After two and a half innings of play on Senior Night, the score was all knotted up at Kindrick Legion Field. But that's when the Helena Senators outscored the Miners 4-1 over the final six innings to pull away for a 9-6 victory.
The Class AA Legion baseball win on Wednesday was Helena’s 30th of the year -- and eighth in a row -- and moved the Senators nine games over .500 at 30-21.
The Senators’ Kellan Elder finished with a perfect 4 for 4 showing at the plate; teammate Ray Moore Jr. produced three RBIs; and relief pitcher Tanner McMahon twirled two-hit ball without an earned run over the last 4 1/3 innings.
“Honestly, this was one of those emotional nights, with a lotta guys playing their final home game here, and there was nerves out there,” Senators coach Dave Thennis explained. “But we settled in, we hit the ball hard and manufactured some runs.”
Senators seniors in their last appearance at Kindrick were Elder, Moore, McMahon, Kienan Stief, Colin Sassano, Jackson Maynard, Payton Pappas, Carter Pappas, Andrew Rosston, Ryan Arntson, Eamonn Byrne and Isaiah Meza.
Butte burst out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first before the hosts even had a chance to bat. Then Helena scored three markers during their turn, and two more in the second to pull ahead by two.
But the Miners answered back with a couple tallies in the top of third to knot things up at 5. However, the Senators proceeded to chip away, one run at a time, in the third, fourth, fifth and seventh frames, for the three-run triumph.
The home team’s deciding tally came in the fourth stanza, when Jackson Maynard doubled, went to third on Byrne’s groundout, and scored on an RBI-single to left by Kellan Elder.
Stief had a great all-around game, going 3 for 4 with a pair of doubles, two runs, and a couple stolen bases. Sassano contributed two RBIs, and Carter Pappas laced a long two-bagger to the warning track in left center field.
Arguably the game’s web gem belonged to Helena’s Eamonn Byrne, who made a diving catch of a sinking liner in shallow center field in the fifth inning.
Tayler Carlsen started on the hill for the Senators, and worked 4 2/3 innings for the win, before giving way to McMahon who fanned five and did not walk a batter. Justin Summers took the loss.
“Tanner was throwing lots of strikes with his fastball and curve ball, he was a little sneaky fast with his fastball,” Thennis said.
Butte’s offense was paced by Austin Gerry (2 for 4) and Bryson Henningsen, at two RBIs apiece. Ryan Moodry went 2 for 5 with a double.
“We battled hard and played well, a lot better than yesterday,” said Butte coach Jeff LeProwse, referring to Tuesday's 11-1 run-rule loss to the Senators. “Helena hit the ball well, but we hit right with them, 15-10.
“All I ask of the guys is to get better every day, and I think they did that tonight.”
The Senators close out the regular season with two games against the Billings Royals on the road, Thursday and Friday.
“The Royals are always tough in Billings, but right now we’re in second place in the conference percentage-wise,” Thennis said. “There are four teams at the top of the heap, it should be an exciting conclusion to the season, and there will be a lot of scoreboard watching.”
Bozeman leads the state with a conference mark of 13-3, followed by Helena (12-4), Missoula (11-4) and the Royals (11-5).
The AA Montana-Alberta State Tournament takes place in Bozeman, July 26-30.