Subscribe for 17¢ / day

A year ago, Helena came into Cobb Field for a doubleheader needing two victories over the Billings Royals. The Senators didn’t get them and wound up missing the state tournament by just a single game.

The Senators won’t have to worry about that this time. Helena didn’t really need to win Saturday’s games with the Royals, but they did anyway, handily registering 9-2 and 13-2 victories at Cobb Field.

“We had to win two last year and we split. It’s nice to be on the other end of it," said Helena coach Dave Thennis.

When the Senators come back next Saturday for the state tournament they’ll be the No. 2 seed out of the Eastern Division. Helena (41-26 overall, 16-7 league) finishes up with a road game at Bozeman today and a Tuesday home game with the Great Falls Electrics.

Quinn LeSage pitched a five-hitter in the opener and Seth O’Connell yielded just three hits in the second. The Senators combined for 32 hits and made just one error in both games.

In Thennis’ opinion, the latter statistic is the biggest reason why the Senators have improved.

“We’ve played great defense. The hitting has come and gone. We haven’t made a lot of mistakes. We’ll have an error or two, but we don’t compound it."

The only miscue Saturday was an errant throw by second baseman Kyle Larson on a force play in second inning of the second game. It did give the Royals a run, but it didn’t really matter much because the Senators had already scored 11 runs in the first inning.

The hitting stars for Helena were Jake Samuelson, who was 6-for-7 and Austin LeSage, who went 6-for-8.

LeSage hit two balls off the fence on the fly in the opener. Rightfielder Blake Gjerde, however, held LeSage to a single on his first drive, playing the ball off one bounce and quickly getting it back to the infield. LeSage got a double on the second one which he hit to deep right center.

Meanwhile, the Royals had trouble against Quinn LeSage and O’Connell. LeSage struck out seven. O’Connell whiffed four and retired the last 10 batters he faced.

Royals’ interim coach Bob Emard used the games to experiment a bit, moving players into different positions. Two changes turned into a pleasant surprise in the second game with Cody Ross’ relief pitching and Deon Roll’s first appearance as a catcher.

“Cody might work into a four-or-five man rotation," Emard said. “We need a backup to Paul (Reinholz) and Deon can play that role."

Ross pitched four innings, giving up two runs on six hits. He even got Austin LeSage on a called third strike to get out of a two-out bases-loaded situation.

Roll has played shortstop and outfield most of the season and could increase his value by learning to catch.

The Royals (20-49, 3-18) complete their season with a Monday night game with the Scarlets.Game 1

Helena 100 223 1 - 9 18 0
Royals 000 002 0 - 2 5 1

Quinn LeSage and Jake Samuelson; Bryce Doak, Justin Ridgeway (6) and Paul Reinholz.

Helena (40-26, 15-7) — Tyler Emmert 2-5, Kyle Larson 1-4, Austin LeSage 3-4, Gary Cooper 2-4, Tanner Swanby 3-4, Pat Lindeman 1-4, Seth O’Connell 1-4, Chris Losett 2-3, Jake Samuelson 3-3. 2B: A. LeSage, Lindeman, Losett. 3B: Swanby.

Royals (20-48, 3-17) — Bryce Doak 0-4, Ryne Mading 1-2, Chris Anderson 0-2, Blake Gjerde 1-3, Justin Ridgeway 0-3, Brandon Hoskins 0-2, Craig Paulson 0-1, Randy Feragen 1-2, Paul Reinholz 1-3, Matt Deutscher 1-3. 3B: Gjerde.Game 2

Helena (11)01 01 - 13 14 1
Royals 020 00 - 2 3 4

Seth O’Connell and Jake Samuelson; Cole Swanke, Cody Ross (2) and Deon Roll.

Helena (41-26, 16-7) — Tyler Emmert 0-5, Kyle Larson 1-3, Austin LeSage 3-4, Gary Cooper 2-3, Tanner Swanby 1-3, Pat Lindeman 1-3, Louis Corpas 2-3, Jake Samuelson 3-4, John Brown 1-3. 2B: Brown. 3B: Swanby, Lindeman.

Royals (20-49, 3-18) — Bryce Doak 0-2, Ryne Mading 1-2, Chris Anderson 0-2, Randy Feragen 0-2, Craig Paulson 0-1, Deon Roll 1-2, Justin Ridgeway 0-2, Cole Swanke 0-0, Cody Ross 1-2, Matt Deutscher 0-2.