Missoula beats Royals twice for AA title

2014-08-02T18:41:00Z 2014-08-02T23:47:03Z Missoula beats Royals twice for AA titleGreat Staff The Billings Gazette
August 02, 2014 6:41 pm  • 

LETHBRIDGE, Alberta – There will be no three-peat.

The Missoula Mavericks beat the Billings Royals twice, 16-0 and 3-2, at Spitz Stadium on Saturday to win the Class AA American Legion State Tournament title.

The Mavericks (52-22) advance to the Northwest Regional Tournament, which begins Thursday in Eugene, Ore. They will play the Idaho state champion at 10 a.m.

The Royals (48-15) were the two-time defending state champions.

Billings’ teams had won the last three and five of the last six Class AA titles. It’s is Missoula’s first championship since 2010 and 10th in program history.

The Royals beat Missoula last year at Dehler Park for the title.

“Some days, things just don’t bounce your way and today was one of those days,” said Royals’ head coach Matt Kimmet. “I’m extremely proud of all 17 boys for not only the way they competed today but throughout the entire season.

“It was a pleasure coaching them and I feel like we came a long ways. Our bats had been pretty hot for most of July but I guess August got the best of us.”

The Royals were riding an 11-game win streak entering Saturday’s championship games.

Missoula pitcher Antonio Contonio pitched a five-hitter in the opener, striking out four.

The Mavericks broke the game open with a five-run sixth inning and added eight more in the eighth. Josh Meader had three RBIs for Missoula, while Slade Heggen, Shane Olson, Matt McHugh and Jakob Bierig had two RBIs each. Heggen, the leadoff hitter, also scored four runs.

Konner Wiechman had two hits for the Royals.

Joe Zimmer helped the Royals to leads of 1-0 and 2-1 in the second game. He hit a second-pitch solo home run to start the game and scored in the sixth inning on a Tanner Leenknecht sacrifice fly to right field.

But the Mavericks answered with two runs in their half of the inning as Olson scored on a sacrifice fly and Jesson Preston the game-winner on Jackson King’s infield single.

Austin Bohnsack was the winning pitcher for Missoula, limiting the Royals to six hits in six and one-third innings. McHugh pitched the final two and two-thirds for the Mavericks. Bohnsack had 55 strikes on 88 pitches, while McHugh had 23 on 38.

“We had a tough time at the plate today,” Kimmet said. “We just couldn’t string anything together and struggled to get a leadoff guy on.”

Missoula won five straight games -- including a 6-4 win over the Billings Scarlets -- en route to the state championship after losing the opener to Medicine Hat 17-12. The Mavericks came from behind in four of the wins.

Missoula batters had 10 hits and did not strike out once.

The Royals were trying to become the first Class AA team to win three in a row since Helena (2001-03). They defeated Helena, the Scarlets, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat to reach the title games.

“I told the boys after the game while the tears were flowing that if this is the worst thing that they ever have to endure in life they will have it really good,” said Kimmet. “It hurts right now for all of us, but the sun will come up tomorrow and all of us have an opportunity to make this world a better place.

“It is easy to take things for granted, but I told the boys back in March that we are all very fortunate to be part of such a special program.”

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