MILES CITY - The Missoula Mavericks saw their season end in familiar fashion Tuesday at the State AA American Legion baseball tournament at Denton Field.
For the fifth time in the last six seasons, the Billings Scarlets sent the Mavs packing from state, this time with an 8-5 victory behind a strong pitching performance by starter Brady Muller.
A three-run inning in the bottom of the third put the defending champion Scarlets (43-16) up for good. After falling behind 8-3 after seven innings, the Mavericks clawed back to within three and had the tying run on first in the top of the ninth, but failed to get a timely hit to keep the season alive.
"In my eyes, the tale of the tape was missed opportunities that we couldn't capitalize on," said Missoula manager Brent Hathaway after the Mavs' season ended with a respectable 49-24 record, one game away from the state championship game. "We just didn't play to our ability level. It's very disappointing to end the season playing below what we're capable of."
The Scarlets will need two victories to retain their title. Bozeman Bucks, the top seed from the East which had already earned a spot in the title round, was tied 6-6 going into the ninth with the Kalispell Lakers at press time.
The Scarlets, who fell to Bozeman 9-8 in 13 innings in Monday evening's undefeated game, would need to beat the Bucks twice if Bozeman beat Kalispell. If the Lakers won, they'd face the Scarlets at 4 p.m. for the right to play the Bucks for the title at 7 p.m.
Billings Scarlets 8, Missoula Mavericks 5
Center fielder Justin Black doubled, tripled and drove in two runs to lead the Scarlets.
Ty Gilmore drove in a pair with a 2-for-5 effort for Billings and Jordan Roberts contributed three singles for the Scarlets.
Muller threw seven innings to earn the win, allowing two earned runs on nine hits with a walk and two strikeouts.
Reliever Lucas Blehm surrendered two runs to the Mavs in the eighth and worked his way out of a jam in a scoreless ninth. He got Mavericks right fielder Andrew Bewley to fly out to right on a full count with two away and the bases loaded to end it.
Missoula third baseman Robby King was 3-for-5 with an RBI and Drew Lytle doubled, drove in one and finished
Mavericks starter Jake Schilling (9-7) took the loss, lasting just 4 1-3 innings.
"They're a quality ballclub," Hathaway said of the Scarlets. "They always compete well and they make you beat them. They're never a pushover."
Missoula 020 010 020 - 5 12 1
Billings 010 313 00x - 8 17 1
Jake Schilling, Steven DeYoung (5) and Sean Dwyer. Brady Muller, Lucas Blehm 98) and Cole Moller. W - Muller. L - Schilling (9-7). S - Blehm.
MISSOULA - Brody Miller 1-3, Robby King 3-5, Kendal Maier 1-5, Dwyer 1-5, DeYoung 1-4, Sam Sopko 1-4, Drew Lytle 2-5, Matt McMann 1-2, Andrew Bewley 1-4.
BILLINGS - Justin Black 2-5, Ty Gilmore 2-5, Aleksei Grosulak 1-4, Jordan Roberts 3-5, Muller 2-5, Moller 4-5, Kyle Miron 1-4, Joe Barta 1-3, Blehm 0-0, Justin MacDonald 1-2.
2B - DeYoung, Lytle, Black. 3B - Black. RBIs - Miller, King, Lytle, Bewley, Black 2, Gilmore 2, Moller, Miron, Barta.
Montana-Alberta State AA American Legion baseball tournament
at Denton Field, Miles City
Billings Royals 8, Missoula Mavericks 1
Billings Scarlets 6. Kalispell Lakers 0
Bozeman Bucks 6, Medicine Hat Moose Monarchs1
Lethbridge Spitz Elks 13, Miles City Mavericks 3 (8 inn.)
Missoula Mavericks 13, Medicine Hat Moose Monarchs 6, loser out
Kalispell Lakers 11, Miles City Mavericks 0 (7 inn.), loser out
Bozeman Bucks 6, Billings Royals 4
Billings Scarlets 12, Lethbridge Spitz Elks 1 (8 inn.)
Kalispell Lakers 8, Billings Royals 7, loser out
Missoula Mavericks 8, Lethbridge Spitz Elks 3, loser out
Bozeman Bucks 9, Billings Scarlets 8, (13 inn.), undefeated game
Billings Scarlets 8, Missoula Mavericks 5, loser out
7 p.m. - Kalispell Lakers (36-22) vs. Bozeman Bucks (45-18), loser out if Kalispell loses (late)
4 p.m. - Billings Scarlets (43-16) vs. Winner of Game 13
7 p.m. - If necessary
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