MISSOULA — The Billings Royals blew a three-run lead Thursday and are headed to the loser’s bracket at the American Legion Northwest Regional.
They gave up five runs in the fifth inning and lost to Washington’s Yakima Valley Pepsi Pak, 7-6, in the second round at Ogren-Allegiance Park on an afternoon with record-tying 99-degree heat.
“We lost focus out there that inning,” Royals manager Bryan Benjamin said. “I think Brooks (Zimmer) got frustrated on the mound. Our defense got frustrated, too, and got lackadaisical and started throwing the ball around.”
Zimmer had held Washington to four hits through the first three innings, and the Royals took a 5-2 lead into the bottom of the fourth. However, he allowed five runs on six hits and his defense committed two errors behind him as Washington sent 11 batters to the plate.
The Pepsi Pak’s first three batters reached on singles, scoring one run on the third. After a fielder’s choice and walk, they singled home two runs to tie the game, 5-5. They added two more runs, one on a fielding error and one on a double steal of home and second base.
“I thought we had some good swings against (Zimmer) to start the game,” Washington manager Mike Archer said. “Velocity doesn’t bother our guys. I thought we were on him and it was only a matter of time before we got to him. I thought his breaking ball and fastball were a little too close together, and our guys were able to time that out.”
Billings scored the game’s first two runs in the third inning on RBI singles from Jarret Leinwand and Dawson Smith. Washington answered back with two runs in the bottom of the frame.
The Royals reclaimed the lead in the fourth inning with RBI singles from Leinwand and Connor Polkowske and an RBI sacrifice fly by Jayden Kay.
They didn’t score again until Smith crossed the plate on a two-out error in the top of the seventh, cutting the deficit to 7-6. They left the tying run on first base.
Billings will face Alaska 1 p.m. Friday in a loser-out game.
“We just need to relax, settle down and play our game of tough defense, hitting the ball hard and throwing strikes,” Benjamin said. “I believe in these guys. We have some pitching left and can hit the ball well.”
Washington will play Idaho 7 p.m. Friday in a battle of the two remaining undefeated teams.
Alaska 13, Missoula 9
The Missoula Mavericks gave up six runs in the sixth inning and blew a two-run lead against Alaska as they were eliminated from the American Legion Northwest Regional on Thursday
Pitching issues and fundamental mistakes hurt them as they suffered a 13-9 loss that ended their season, which manager Brent Hathaway summed up in one word: “Disappointing.”
“They wanted to prove that we’re better than what we showed at state,” Hathaway said of his team, which received an automatic bid into the regional at Ogren-Allegiance Park and went 0-2. “We didn’t, and now we have a whole winter to think about it.”
The Mavs issued 10 free passes, walking seven batters and hitting three more. Four of those came in Alaska’s six-run sixth inning. They also allowed a run to score on a balk.
Missoula’s defense committed two errors, one of which led to an unearned run. The offense left nine runners stranded on base, including six in the final three innings.
“I saw us taking two steps back and one step forward,” Hathaway said. “We made too many mistakes in all facets of the game: baserunning, bunt offense, bunt defense, putting guys on for free. It was too much to try to overcome.”
Reliever Brendon Hill, normally an accurate pitcher, walked three of the first four batters in the sixth inning and allowed an RBI single. He had replaced starting pitcher Kaden Heidrick in the previous inning and allowed an inherited runner to score that frame, which tied the game, 5-5.
James Martin replaced Hill and gave up a three-run double to the first batter he faced, putting the Mavs in a 9-7 hole. Alaska upped its lead to 11-7 on an RBI sacrifice fly and RBI single as it sent 10 batters to the plate.
The Mavs pulled within 11-9 in the bottom of the frame, scoring two runs on Bridger Johnson’s infield single and Tradd Richardson’s sacrifice fly. Beau King, who tallied a team-high three RBIs, represented the go-ahead run but grounded out to end the frame.
Alaska stayed alive in the loser’s bracket and will face the Billings Royals 1 p.m. Friday in a loser-out game.
Thursday’s win is the first for the Juneau Midnight Suns in four regional games in Missoula. They went 0-2 at the regional last year, losing 13-2 to the Mavs. They blew a seventh-inning lead in their opener Wednesday.
“Last year, they throttled us, and our boys remembered that. It lit a fuel,” Alaska head coach Joe Tomkins said. “They remember what happened yesterday, too, losing on the walk-off. We knew we had to keep scoring runs. They never gave up.”
Idaho 15, Wyoming 9
Idaho’s Mountain View Toros used an eight-run third inning to build an early lead and post a 15-9 win over Wyoming’s Cheyenne Post 6.
Idaho will face Washington’s Yakima Valley Pepsi Pak 7 p.m. Friday in the winner’s bracket. Wyoming will take on Hawaii’s Waipahu Post 35 in a loser-out game 4 p.m. Friday.
The Toros led 4-2 heading into the third inning and stretched their lead to 12-2 that frame. They upped their lead 15-2 heading to the bottom of the fifth.
Cheyenne Post 6 rallied for four runs to pull within 15-6, avoid a loss by the 10-run rule and force another inning. They cut the deficit to 15-9 in the sixth.
Idaho finished with 15 hits to Wyoming’s 14. Wyoming committed three errors.
Hawaii 6, Oregon 5
Hawaii’s Waipahu Post 35 scored three runs in the top of the seventh inning to pull off a 6-5 comeback win over Oregon’s Medford Mustangs in a loser-out game. They’ll move along to face the loser of Idaho and Wyoming 4 p.m. Friday.
Hawaii loaded the bases in the seventh inning with one out and scored its runs on a bases-loaded wild pitch and a pair of RBI singles.
Oregon took a 5-3 lead into the seventh inning after erasing a 3-2 deficit with two runs in the fourth and one in the sixth.
Hawaii tallied 12 hits to Oregon's eight. Each team committed two errors.
Oregon finished 0-2 at the regional, blowing a seventh-inning lead in both games.