Miners Seniors; Tyler Duffy, Kevin Donaldson, Rye Doherty, Zach Tierney, Anthony Knott, Sean Ossello, and Ethan Cunningham. (Feature Photo provided by Josie Trudgeon Photography)
By Bruce Sayler
Confidence and chemistry were brought up often in postgame talk, but the Butte Miners graded out A’s over C’s in their home American Legion baseball finale Tuesday night at 3 Legends Stadium.
The Butte club beat Bozeman’s Class A Bucks team 10-4 and 11-0 in a Southern A Conference doubleheader. The nightcap lasted only 4 ½ innings due to the 10-run difference rule.
Kenley Leary and Trey Hansen combined pitching the first-game win and Ethan Cunningham went the distance for the mercy-shortened shutout in game two. He spun a three-hitter.
The wins, after a pair of non-conference road losses against the Class AA Missoula Mavericks on Monday, gave the Miners a 27-9 record for the season going into their last games of the regular campaign, a league twin bill at Anaconda on Sunday. Butte will go in at 13-1 in Southern A play.
“They’re swinging it well and pitching really well,” Miners head coach Jim LeProwse said. “It was nice to take the seniors out for their curtain call.”
LeProwse subbed out his seven seniors in the fifth inning of the second game as a capper to the Senior Night festivities that allowed the program to recognize Cunningham, center fielder Sean Ossello, right fielder Kevin Donaldson, left fielder Anthony Knott, designated hitter Zach Tierney, third baseman Rye Doherty and catcher Tyler Duffy for their years of play. Leary was honored, too, as a super senior.
“We’ve got really good team chemistry,” LeProwse said. “This team is really fun to coach. We want to win and play hard.”
The formula has been successful. The Miners won their first state American Legion championship in 69 years last year, sandwiching the achievement between district and Western Regional titles. Such success has sparked conversation within Montana about maybe moving the program back to Class AA status in the near future.
LeProwse was back in the dugout after leaving in the middle of a Sunday home doubleheader sweep over the Helena Reps. He attributed the wooziness to too much time in the sun. He said he felt fine Tuesday.
“Our pitchers have been keeping the pitch count down, which is nice,” LeProwse said. “It helps on the wear. We’re pretty deep. We go six guys deep with Kenley, Rye and ‘Easy’ (Cunningham), and with Trey, and Derek Dunmire and Gavin Trudgeon coming on recently to go, too, with Duffy and Zack O’Connell. We can go to some younger guys, too, like Kaden McGillen.”
LeProwse said a sweep of Anaconda on Sunday will clinch Butte the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye in the district tournament next week in Three Forks.
“Kenley is a little banged up with hip and quad issues,” LeProwse said, “but everybody is ready to roll.”
Cunningham’s ace performance against the Bucks was just a continuation of his accomplishments dating back to last year. However, a little extra rev seems to have him wheeling and dealing in the warmer weather.
“I’ve been feeling it,” the taller right-hander, who plays second base when not on the bump, said. “I had a solid year last year and in the high school (season). I feel great on the mound.
“There’s a good defense backing me up.”
He, too, spoke of the chemistry.
“We have confidence in each other,” Cunningham said. “We lost some guys from last year and it took some time building new leadership. But it is happening and getting better and better as the season goes. We are confident in ourselves as a team.
‘We know what the job is to do and we’re doing it. We’re trusting each other.”
Cunningham said Duffy, the senior catcher, gave the pitchers a target to throw to during offseason weekends and by invitation.
“We did some open gym,” Cunningham said. “We have a lot of pitching depth.”
He said his slider is his most consistent good pitch and had it working against the Bucks.
“Sometimes, it depends on the day,” he said, “but my slider has been my most consistent.”
Miners 10, Bucks 4
Van Shockley led off the game for Bozeman with a walk and later scored the first run on a Butte error. The Miners answered with a run of their own in the bottom of the first inning as first batter Ossello walked, stole second and third, and came home on a wild pitch.
Neither team scored again until the fourth inning. Charlie Forrest hit a two-out single and went to third base on a base hit to right by Braeden Matthews. Forrest got home on a double steal. The 2-1 lead lasted only a few minutes.
Doherty started the Butte second with a single to center field, stole second base and rode home on Cunningham’s triple to right. Mac Melin relieved Garrett Norick on the mound and Quinn Cox greeted him with a groundball to shortstop that let Cunningham score the go-ahead run.
The Bucks loaded the bases with one out in the fifth inning on two walks and an error. Shockley walked in from third on an odd play when Leary disposed of the ball he was to pitch with, tossing it toward the dugout while requesting a new one. The umpire took out a ball while the Bozeman third-base coach ordered Shockely to go home. The score was allowed. Then an error scored another run and the Bucks owned a 4-3 edge.
Butte overcame it quickly. Donaldson clubbed a triple into the right-field corner to start the bottom of the fifth. After a strikeout, Cayde Stajcar boomed a triple to deep center field as Donaldson strolled home. Tierney followed with a single to right field, driving in Stajcar. The Miners led 6-4 heading into the sixth.
Hansen, on in relief, allowed only a walk in the sixth, setting down six of seven Bozeman batters to close out the game. His save was clinched by a four-run Butte inning in the last of the sixth. Duffy singled to right to lead it off, but was erased on a fielder’s choice off a bunt attempt. A steal and an error sent Ossello to third base from where he ran home on a groundout. Knott walked, Stajcar singled to left and Tierney was hit by a pitch to load the bases, setting the table for Doherty’s three-run triple to center field.
Bozeman 100 120 0 — 4 4 3
Butte 100 234 x – 10 8 3
Garrett Noreck, Mac Melin (4) and Jacob Snyder. Kenley Leary, Trey Hansen (6) and Tyler Duffy. W – Leary. L – Melin. S – Hansen.
BOZEMAN – Van Shockley 0-1, Jacob Snyder 0-3, Mac Melin 1-3, Nicks Hillsgrove 0-4, Charlie Forrest 1-3, Braeden Matthews 2-3, Luke Zundel 0-1, Moses Feltenstein 0-1, Justin McMan 0-3, Cole Houk 0-3.
BUTTE – Sean Ossello 0-2, Kevin Donaldson 1-3, Anthony Knott 0-1, Cayde Stajcar 2-4, Zach Tierney 1-3, Rye Doherty 2-3, Ethan Cunningham 1-4, Alex Jorgensen 0-1, Quinn Cox 0-1, Tyler Duffy 1-2.
Extra-base hits – 3B – Cunningham, Donaldson, Stajcar, Doherty.
Runs batted in – Bozeman 1 (Melin), Butte 8 (Doherty 3, Donaldson 1, Stajcar 1, Tierney 1, Cunningham 1, Cox 1).
Miners 11, Bucks 0
Butte scored all it needed in the third inning when the Miners plated three runs. Quinn Cox walked and Tocher Lee doubled to left field, both then running home on a single over the first-base bag by Kenley Leary. Leary stole second base, took third on a groundout and came home on a sacrifice fly by Kevin Donaldson.
The Miners made it a 5-0 spread with two runs in the third inning. Rye Doherty lifted a fly ball into the lights with two out and the Bucks were unable to locate it until it bounced on the ground with Doherty standing on second base. Cox drew a walk and was replaced by pinch-runner Mason Armstrong. Lee got an infield hit and the throw on it was missed at first base, letting Doherty and Armstrong score.
Doherty starred on the defensive side in the top of the fourth. The Bucks had two on and two out when Doherty snagged Moses Feltenstein’s bouncer and lunged to tag third base, beating Braeden Matthews to the bag, for the third out.
The Miners streamed six runners across in the bottom of the fourth to open the 11-0 gap. Ossello walked to lead off, swiped second base and went to third on a groundout. Knott singled Ossello home with a drive to center field. Knott stole second base and scored on a single to right by Stajcar. Tierney got a walk. An out later, Armstrong walked and ball four was wild, which allowed Stajcar to race home. A double steal then pushed Tierney home while Armstrong was nabbing second. He went to third on a wild pitch. Lee worked a walk and pilfered second base. Both Armstrong and Lee then traveled home on a single to left by Leary.
Bozeman tried to keep the game on regulation track as Luke Millington and Garrett Norick reached base on a hit by pitch and a single with one out. The runners both moved up a bag on a wild pitch.
Cunningham then bore down. He got Cole Houk to pop out to Lee at second base, then retired Van Shockley on a bouncer to Stajcar, cutting across from shortstop to make the throw to Leary at first base for the final out.
Leary collected four runs batted in to front the Butte offense.
Cunningham walked one and struck out seven batters in his performance. The only hits he gave up were singles to Mac Melin, Nick Hillsgrove and Norick.
Bozeman 000 00x x– 0 3 2
Butte 032 6xx x – 11 9 0
Charlie Forrest, Justin McMan (4) and Jacob Snyder. Ethan Cunningham and Quinn Cox, Mason Armstrong (3). W – Cunningham. L – Forrest.
BOZEMAN – Van Shockley 0-3, Braeden Matthews 0-1, Mac Melin 1-2, Nick Hillsgrove 1-2, Moses Feltenstein 0-2, Jacob Snyder 0-2, Luke Millington 0-1, Garrett Norick 1-2 Cole Houk 0-2.
BUTTE – Sean Ossello 1-3 Kevin Donaldson 0-2, Anthony Knott 1-3, Cayde Stajcar 2-2, Zach Tierney 0-1, Rye Doherty 1-3, Quinn Cox 0-0, Mason Armstrong 0-0, Tocher Lee 2-2, Kenley Leary 2-3.
Extra-base hits – 2B – Lee, Stajcar, Doherty, Ossello.
Runs batted in – Bozeman 0, Butte 8 (Leary 4, Donaldson 1, Knott 1, Stajcar 1, Lee 1).