07 August 2011

Excitement at Dehler: Only Waipahu and Billings Scarlets Still Standing


This has been an interesting Regional American Legion Baseball Tournament. As far as I can remember we have only had three regional tournaments since 1980, one in the early 80s when Jeff Ballard—before he went on to star at Stanford and pitch for the Baltimore Orioles—got beat in extra innings by a Washington bloop hit over the 2nd baseman's—or maybe the shortstop's head—and the Scarlets were so depressed they got beat by Helena the next morning, leaving way too quickly; and another sometime in the 90s about which I have no memory, and then this one.


This tournament, directed by Joe Studiner, was unusual in that both AA teams here in Billings were playing, the Scarlets as the state champion and the Royals coming in 2nd at the state tournament became the host team. The Royals drew Salem Oregon in the first round and lost but won their 2nd game. I forget who they sent home, either Alaska or Wyoming, both often going two and out.

The seeding was very favorable for the Scarlets, drawing Boise Idaho the first round, which they won 3-1, with Joe Barta pitching a 5 hit game and Max Tolstedt hitting a 3 run homer to win it.

See the picture above and left as his teammates welcome him home.

Then they faced Waipahu, Hawaii: the Scarlet pitching was unfortunately not up to par, their fielding wasn't so good, and their running game was even worse. They lost 11-10 when the pitcher Girard, after a gutsy performance for most of the game, threw a sacrifice bunt over the first baseman's glove.


That put the Scarlets and the Royals to face each other the next day in a loser-out contest. Appar-ently this was the first time this has happened in Billings or in a Regional tournament.

Brady Muller of the Scarlets looked good on the mound and Ty Gilmore won it in the bottom of the 9th with his first home run of the season. One wonders if Muller should have been pitching against Hawaii. Yes, I know, this is Monday morning quarterbacking. It was difficult to see any really dominant pitchers in this tournament, thus allowing the coaches to play hunches and try to save their better pitchers for the bigger games to come. So anyway, the Scarlets sent the Royals packing which was probably a just result, reflecting the big difference between the teams this past year.



I almost forgot the big storm that cancelled a couple of games and interrupted the Royals ousting some team in the early loser-out part of the tourney. So everything was a little strange as the games were delayed, and the scoreboard didn't work very well, omitting the balls and strikes. I forgot how much we depend on knowing the count on nearly every pitch. Maybe we shouldn't be surprised at unusual things happening at Dehler, with all the unusual weather we have been having this spring and summer.




There were good crowds at all the games the Scarlets and Royals played, especially the one where they played each other, maybe as many as 2000-2500. I saw a lot of alumni in the crowds too. See above right.

Salem Oregon—more accurately the Withnell Dodgers—surprised Bellingham Washington on the 2nd day but then they lost to Waipahu early today, 8-2, and then got walloped by our Scarlets 25-5, yes, twenty-five! I said. They called it, mercifully, at the end of 7 innings as Salem simply had no pitchers left. All the balls that were high flies in the earlier games for the Scarlets were now line drives to the deepest parts of Dehler Park. Ty Gilmore hit his 2nd home run in as many days and Brady Muller also hit a home run. Miles Berkram almost cranked one out as he tripled in two runs.

Some of the fans from Oregon were a little miffed because they thought the Scarlets were purposely embarrassing them. There is a 10 run rule but it doesn't come into effect until after 7 innings. You can't run out the clock like they do in high school football or simply toss it around like they do in basketball.

The late game today was won by Hawaii, 6-5, a come-from-behind victory in the 9th inning. They remain undefeated for the Scarlets to take them on again on Monday. Bellingham Washington was feeling fairly confident going into the 9th inning, leading 5-3. Their pitcher, Hayden Knight, had done a very creditable job the whole night, holding the Hawaiians down to three runs. When he walked the first batter of the inning his coach decided to promptly replace him with another who walked several more. A few errors and a fielder's choice, and a third pitcher came in with the game tied now: with one out a long fly to center scored the winning run. I don't think they got a hit at all in the ninth inning. Bellingham fans had some discouraging words to say as we all left pondering the matchup the next day, and Hawaii celebrated in their own fashion. This was an exciting game and so is the tournament thus far. The Hawaiians remain surprisingly calm and relaxed. Last year they came in 2nd at Las Vegas, who knows, this year they may go all the way with their rhythmic cheerleading letting off the pressure.

Can the Scarlets come up with the pitchers to win two game on Monday? Watch this space.

This tournament thus far has featured some outstanding umpires. The three man crew is a very good idea. Perhaps we should adopt it for the regular season games. I am guessing they don't teach the boys to hit down on the ball these days as there seem to be an unusual number of high fly balls to the outfield. They do allow the fielders to catch up with them, sometimes in spectacular fashion.

Another good idea was the placing of the state flags on their respective dugouts. It sent all of us to Wikipedia to look them up, especially the Hawaiian state flag with its small Union Jack. We all learned a little history.

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