By Bruce Sayler
The season has seen the Butte Miners wear their American Legion baseball triple crown quite successfully as they’ve constructed a 23-7 record this spring and summer.
The facets of the triple crown, signifying championships in district, state and regional competitions, coming into the 2023 campaign also made the Jim LeProwse-coached Miners the kings all the others wanted to dethrone. Any expectation was that the Butte club would receive the opponent’s best effort – best lineup, best rotation, best planning. The Miners have survived it all pretty well.
They are now coming off maybe their best week of rivalry competition and emerged with a 3-1 record for the stint, sweeping a league doubleheader at home against Gallatin Valley and splitting a road twin bill at Belgrade in a meeting of juggernauts.
Butte will play its last two home dates this week. The Miners have a 1 p.m. doubleheader on Sunday against the Helena Reps. Then, after a Monday non-league twin bill at Missoula on Monday with the AA Mavericks, the Miners will come back to 3 Legends Stadium on Tuesday for a 6 p.m. Miners Field Senior Night doubleheader with the Bozeman A club.
The games with the Helena and Bozeman teams will be Southern Conference counters.
Belgrade remains hot on Butte’s heels. After the teams split a few days ago, the league standings show the Miners atop the stack at 9-1 with the Bandits only a game behind at 8-2. The Butte schedule is not only busy, but tough as the regular season winds down.
Their split saw Belgrade temporarily pull even with a 5-4 first-game win in the twin bill, making both teams 8-1 in Southern A play. Butte rescued the league lead with a 10-5 victory in the nightcap.
The Miners spotted the Bandits a 3-0 lead early in the second game before Zach Tierney charged up the Miners’ offense and likely flattened one side of the baseball with a two-run homer. Kenley Leary’s sacrifice fly tied the score.
The Bandits gained a 4-3 edge before Leary and Tierney teamed up for more RBIs to rebuff a Belgrade surge and to back Ethan Cunningham’s win on the mound.
Belgrade had won the first game as Gavin Waters pitched an 11-strikeout gem. Aidan Kulbeck’s run-scoring triple in the fifth inning followed by Cameron Ueland’s base hit that pushed home a run were the key belts for the Bandits.
Anthony Knott had two hits to lead the Butte offense. Leary took the pitching loss, though scattering seven hits and giving up only three earned runs.
The night before, at 3 Legends Stadium, Butte took two decidedly different types of wins over Gallatin Valley. The Miners won the first game, 3-1, then outslugged the Outlaws 19-12.
Butte scored all three of its runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to break up a scoreless pitchers’ duel. Cayde Stajcar tripled in Knott, Tierney then doubled home Stajcar and scored on a double by Quinn Cox. Knott started the eruption with a single.
Rye Doherty gained the pitching win, going 5.2 innings and allowing only four hits and the one run. He struck out six batters and walked four. Gavin Trudgeon got the save.
In the 19-12 victory, Butte threatened to end the game on the 10-run deficit rule twice only to see Gallatin Valley rally back from the brink. The Outlaws even pulled to within a run in the sixth inning before the Miners busted out way ahead again.
Doherty, Tierney, Sean Ossello, Stajcar and Cunningham all clubbed doubles in the win. Knott, Stajcar, Tierney, Doherty and Cunningham each collected two hits in Butte’s 13-hit attack. Ossello, Donaldson and Cox each had a hit.
Knott, Stajcar, Tierney and Cunningham each drove in two runs.
Derek Dunmire was the winning pitcher with five strong innings before tiring. Trey Hansen finished on the mound.
Cade Miller lined a home run over the left-field fence in the sixth inning to briefly spark a Gallatin Valley rally, the Miners doused in time.
The Miners will close their regular season on July 16 at Anaconda before going into postseason play. The Southern District tournament is scheduled for Three Forks, beginning on July 20. The State A tourney is to be played in Laurel, starting on July 26.