MISSOULA — Dylan Chalmers’ best pitch was his last.
The Missoula AA Mavs’ pitcher froze Bozeman’s Ryan Evenson with an off-speed pitch to end the fourth inning. It came after Evenson had crushed a deep foul ball that, off the bat, appeared to break a scoreless tie with two runners on base.
Chalmers’ strong outing and the Mavs’ timely hitting helped them earn a season-opening 4-2 American Legion baseball win over Bozeman despite being out-hit Sunday at Lindborg-Cregg Field. They tried to break in new pitchers in the second game of the doubleheader but struggled in an 11-5 loss.
“Both games were polar opposites,” Mavs manager Brent Hathaway said. “We played extremely clean baseball the first game. Second game, it looked like early season baseball with some mental mistakes, physical mistakes and lack of communication at times. It’s still spring training for us.”
Chalmers, the Mavs’ top returning pitcher, found accuracy with his fastball and mixed in the curveball to toss four scoreless innings. He scattered five hits and struck out seven.
“I was feeling better than I expected on the mound, actually,” Chalmers said. “We haven’t been throwing that much due to the weather. But after the first inning, I was like, ‘I’m in my groove.’”
He allowed six batters to reach base, but only one advanced past second.
“For a first outing, we’re really happy with what Dylan did,” Hathaway said.
Brendon Hill, in his first outing at the AA level, got through two innings without giving up a run despite allowing five hits and two walks.
Missoula kept Bozeman off the board until Parker Stevens allowed two runs in the final frame.
The Mavs lost control and focus in the second game, walking seven batters and committing six errors. They gave up nine runs in the final three innings, blowing the early 4-0 lead they built.
Starter Drew Leonard, an occasional pitcher last year, left the mound after three innings with the Mavs holding a 4-2 lead. Only one of those two runs was earned.
Fraser, who pitched sparingly last season, retired the side in the fourth inning but was tagged for four runs in the fifth inning on four hits, two walks and two errors. The Mavs went down 6-4 and never tied the game or retook the lead.
Making his AA debut, Connor Daniels gave up four runs in one-third of an inning, blowing open the game. Two runs were credited to him when Reilly Vetos replaced him with the bases loaded.
Vetos, also at the AA level for the first time, allowed one run over the final 1 2/3 innings and was the only pitcher to not issue a walk in that game.
“Reilly went out, wasn’t intimated, threw the ball in the strike zone,” Hathaway said. “That’s most of it is you have to throw strikes and let your defense play. In the second game, I didn’t see it from our other guys.”
Fraser drove in four of the Mavs’ nine runs and scored once across the two games. He went 3 for 6 with a double and a sacrifice fly.
After teammate Kaden Heidrick broke a scoreless tie in the fifth inning of game one, Fraser put the Mavs up 2-0 with an RBI single in the sixth.
In the second game, his two-run double put the Mavs up 2-0 in the first inning, and he came around to score on a balk. He added an RBI sacrifice fly in his next at-bat to make it 4-0; it was the only run the Mavs got off of Evenson, who threw 4 1/3 innings of two-hit ball in relief.
It was a strong start for Fraser, who tallied 46 RBIs in 76 games and hit .350 last year, although he wasn’t all too pleased with his performance.
“It didn’t feel like me at the plate every time,” Fraser said. “The strikeout, the groundout. The pitches that I was hitting far, I was kind of guessing on them. It’s just the first game, a little rusty.”
Tradd Richardson went 3 for 5 with two doubles, two walks and three runs scored. He drove in his lone run on an RBI double that put Missoula up 3-0 in game one.
“Tradd, I thought, hit the ball pretty well today,” Hathaway said. “He squared it up several times. We saw some good things to build on.”
Brendan Buchanan scored three runs and drove in a run on a triple that put the Mavs ahead 4-0 in game one.