VERNAL, Utah — The Butte Miners returned to their blowout form Sunday night.
Butte got five strong innings from Kenley Leary and three hits apiece from Leary and Eric “Chooch” Hart, and the Miners rolled past the Minico, Idaho Strom 11-1 in the undefeated game of the Northwest Class A Regional Tournament at Uintah High School. (Boxscore)
The Miners’ 13th straight win was called after five innings by the 10-run rule, and it means Butte is guaranteed a shot at playing for the title on Tuesday.
“We know that we’re going to play in the last game of the tournament,” Butte coach Jim LeProwse said. “We’ll be the last Montana team playing in Legion. We’re going as far as we possibly can go.”
First, though, the Miners (43-9) have to play an extra-round game against Ridgeline, Utah at 7 p.m. Monday.
Leary scattered five hits, struck out nine and walked one in the victory. His counterpart Dax Sayer, however, led off the game with a home run to center field.
That was the end of the good news for the Storm, though.
Leary singled to lead off the bottom of the first. He scored on a passed ball before Hart doubled in Egan Lester to put the Miners on top for good.
Butte scored four in the third and four more in the fourth before the combination of Lester and Hart ended the game.
Lester led off the bottom of the fifth inning with a triple to left field.
The left fielder took a couple of steps in before realizing the liner was over his head. LeProwse, the third base coach, said he thought about stopping Lester at second but waived him to third.
The coach said he knew the game was over.
“I told him, ‘Eric is going to hit a ball to the right side, I promise you,’” LeProwse said of his conversation with Lester at third. “I said, ‘I want you to stand on this base until he catches it or it hits on the ground.”
Two pitches later, Hart proved his coach right by blasting a double to right-center field. Lester cruised home, and the Miners celebrated the walk-off win.
Leary and Hart each hit two doubles while going 3 for 4. Both drove in two runs. Lester went 2 for 4 with the triple and two runs scored. Rye Doherty and Zach Tierney hit RBI singles.
The Miners, who stole five bases, saw Doherty and Evan Starr each score two runs. Starr stole home on a double steal. Anthony Knott, Sean Ossello, Aidan Lee and Cayde Stajcar also scored for Butte.
Butte worked eight walks in the win, with Lee, Stajcar and Doherty each drawing a pair of free passes.
With 90 pitches on the night, Leary now joins Ethan “Easy” Cunningham and Rye Doherty as Butte pitchers who are no longer eligible to pitch in the tournament.
“He threw well,” LeProwse said of Leary. “He had a couple of shots hit off him in the first inning, then he settled down.”
Stockton Chandler and Kale Osterhout doubled for the Storm, who will play Redmond, Oregon in Monday’s 4 p.m. game.
Tuesday’s first championship game is set for noon. If the Miners win Monday, their opponent will need to beat them twice to win the double-elimination tournament. (Bracket)
LeProwse said George Riojas will get the ball for the Start Monday. Trey Hansen will pitch on Tuesday.
“I’ve still got Aidan if I need him,” LeProwse said of Lee, a lefty first baseman. “(Tyler) Duffey can throw, too. So can Gavin Trudgeon.”
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