The Class AA Missoula Mavericks showed their mettle Thursday night in beating the Prairie Cardinals of Post Falls, Idaho, 9-3 in eight innings in Missoula's opener of the Scott Klaudt Memorial American Legion baseball tournament at Lindborg-Cregg Field.
After letting a 3-0 lead slip away in the bottom of the sixth, the Mavs rallied for six runs in the top of the eighth and starting pitcher Brendan Brown finished off his complete-game win by tossing a scoreless bottom half.
In earlier tournament action, the Lewis-Clark Twins from Lewiston, Idaho, beat Bellevue, Wash., Honda and the Spokane Bandits downed the Cardinals. Both games were 10-0 affairs that ended after five innings due to the tourney's eight-run margin rule. In the 4 p.m. contest, the Bandits erased a 9-2 deficit and came back to defeat the Billings Royals, 14-12.
Staked to a three-run lead, Brown (5-3) was strong through five innings before the Cardinals tied it after an RBI single by Chance Long and a two-run double off the bat of Dan Donoian.
"I just kind of lost my focus there in the sixth," Brown said. "Baseball is really mostly mental, so it just takes one inning to kind of mess things up."
But Brown persevered and threw a 1-2-3 seventh to send it to the extra frame. He allowed back-to-back singles in the eighth before retiring the next three Cardinals in order to finish it. On the evening, Brown allowed seven hits and two walks while striking out five.
"I think (Brown) competed well," said Missoula manager Brent Hathaway. "I thought he went out and gave us a real good effort. He got behind on the majority of the hitters he faced, but managed to get the ball in the strike zone and let the defense behind him work for him."
First-year Maverick center fielder Ben Roberts paced Missoula's 14-hit attack by going 3-for-4 with a pair of triples and an RBI. Brown was 2-for-4 with a hustling double that brought the Mavs to life in the eighth and team RBI leader Sean Dwyer drove in a pair and finished 2-for-4. Second baseman Kendal Maier added three singles and an RBI.
Sam Sopko's sacrifice fly got the Mavericks on the board in the second before a Dwyer single in the third made it 2-0 Missoula. Roberts' second triple scored Cubby Pierre with the Mavs' third run.
Missoula sent nine to the plate in the eighth and collected six base hits. Dwyer dove in the go-ahead run with a single to right-center and Maier followed with an RBI single.
"Our guys just battled at the plate tonight," Hathaway said. "It was a real nice extra inning where we were able to put some runs up without exactly driving the ball."
Cory Rohrenbach took the loss for the Cardinals, pitching 7 2-3 innings and allowing 13 hits. He walked only the last batter he faced and fanned three.
Notes: Roberts, who starred as a freshman this winter on the Missoula Sentinel basketball team has done much to impress Hathaway on the diamond. "I think Ben has figured out this game could be very good to him," Hathaway said. "If he continues to work at it and push himself and not become complacent, I think Ben could go on to play the game at the Division-I level." … Shawn Griffith (4-1) will get the start on the mound for the Mavs when they take on Spokane at 7 p.m. Friday… Miss Teen Montana Galaxy Nikki Slater of Missoula, Hamilton native Janet Bierer, who is Ms. Montana Galaxy and Mrs. Montana Galaxy Nicole Borchers from Missoula attended the game and helped sell split-the-pot tickets. The 50-50 drawing was won by the father of Scott Klaudt, who the tournament was named for after the former Missoula Hellgate and Mavs star died in a car accident just weeks before graduating high school.
Missoula 011 010 06 - 9 14 1
Post Falls 000 003 00 - 3 7 1
Brendan Brown and Sean Dwyer, Andy Freeman (8). Cory Rohrenbach, Gil South (8) and Cody VanDuyne, Dan Donoian (6). W - Brown (5-3). L - Rohrenbach.
MISSOULA - Taylor King 0-5, Ben Roberts 3-4, Brown 2-4, Dwyer 2-4, Kendal Maier 3-4, Taylor Nordby 2-4, Drew Lytle 0-2, Cody Burgmeier 0-1, Sam Sopko 0-1, Freeman 1-1, Cubby Pierre 1-2.
POST FALLS - Caleb Guerber 1-2, Chance Long 1-4, Scott Carr 2-4, Donoian 1-4, Kyle VanDever 0-2, CJ Shelin 0-1, Nate Douglas 0-3, VanDuyne 0-2, Rohrenbach 0-1, Marshall Barnhouse 1-3, South 1-2.
2B - Brown, Donoian. 3B - Roberts 2. RBIs - Roberts, Dwyer 2, Maier 1, Sopko, Long, Donoian 2.
Scott Klaudt Memorial Tournament
at Lindborg-Cregg Field
Lewis-Clark Twins 10, Bellevue Honda 0 (5 inn.)
Spokane Bandits 10, Prairie Cardinals (5 inn.)
Spokane Bandits 14, Billings Royals 12
Missoula Mavericks 9, Prairie Cardinals 3 (8 inn.)
n 10 a.m. - Lewis-Clark Twins vs. Billings Royals
n 1 p.m. - Billings Royals vs. Bellevue Honda
n 4 p.m. - Prairie Cardinals vs. Bellevue Honda
n 7 p.m. - Missoula Mavericks vs. Spokane Bandits
10 a.m. - Prairie Cardinals vs. Billings Royals
1 p.m. - Spokane Bandits vs. Lewis-Clark Twins
4 p.m. - Missoula Mavericks vs. Lewis-Clark Twins
7 p.m. - Missoula Mavericks vs. Bellevue Honda
10 a.m. - Spokane Bandits vs. Bellevue Honda
1 p.m. - Prairie Cardinals vs. Lewis-Clark Twins
4 p.m. - Missoula Mavericks vs. Billings Royals
7 p.m. - Championship