Redbirds finish second at annual tournament

By: 
Doreen Heintz
Sports Editor

The Lewistown Redbird baseball team had its sights set on the first-place trophy heading into the championship game Sunday evening at the 29th annual Harold Gjerde Memorial Baseball Tournament. The Redbirds went into the championship contest undefeated, but the Gallatin Valley Outlaws were a formidable opponent for the Lewistown American Legion Team.

Earlier in the tournament, Lewistown had wins over the Dickinson Roughriders, 5-4, on Thursday, over the Lethbridge Giants, 4-0, and Gillette Rustlers, 3-0, on Friday, over the Glasgow Reds, 16-6, on Saturday.

Sunday’s championship game was a hitter’s game. With both teams scoring in every inning but one, the Outlaws scored twice in the top of the seventh inning to retake the lead. The Redbirds went scoreless in the bottom of the seventh, and the Outlaws took a 12-11 win over the home team.

“They fought hard all game,” said Redbird Coach Scott Sparks, after the championship loss. “With a different bounce here and there, the game may have ended differently, but I was proud of the fact that our boys did not roll over when they got behind. Instead they fought back hard throughout the contest.”

It did not take long for the Outlaws to get on the scoreboard. They led, 2-0, after the top of the first inning on a walk, single and triple.

The Redbirds came right back in the bottom of the inning to score two runs of their own. Jake Clinton got the Redbirds rolling when he was safe on an Outlaw error. Designated hitter Andrew Lalum followed with a single past the Outlaw shortstop. Cleanup hitter Tyler Lee drove in both runners on a double over the right fielder’s head. The Redbirds missed a golden opportunity to score some more runs when they loaded the bases with two out, but the Outlaws got the third out on an unassisted play by their first baseman.

Gallatin Valley added three more runs in the top of the second inning, but the Birds came back with two runs in the bottom of the inning. Heading into the top of the third, the Outlaws led, 5-4. Lewistown’s two runs in the bottom of the second came on a passed ball with the bases loaded.

The Outlaws upped their advantage to 7-4 in the top of the third, but again the Redbirds came back with two runs in their at bat in the third. Cody Henderson started off the bottom of the third with a single to right field. When a pickoff throw to first went over the first baseman’s head, Henderson hustled all the way to third. A single down the third baseline by Tanner Trafton scored Henderson with one out. Trafton went to second on a wild pitch. After Isaac Fry walked, Eric Knox grounded out to the second baseman, but the two Redbird runners advanced to third and second. Trafton then came home when the Outlaw infield fell asleep.

Redbird pitcher Jace Davis put the Outlaws down in order in the top of the fourth inning. The Redbirds came back in the bottom of the fourth to score two runs and take their first lead of the game, 8-7. The two Lewistown runs came compliments of three Outlaw errors.

Gallatin Valley came back with two runs in the top of the fifth to retake the lead. Thomas Ayers relieved Davis on the mound for the Birds and had trouble finding the plate. An Ayers wild pitch put Outlaw runners on second and third. The two Outlaw runs came on a ground out and fly out to centerfield.

Lewistown came back to score one run in the bottom of the fifth to tie the score at 9-9. The Birds’ run came on a passed ball that allowed Knox to come home from third.

After the Outlaws added a run in the top of the sixth inning, Lewistown came back with two runs in the bottom of the inning to retake the lead. Cordell Gallagher walked to begin the bottom of the inning. Ayers batted for Trafton and laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Gallagher to second. An infield single by Fry moved Gallagher to third. When Gallagher got in a pickle between third and home, Fry went to second and Gallagher got back to third safely when no one covered the base for the Outlaws. Knox then followed with a triple to score Gallagher and Fry, but was left stranded at third when the next two Redbirds flew out.

Only three outs were needed by Lewistown to secure a win, but the Outlaws had different ideas. Three consecutive singles scored a run and put runners on second and third when the throw went home on the third single. After the second out was made on a fly ball to right field, the next Outlaw batter walked to load the bases. The next batter was hit by a pitch to put the Outlaws on top, 12-11. Henderson came in to pitch for the Birds to get the last out.

Lee started the bottom half of the inning with a single, but the game came to a quick close when Hunter Schell hit into a double play and Henderson lined out to the second baseman to end the game.

 

Lee, Schell pitch back-to-back shutouts

On Friday, Redbird pitchers Lee and Schell pitched back-to-back shutouts in the 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. games. For Lee, it was his fifth consecutive shutout of the season.

“My team is playing good baseball behind me,” said Lee, when asked about his recent stretch of shutouts. “We are really coming together as a team. It helps that we can concentrate 100 percent on baseball right now without the distractions of school and other sports.”

Not to be outdone by Lee, Schell came right back to pitch seven strong innings to defeat the Lethbridge Giants, 4-0.

Saturday evening the Redbirds pasted the Glasgow Reds, 16-6. The Redbirds pushed 10 runs across the plate in the bottom of the second. The inning was highlighted by a three-run triple by Lee and an inside-the-park home run by Clinton. The game ended after the top of the fifth inning due to the 10-run mercy rule.

 

Redbirds off to Canada this week

Lewistown has its toughest road trip of the season starting on Wednesday whenthey  travel to Canada to face four Canadian foes in eight games over four days. All of the games are conference ones.

Thursday the Redbirds face the Vauxhall Spurs at 6 and 8:30 p.m. Friday, the Birds travel to Fort MacLeod to face the Royals at 3 and 5:30 p.m. The Canadian journey continues to Lethbridge on Saturday to face the Miners at 3 and 5:30 p.m. The final stop is two games against the Medicine Hat Knights on Sunday at 2:30 and 6 p.m.

Sparks is taking all 18 of his “A” team players for the trip.

“Playing five games in four days at the tournament prepared us some for this brutal trip,” said Sparks. “With 18 kids, it will be all hands on deck. Our younger kids are coming along, so that will help us get through this trip. The important thing is the kids can’t get down on themselves.”

Sparks is hoping to have Lalum back in the lineup full time. This past weekend Lalum was the designated hitter for the Redbirds during the Gjerde Tournament.

“He has a strained shoulder,” added Sparks. “Mostly holding him out was precautionary, but he will start to throw this week.”

Throughout the Gjerde, Sparks used a total of nine pitchers and will probably need more than that before the Redbirds return from Canada. Sparks was unsure if Lalum would be able to pitch during the road trip.

“We are going up there to show the Canadians how to play baseball,” quipped Lee.

 

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