The Helena Senators and Missoula Mavs played each other heads-up for 7 ½ innings during the semifinals of the Montana-Alberta Class AA State Legion baseball tournament on Friday in Bozeman.
Then, the Mavs finally got some separation and broke a 4-all tie with a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth, and had to hold off a Senators rally in the ninth for a 6-4 win.
The loss drops the No. 4 Senators into a 3 p.m. elimination game against Bozeman on Saturday.
The score was first tied at 2 when an RBI-single by Helena’s Eamonn Byrne scored Ryan Arntson.
After three full frames, the scoreboard showed a 3-all deadlock. The Senators’ marker came after Kienan Stief led off with a double, and crossed the plate minutes later when Arntson worked a bases-loaded walk.
The Senators fell behind 4-3, but fought back yet again, knotting the score at 4-all in the eighth inning, when Colin Sassano doubled, and raced home on Stief’s RBI-single.
Missoula’s deciding scores in the bottom of the eighth occurred when Sam Bucy reached on an error and came home on Brenden Buchanan’s triple, followed by a run-scoring sac bunt by Ricky Stevens.
The game ended on a double play, after the Senators had runners on second and third with one out.
Carter Pappas started on the bump and worked 6 innings, allowing nine hits and four runs, three of them earned. He struck out three Missoula batsmen and walked one. Ray Moore Jr. relieved the final two frames, giving up two runs, one unearned, on one hit, in the hard-luck loss.
Helena outhit the Mavs, 12-10, led by Colin Sassano, Stief and Jackson Maynard, with two hits each. Sassano and Stief both had doubles, while Arntson posted a pair of RBIs.
Ryan McHugh and Ricky Stevens collaborated on the mound work for the Garden City club. Buchanan went 3 for 4 for Missoula, with two doubles, a triple and two RBIs.
“My guys are tough, and they played so hard tonight,” said coach Dave Thennis, whose Senators slip to 32-24. “It was a hard-fought game; they just made a few more critical plays than we did.
“We’ll bounce back and play well again tomorrow.”