By Bruce Sayler
In the end, lousy weather was the winner.
Relentless, from drizzle to downpour, the rain muddied the 3 Legends Stadium field into an unplayable state, and near the customary end to the game, the umpires’ hands were forced. Lone Peak was a 20-15 winner over Butte Central in high school baseball Thursday.
Slippery grips caused wild throws and basepaths were slickened into treacherous conditions. The teams had reached the top of the seventh inning – indeed, were seven batters into it – when the umpires knew they had no more calls to make, just this game to a half.
Reverting back to the last complete inning under baseball rules governing such situations, Lone Peak was the 20-15 winner.
It was Butte Central’s last home game of the inaugural Montana high school baseball season. Senior Maroon players Garrett Button, Rye Doherty, Eric Loos and Konnor Pochervina were recognized with their families in a postgame ceremony. The BC boys have one last game, scheduled for Saturday in Cut Bank against Browning.
Their game with Lone Peak was one of almost catching the Bighorns all through it. The Maroons didn’t complete the task, though.
“That was tough,” BC head coach Richie O’Brien said. “(The Maroons) showed the fight we new they had all season. They just never gave up. One bad inning was too much to overcome.”
Butte Central gave up 10 runs in the third inning and saw a 7-5 deficit gape to 17-5.
Brady Johnson hit a run-scoring double to ignite Lone Peak in the first inning, one that saw the Bighorns score twice on bases-loaded walks, once on a bases-loaded hit by pitch and once on a sacrifice fly by Aidan Germain. The Bighorns led 5-0.
Butte Central got two of the runs back in the bottom of the inning. Loos and Doherty drew one-out walks and Colt Hassler lofted a sacrifice fly to score Loos. Gunnar O’Brien then singled home Doherty. Two walks filled the bags, but a called strike ended the inning and Maroon threat.
Lone Peak put the two runs back on the board on two walks and two errors. The BC squad rolled three runs across the plate in the second and cut the difference to 7-5. Loos drew a two-out walk and stole second base, continuing on to third on a throwing error on the play. Doherty brought him home with a base hit to right. Hassler reached on an error, then a double steal saw Doherty race home seconds before Hassler ran on home after a throw meant to catch him at second base sailed into the outfield.
The Bighorns scored their 10 runs in the third inning on six hits, two walks and a hit batsman. Eberhardt Grabow and Max Romney delivered two-run singles, and Geno DiTullio smacked a run-scoring hit. Two wild pitches, two passed balls and a groundout pushed the other runs across the plate.
Butte Central’s only response in the bottom of the inning was Pochervina tripling into the left field corner, then barreling home on Kelton Keane’s squeeze bunt.
Lone Peak was held scoreless in the fourth and the Maroons cut two more runs off of their deficit to trail 17-8. Loos reached on a one-out error, Doherty singled to center and Hassler knocked in both with a base hit to left.
Lone Peak was unable to score again in the top of the fifth and BC came back with six runs, narrowing the margin to 17-14. Jack Nagle sped to first on a dropped third strike and Button followed with a single. Nagle scored on a wild pitch. Jack Tauscher poked a single to left and took second base when a play on Button was wide of third base. Loos sacrifice fly got Button home. Doherty drilled a double to right to plate Tauscher. Hassler reached on an infield error. A double steal put runners on second and third then O’Brien sent a sacrifice fly to center field that scored Doherty. A Lone Peak error on a double steal by Butte Central let Hassler and Pochervina, who had walked, run home safely.
The Bighorns correctly sensed they needed to open some distance in their lead and bounced back with a three-run top of the sixth. Grabow singled, took second on a passed ball and stole third. Oliver McGuire walked. An out later, Grabow sped home on a wild pitch. Max Romney walked and then Alex Germain crashed a two-run double to center field.
The Maroons’ got one run back in the sixth when Loos doubled to right field, took third on an error and strode home when Doherty, who worked a walk, outlasted and outran Bighorn infielders during a rundown between first and second.
“Lone Peak is like us,” coach O’Brien said. ”They’re battlers, too. They’re a lot like us, with 110 kids and working hard. We had trouble throwing strikes early in the game. But the kids didn’t give up. Our senior leadership really showed up today. The seniors kept the guys up in the dugout and when things were going south, they reeled the in and kept their heads in the game.”
The coach praised Jake Tauscher, who started at shortstop and then threw 107 pitches in relief before returning to shortstop.
“He keeps his cool,” coach O’Brien said. “I can’t give him enough credit. And, at shortstop, if he has any arm left, we get two quick outs in that last inning. He’ll be the captain next year and he knows it will be his team. He’s ready to take on the challenge.”
Richie O’Brien said this first year of being a head coach and it being of BC’s first baseball team has been a positive experience.
“I can’t even imagine having this much fun in baseball, even when I was playing,” he said. “The kids showed up and, didn’t have to, seniors for certain, and they came out and worked. I’d had a rapport with most of them from football and track.”
O’Brien is an assistant football coach at Butte Central and has assisted in the track program. He is a 2001 graduate of the school where he played football, wrestled, and competed in throws on the track team.
Eighth-grader Sid Morris, son of former St. Louis Cardinal pitcher Matt Morris, current Lone Peak coach, batted 3-for-4 to lead the Bighorns. Romney batted in four runs. Doherty was 3-for-3 for the Maroons with a double, four runs scored and two knocked in. Loos also had a double. Tauscher, Hassler, O’Brien Pochervina and Button and the other BC hits.
Lone Peak 52(10) 003 x – 20 13 9
Butte Central 23( 1) 261 x – 15 9 7
Oliver McGuire, Eberhardt Grabow (5) and Eli Gale. Eric Loos, Jake Tauscher (3), Gunnar O’Brien (7) and Gunnar O’Brien, Colt Hassler (3). W – McGuire. L – Loos.
LONE PEAK – Sid Morris 3-4, Brady Johnson 1-4, Eberhardt Grabow 2-3, Oliver McGuire 2-4, Eli Gale 0-3, Max Romney 2-3, Alex Germain 1-4, Geno DiTullio 1-4, Gus Hammond 1-3.
BUTTE CENTRAL – Jake Tauscher 1-5, Eric Loos 1-2, Rye Doherty 3-3, Colt Hassler 1-3, Gunnar O’Brien 1-2, Konnor Pochervina 1-2, Kelton Keane 0-1, Jack Nagle 0-4, Garrett Button 1-4.
Extra-base hits – 2B – Johnson, Romney, Doherty, Loos. 3B – Pochervina.
Runs batted in – Lone Peak 13 (Romney 4, Johnson 2, Grabow 2, Germain 2, Morris 1, DiTullio 1, Hammond 1), Butte Central 9 (Hassler 3, Doherty 2, O’Brien 2, Loos 1, Keane 1).