By Bruce Sayler
The rain was but a re-christening celebrating the Butte Miners’ baseball prowess being displayed in a hot streak of American Legion baseball team.
The Miners swept Dillon in a Southwestern A Conference doubleheader, 11-2 and 7-3, Wednesday night on the Miners Field diamond at 3 Legends Stadium in the Copper Mountain Youth Sports Park. The wins took their league-game winning streak to eight in a row during a run in which the Butte club has won nine of its last 10 games while pushing its season records to 10-8 overall, 9-3 in the Southwestern A.
Wednesday’s wins were worth the wait. A rain-and-lightning visit pushed the first pitch to 7:10 p.m., a bit more than an over past the appointed start time. Importantly, though, the Miners and the Cubs got to play. Once the iller-tempered weather vacated the scene, the evening grew more enjoyable.
“It’s a nice little run,” Butte head coach Jeff LeProwse said just past midnight when the twin bill had gotten over, “eight conference wins in a row. It’s the most conference wins in a row for conference games by a team I’ve coached.
“But, we can’t be comfortable with where we’re at. We have to come out everyday in be blue-collar.”
The Butte kids got the job done on Wednesday.
Pitching, which limited Dillon to five hits over the two games, again starred in the victories, but it was augmented nicely by the accompanying defense and hitting.
“Two wins is two wins,” LeProwse said. “I thought we played really well in the first game, but our second game was a little flat. It’s a bit of a grind when you come out to play and then have to wait and wait. But, I wasn’t happy with our second game. We have to bring a little better energy.”
He liked the pitching efforts.
“Our pitchers did really well,” LeProwse said. “Rylan (Richards) was really good at striking people out, but it’d be good if he could finish the game with less than 105 pitches.”
Richards started the second game and personally was responsible for all 15 outs in his five-inning stint – 13 strikeouts and fielding two comebackers.
“Ryan Wahl is a great arm and pitched great in the first game,” LeProwse added, and also noted the efforts of first-game finisher Kenley Leary and nightcap-reliever Reece Cox.
“We have to clean up the walks, though,” the coach said in an allusion to the dozen bases on balls Miners pitchers yielded over the 14 innings. “We had some good defensive plays, but we have to execute when our guys are throwing a no-hitter.”
Richards didn’t allow the Cubs a hit until the fifth inning, yet Dillon owned a 2-0 advantage earlier in the contest.
The wins came after a 10-day break away from competition. The Miners knocked most off the rust off early and played so well as to give LeProwse a clearer look at areas needing more attention.
The Miners will celebrate Senior Night in a Friday 6 p.m. doubleheader against the Anaconda A’s at 3 Legends Stadium.
Butte 11, Dillon 2 (Boxscore)
Butte jumped to a 3-0 lead and never trailed. Egan Lester was hit by a pitch with one out in the first inning, stole second base and scored on Eric Hart’s single up the middle. In the second, Kian O’Neill reached on an error to tally Coyt Stajcar, who had walked and then gone to second base on a passed ball. Cox was hit by a pitch, then Evan Starr hit into a fielder’s choice that erased O’Neill, but a bad throw on the play let Cox score.
The Cubs got on the board in the third. Cole Pulliam led off by drawing a walk, took second on a groundout and then came home when Cole Johnston’s infield hit drew an errant throw past first base. Their other run was scored in the sixth inning as Jace Fitzgerald clubbed a one-out double to center field and came in on two Butte errors.
Meanwhile, the Miners increased their run total to 11 with a run in the third, a five-run explosion in thee fourth and two tallies in the sixth inning.
Singles by Lester and Wahl started the Butte third inning. Lester went to third when Hart flied out to right field and then scored as he and Wahl teamed on a double steal, Wahl drawing the too-late throw to second base.
The Miners paraded to the plate to score their five runs in the fourth. Stajcar led off with a walk. One out later, he scored on a single to right by Cox after advancing to second base on a passed ball. Cox stole second base and Evan Starr was hit by a pitch. Leary’s groundball was booted and Cox came home. Lester bunted a single to load the bases. Starr ran home on a wild pitch just before Wahl singled Leary in and Hart brought in Lester with a sacrifice fly.’
Wahl went 3-for-4 at the plate in addition to his fine mound performance.
The Miners finished their scoring in the sixth. Wahl whacked a one-out base hit to left field and then Hart singled to right.
Wahl raced home on a wild pitch and Aidan Lee drove Hart in with a hard single up the middle.
Dillon’s only hits in the game were Fitzgerald’s double and singles hit by Connor Curnow and Johnny Reiser. Curnow absorbed the pitching loss.
Butte 7, Dillon 3 (Boxscore)
It was a pitching duel much of the way for Dillon’s Pulliam and Butte’s Richards. The game-saver, though, was likely a play made by Miners third baseman O’Neill late in the game.
Butte was clinging to a 4-2 lead when Dillon came to bat in the top of the sixth. Fitzgerald was walked for the third time in a game in which he was issued four free passes. Curnow then doubled him home to bring the Cubs within a run of the lead and nobody out with the tying run at second base. Reiser walked. After a strikeout, Pulliam drew a walk to fill the bags. Cox got another strikeout to bring leadoff batter Cole Johnston to the plate.
He sent a bouncer into no-man’s land between the mound and third base. O’Neill ranged to his left and made a lunging stab at the hopper. He snagged it and fired from is knees to second baseman Hart, and the Miners were out of the inning where the one-run lead.
They expanded on the advantage in the sixth with three runs. Starr was hit by a pitch with one out and Leary lashed a single to center. Lester bunted his way on with a hit, but the throw on the play sailed beyond first base and Starr scored. An intentional walk to Wahl packed the sacks. Hart reached on a throwing error that let Leary cross the plate. Then Lee hit into a fielder’s choice that wiped out Wahl at third base, but allowed Lester to run home.
The Miners kept the Cubs off the scoreboard in the seventh inning, but not without worry. Kale Konen walked to lead off, but was out on a double play hit into by Peter Gibson. Fitzgerald got his fourth walk of the game and Curnow reached on an error before the game ended on a groundout.
The teams were scoreless after the first inning and tied at 2-all after the second. A walk and a couple of Butte errors were responsible for the Dillon runs. The Cubs were hitless until Konen doubled in the fifth. The Miners’ two runs in the second had their beginnings in a Lee lead-off single. Zach Tierney was then hit by a pitch. Lee dashed home on a wild pitch and O’Neill batted Tierney in with a base hit to center.
Butte broke the tie the next inning when Wahl walloped a one-out triple into the left-center gap and scored on a groundout by Hart.
The doubles by Konen and Curnow were the Cubs’ only hits in the game.