozeman.
The Senators (30-23 overall, 12-6 in the conference) are the tourney’s No. 4 seed, and will take on No. 5 Kalispell at noon. The top three seeds are the Billings Royals, Bozeman Bucks and Missoula Mavs.
“The kids have been playing well lately; we hope to continue that in the tournament,” Helena coach Dave Thennis said.
The Senators batted .298 as a team, with five .300 hitters (minimum 100 at bats), led by team batting champ Kienan Stief. Helena’s slick-fielding shortstop just missed the magical .400 mark, hitting .396, going 74 for 187 at the plate.
Stief paced the team in at least six offensive categories, including hits, three home runs, 11 stolen bases (tie), a .480 on base percentage, and a .545 slugging percentage. He ranks No. 2 with 16 doubles, 49 runs batted in and 42 runs.
Next came second baseman Colin Sassano, last year’s top hitter, with a .388 mark. He led the squad with 47 runs and six triples. He also stood second with 64 hits, .474 OBP and .527 slugging.
The rest of the .300 hitters are Ryan Arnston at .343, and Eamonn Byrne at .302. Arntson shared the stolen base lead with 11 pilfers. Ray Moore Jr. just missed the .300 plateau with a .297 average. He is the club’s RBI-leader with 50, and topped the group with 17 doubles, as well.
Rounding out a few of the other the top hitters are Payton Pappas with a .270 mark, Isaiah Meza at .270, Jackson Maynard with a .266, Andrew Rosston’s .245, Carter Pappas at .238, Conor McCarvel with a .238, Tayler Carlson’s .238 and Kellan Elder at .207.
The pitching staff produced three six-game winners, in the persons of Keaton Ralston (6-1), Brett Jacobs (6-3) and Tayler Carlson (6-3). Ralston posted the low earned run average (minimum 20 innings), with a 2.62 ERA, and was also the strikeout king, whiffing 67 batsmen in 72 innings. Rosston was the saves leader with three.
Those with three wins each were Jackson Maynard (3-0), Tanner McMahon (3-3) and Carter Pappas (3-6).
“(The tournament) should be a ton of fun as all the teams are sound,” Thennis said. “We just need to do one thing at a time.”
NOTE: The Senators-Lakers game will be broadcast live at noon on 94.9 FM ESPN Radio.