Two bad innings doom Redbirds from possible state berth

By: 
Doreen Heintz
Sports Editor

Tyler Lee throws a pitch in the Redbirds' win over Fort Macleod at the district tournament Saturday evening.

Photo by Doreen Heintz

It could be seen in the eyes of the Redbirds – the disappointment of a rally falling just short – when the team left the field at Centene Stadium early Sunday afternoon. After spotting the Knights of Medicine Hat seven runs in the top of the first inning, the Lewistown American Legion team fought back but came up three runs short of advancing to the championship game of the Northern A District Tournament.
The Knights just seemed to have the Redbirds’ number during the tournament. On Friday in quarterfinal action, Medicine Hat jumped to a 6-0 lead in the top of the first inning. The Redbirds fought back to tie the score, 7-7, at the end of four innings, but the Knights held Lewistown scoreless over the final five innings and scored single runs in the top of the fifth and seventh innings to take a 9-7 win. That win advanced Medicine Hat in to a semifinal game against Vauxhall. Vauxhall won that hotly-contested game, 7-6, to advance to the championship contest.
Meanwhile, after losing to Medicine Hat in the quarterfinal contest, the Redbirds had to fight back and win two games against Tri-County, 13-1, and Fort Macleod, 20-4, to get the opportunity to face the Knights again.
“I was really proud of the boys for competing hard all weekend and never giving up,” said Redbird Coach Scott Sparks. “We just had two bad innings over four days, and some inconsistent pitching at times. Unfortunately, it cost us.
“Despite the fact we didn’t get a spot at state, the boys have nothing to hang their heads about,” added Sparks. “We won the regular season conference title for the second straight year and won over 40 games. We just couldn’t get over the hump again at districts.”

Lose to Medicine Hat
After dominating Havre, 14-2, in an opening-round contest on Thursday, the Redbirds anticipated a great game against Medicine Hat. The wings of the Redbirds were clipped in the top of the first inning, when the Knights scored six runs off Redbird starter Andrew Lalum.
The Birds fought back to score four runs in the bottom of the first. Leadoff hitter Eric Knox walked to begin the Lewistown rally. After Cody Henderson struck out and Tyler Lee flew out, consecutive singles by Jace Davis, Lalum and Hunter Schell scored one run and loaded the bases. With Jake Clinton at bat, a wild pitch allowed Davis to score. The two other Redbirds scored when Schell was safe at first on an error by the Medicine Hat shortstop.
Medicine Hat added another run in the top of the second inning, but the Redbirds answered back with a run of their own in the bottom of the inning. After singling to begin the inning, Isaac Fry scored on a wild pitch with Lee at the plate. Lee walked and Davis was hit by a pitch to load the bases, but Lalum flew out to third base, and Schell’s hit to the shortstop was thrown to second on the fielder’s choice for the third out of the inning.
Thomas Ayers came in to pitch for Lewistown in the top of the third inning. Ayers pitched five complete innings giving up two runs on one hit. He walked three Knights and struck out three.
The Redbirds loaded the bases again in the bottom of the third inning, but were not able to score. They did add a run in the bottom of the fourth inning when Lee singled and scored on a fielder’s choice play with Schell batting.
In the top of the eighth inning, Davis relieved Ayers on the mound for the Redbirds.

Redbirds crush Cardinals
Lewistown came back after the Friday loss to Medicine Hat to dominate Tri-County early Saturday afternoon to win, 13-1. The game ended after seven innings of play due to the 10-run mercy rule. Knox went all seven innings on the mound for the Birds. He allowed only three hits, striking out four Cardinals and walking three. Tri-County’s only run came in the top of the first inning.
The Redbirds scored two runs in the bottom of the first to take a lead they would not relinquish. They added four runs in the second inning and five more in the third inning to take an 11-1 lead. Three additional Redbird runs in the bottom of the sixth put the game away. Lewistown used a Tri-County error, a walk and three singles in the second, while in the third, two walks, two singles and a sacrifice fly added the five runs in the third. A North Star error, two singles, a double by Clinton and a sacrifice fly contributed to the three runs in the sixth.

Redbirds dismantle Royals
The win over Tri-County moved the Redbirds into another loser-out contest Saturday evening. This time the opponent was Fort Macleod, and again the Redbirds’ bats stayed hot to secure a 20-4 win over the Royals.
Lewistown drew first blood in the game when a Lalum RBI single scored Knox. Schell, the starting pitcher for the Redbirds, ran into trouble in the top of the second inning and was replaced on the mound by Davis. Lewistown tied the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the second when two Fort Macleod errors led to two Redbird runs.
Fort Macleod added an additional run in the top of the fourth inning, but Lee entered the game as the pitcher for the Birds and allowed only two hits and no runs in his three plus innings of work.
Meanwhile, Lewistown plated 10 runs in the bottom of the fifth inning and seven more in the sixth to shut down the contest at the end of seven innings. In the fifth, the Redbirds sent 14 batters to the plate to score their 10 runs. Henderson contributed a two-run single, Knox also had a two-run single, and Schell added three RBIs with a double.
Lewistown’s seven runs in the sixth inning came with two outs. A double by Lee scored two runs. A Henderson single scored two more, and a double by Cordell Gallagher plated three more.
Ben Kolar pitched the final inning for the Birds and put the Royals down in order.

Season ends with loss to Medicine Hat
In what would be their final game of the season, the Redbirds allowed Medicine Hat to score seven runs in the top of the first inning in the Sunday morning contest. Lewistown played catch-up for the rest of the game but could not quite overcome the deficit.
Lewistown did not score in the contest until the bottom of the fifth inning with the Knights leading 8-0. The first two batters for the Birds in the fifth, Davis and Gallagher, were hit by pitches. Clinton used a sacrifice bunt to move the two runners each up a base. An error by the Knight third baseman allowed Knox to reach first safely and Davis to score. Fry followed with a double to left centerfield to score Gallagher. Lee added a two-run single. After Lalum singled to left field, Schell doubled to left field to score two more Redbird runs, and the Birds were back in the game, trailing 6-8.
But just as quickly the Knights added two runs in the top of the sixth inning to go up four, 10-6. Lewistown added a single run in the bottom of the inning on a run-scoring single by Lee. Neither team added any runs in the seventh inning.
In the bottom of the eighth, Clinton was hit by a pitch and Knox singled, but a double-play by the Knights’ defense ended the Birds scoring threat.
Medicine Hat added two more runs in the top of the ninth. Lewistown came to bat in the bottom of the ninth needing five runs to tie and six to win. Lee got the bottom of the inning started with a walk. Lalum followed with a single to left field. Schell and Henderson walked to allow the first Redbird run to score. A sacrifice fly by Davis scored Lalum. A single by Gallagher loaded the bases. With Clinton at the plate, a wild pitch allowed Schell to score. Clinton then walked to reload the bases, but the game ended when Knox flew out to right field and Fry grounded out to the Medicine Hat third baseman.
The Medicine Hat win moved the Knights into the championship contest against Vauxhall. Vauxhall won that contest, 14-4, and advanced to the Class A State Tournament also at Centene Stadium in Great Falls. Besides Vauxhall, the Great Falls Chargers A team will also represent the north district. Great Falls advances to state as they are the host team.

Strong nucleus of players return for Redbirds
The Redbirds ended their season with a 44-28 record.
“We have a great nucleus of players coming back next year, and we should be one of the top teams in the state, so the future is bright,” said Sparks. “It’s tough to swallow right now, but baseball can be a cruel game. We just have to work harder to get to the next level.
“This is a great group of boys,” concluded Sparks, “and despite our finish I couldn’t be prouder of how hard they played all weekend long.”
The only two seniors on the Redbird squad were Lee and Davis. Although Davis has used up his eligibility, Lee could return next year because of his age.

 

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