The Helena Senators split their first two games at the Keith Sell Invitational Legion baseball tournament on Thursday at Kindrick Legion Field, beating Mount Vernon 10-2 in six innings, before dropping a 9-1 decision to Eastside Baseball in five frames. Both games were stopped by the tournament's eight-run mercy rule.

Against the Mount Vernon (Washington) River Rats, Helena's Kienan Stief's three-run, walk-off homer in the bottom of the sixth hit the run-rule margin to clinch the Senators' victory. Stief, who also chipped in with an RBI double over the left fielder's head in the fifth frame, finished the game 2 for 4, with four RBIs.

His second long dinger in less than a week sailed about 15 feet over the left field fence.

Stief also had a nice game at shortstop, being on the front end of a pair of 6-4-3 double plays, with second baseman Colin Sassano and first baseman Payton Pappas.

The Senators led all the way, going up 2-0 after two innings, and 7-1 prior to the sixth stanza.

Starting pitcher Tayler Carlson went all six innings for Helena, allowing seven hits, striking out two and walking one.

Mount Vernon's Reilly Olmstead took the loss. Three of Olmstead's seven runs allowed were unearned, as the River Dogs' defense permitted five errors in the field.

Adding to Stief's output were teammates Ryan Arntson and Ray Moore Jr. with three hits apiece, along with Isaiah Meza, who stroked a two-run single in the fifth.

Arnston made a fine sliding catch on a sinking pop-up in shallow right field in the second inning, as well.

Ian Fitzgerald (double) and Olmstead (RBI) also both had three hits for the Washington group.

"A sound game, both offensively and defensively," said coach Dave Thennis, whose Senators stand at 20-16 on the year. "Tayler simply threw strikes and made them earn it, and he had the curve ball working well for his off-speed pitch."

Regarding Stief's recent power surge, Thennis said he's "been very consistent all year, but lately his timing is really allowing him to get the barrel of the bat on the ball."

In the their next contest against Eastside (Kennewick, Wash.), the host Senators took an early 1-0 advantage after two innings.

Helena starting pitcher Carter Pappas kept Eastside of the board over the two frames, while twin brother Payton reached first base in the bottom of the second after being plunked by a pitch. He eventually scored, after a single by Jackson Maynard and error on Eamonn Byrne's batted ball.

Eastside left fielder Morgan Curry made a great throw to the plate for the third out of the inning.

The Senators' lead turned out to be short-lived, though, when Eastside proceeded to score two runs in the third and fourth stanzas, and five more in the fifth.

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Hayden Curnott pitched a four-hitter for the win, allowing no earned runs, striking out one and did not walk a batter. Carter, who was lifted in the fifth, was saddled with the loss. Payton and Byrne collaborated on the last three outs of the game.

Tyson Thurman had two hits and two RBIs, and Curry poked a two-run double for the Washington club.

Sassano laced a triple for the home team.

"This game simply slipped away from us. We need to bounce back tomorrow," Thennis said.

The Senators will meet Columbia Basin at 7 p.m. Friday.

Other results during the first day of the nine-team tournament included Butte over Calgary 7-4, Mount Vernon over Butte 10-1, and Bozeman over Columbia Basin 5-3.

There will be six round-robin games contested at Kindrick on Friday, the first starting at 8 a.m., and the last scheduled for 9:30 p.m. The tourney runs through Sunday.

NOTE: Results of Thursday's final game between Bitterroot and Eastside Baseball were not available at press time.

Curt Synness is on Twitter @curtsynness_IR and can be reached at curt.synness@lee.net or curt52synness@gmail.com

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