By Bill Foley
BELGRADE — Rye Doherty has himself a new nickname, and it just might stick.
With his hair pulled back in cornrows, Doherty stepped to the plate Thursday afternoon with the Butte Miners trailing the Billings Cardinals 3-1 in the bottom of the second inning at the Class A State tournament.
Butte slugger Zach Tierney called him “Ryverson,” because he said Doherty was sporting an Alan Iverson hairdo. The rest of the team followed.
Then Doherty hit the biggest hit of his life. So far.
Doherty belted a game-tying two-run home run in the bottom of the second inning. The screaming line drive, which was the first Legion home run for Doherty, ignited a six-run second inning and led Butte to a 7-3 win over the Cardinals at a sizzling Edward S. Medina Field. (Boxscore)
The win sends the Miners (37-9) to Friday’s 7 p.m. undefeated contest with Belgrade. The Bandits beat the Twins 9-5 in 10 innings. (Bracket)
Fittingly, Doherty’s home run sailed over the Kenyon Noble Lumber Company sign, which is next to the scoreboard in left field. The shot came on a 2-1 inside fastball.
“It was just on a line,” Doherty said. “I was sprinting out of it, honestly. I knew it had the distance, but I thought it was going to hit off the wall. So, I was sprinting out of the box.”
The blast scored Tierney, who was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning.
Quinn Cox followed by getting hit by a pitch, and Kevin Donaldson drew a walk. With one out, Egan Lester single that found a hole into left field to score Cox to give the Miners the lead for good.
Eric “Chooch” Hart singled in Donaldson before Aidan Lee hit a triple to right field to score Lester and Hart.
“We didn’t have much momentum, and everybody was kind of quiet until that point,” Doherty said of his home run.
As he left the dugout to take some swings on deck, Doherty told his teammates to get loud in the dugout.
They certainly did after the ball cleared the wall. They were loud the rest of the game.
“That got us a lot of momentum,” Doherty said.
The eruption provided more than enough to support Butte starter Ethan “Easy” Cunningham.
The Butte righty shook off a rocky start and put up five straight zeros on the scoreboard to end the game. He used 107 pitches, struck out six and walked three. Two of the three runs he allowed were unearned.
“He’s been like that the last few starts,” Butte coach Jim LeProwse said. “He kind of got rough in the first couple of innings. Really, the first two runs that he gave up were on poor contact. We made a couple errors, it made it tough. We had a couple of bad hops, too.
“Overall, I thought he pitched a gem. He did a great job. Once he settles in, he’s tough.”
Cunningham said a slight adjustment helped him lock in as he rolled his record to 9-1 on his last pitching performance of the tournament. His ERA is 1.34.
“I changed my positioning on the mound,” Cunningham said. “It helped me hit my spots a little better. The field did great after that. I usually work on the left side of the rubber, but it wasn’t working great. I moved to the middle and I dialed in.”
Lee’s triple, which came with one out in the second, chased Billings starter Colter Wilson. Sam Rienker came in to get out of further damage. He, Jaxon Meyer and Ryan Pilcher held the Miners scoreless the rest of the way.
Billings got on the board first when Brady Randall singled in Cody Collis with two out in the bottom of the first.
Butte answered with a two-out RBI of its own. Lester singled and stole second base. He scored on a single up the middle by lee.
Bad luck struck the Miners in the second when, Tayshawn Johnson doubled and Jaron Pinter singled. Neither hit the ball hard, they just hit it to the right spot. Johnson’s hugged the third base line, and Pinter hit a Texas Leaguer over Hart’s head in short.
Johnson scored when Mason Brosseau dropped a perfect bunt for a single. Pinter scored on a throwing error.
Just when it looked like it might be the Cardinals’ day, Doherty stepped into the batter’s box and changed everything.
The Miners did their damage on two hits. Lester, Hart and Lee each had two hits, while Doherty had the one.
Tierney nearly joined Doherty with a blast in the fifth. The righty pulled the ball way out of the park, but the home plate umpire ruled it was a foul ball. In the same plate appearance, Tierney appeared to hit a double down the line.
Again, the ump behind the dish called it a foul, and for the second time Tierney got the bad news as he was heading into the second base.
Then he drew an eight-pitch walk.
Kenley Leary, Lester and Donaldson played tough defense in the outfield. Donaldson made a couple of nice catches while heading back to the fence in right.
As the Butte crowd held its breath, Miners catcher Evan Starr, who did not play in the game, simply yelled, “We got a guy out there,” and then Donaldson made it look easy.
Cayde Stajcar played second base, while Cox caught.
Like they have all season, the Miners appeared to be having a ball as they improved to 2-0 in their first appearance at a state tournament since 2011.
“It’s great. I love it,” Doherty said. “First state tournament and I’m having a blast.”
Cunningham, who is done on the mound because of the pitch count rules, echoed Doherty
“It’s so fun,” he said. “I’ve always dreamed of it, and now I’m living it. It’s so fun.” 1 comment
LorenJuly 29, 2022, 8:59 am
Way to go guys. You be are Butte tough.REPLY