BUTTE -- Baseball games aren’t always going to be pretty, and Saturday’s doubleheader between the Butte Muckers and Helena Reps was certainly in the category of the less-attractive.
The Reps had two six-run innings, a seven-run frame, and scored eight runs in another inning while sweeping the Muckers, 18-0 and 17-3.
Perhaps the ugliest and definitely the scariest part of the afternoon came during the third inning of the nightcap.
It wasn’t because Helena scored seven runs in that inning to take an 8-0 lead. It came when Ty McGurran hit a line drive off the head of Butte pitcher Trevor Neumann.
McGurran’s liner caught Neumann on the right side of his head and the ball ricocheted onto the grass behind first base. Two runs scored on what was ruled an infield single but McGurran remained planted at first base while watching Mucker players and coaches tend to Neumann.
Neumann collapsed on the pitcher’s mound after the ball hit him but popped back up a few seconds later. He left the game under his own power and returned to the Muckers’ dugout, where he was accompanied by an ice pack.
“It hit me right in the temple area,” Neumann said, gesturing toward the left side of his head. “It swelled a little bit.”
Muckers’ assistant coach Tom Richards said the ball delivered more of a glancing blow to the Neumann’s head, rather than being a direct hit.
“That’s your fear, something like that happening but he’s fine,” Richards said. “He popped up and wanted to pitch some more.
“We monitored him in the dugout, we had an EMT guy who looked at him and all that stuff. I think he’s going to be fine. He’s looking good. He’s a tough kid.”
McGurran said he felt better when he saw Neumann get up and leave the field without assistance. It’s the second time that McGurran has knocked a pitcher out of a game. A similar thing happened in a previous season against Great Falls.
“I’ve hit a kid like that before and it just feels…it’s kind of a shocker,” McGurran said. “It’s like, ‘Whoa.’”
“It’s like an ‘Oh no’ kind of a feeling. It’s hard to explain.”
The Great Falls pitcher that McGurran hit previously wasn’t as fortunate as Neumann was on Saturday.
“It hit the kid in the belly and it ruptured his spleen,” he recalled.
Though McGurran has spent most of the current season as the Reps’ leadoff hitter, his power stroke has been impressive enough for Helena coach Jon Burnett to move him into the No. 3 slot in the batting order. The move was made a couple of weeks ago and has paid dividends. McGurran had three hits in the doubleheader, and drove in five runs.
“He’s been hitting the ball well and Matt (Krieger) and Zach (Spiroff) have done a really good job of getting on base,” Burnett explained. “I we can get them on base in front of Ty, that really, really helps us.”
McGurran doesn't matter where he is in the batting order and has taken a liking to both spots.
"I like them both, " he said. "They're both fun.
"I would probably (prefer) leadoff because I like starting the game every time but No. 3 is fine."
They came in handy on Saturday. Krieger, who is in the leadoff spot, and Spiroff combined to get on base 11 times during the two games against the Muckers. They also accounted for eight runs scored.
The Muckers knew that Saturday’s games were going to be tough, primarily because they were shorthanded on pitching. The loss of Neumann, who started Game 2, just made things even tougher.
Butte showed some fight in the second game, with Hunter Bugni reaching accounting for two of the Muckers’ four hits. He also walked and drove in a run.
“We were undermanned and we were in for it (Saturday),” Richards said. “If you don’t have your pitching, it’s going to be a tough day. Even on good pitches, they (the Reps) were hitting it pretty good.”