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A couple of weeks ago, the Laurel Dodgers weren’t sure where their American Legion baseball season was headed.

They do now.

The Dodgers beat the Billings Royals 6-1 Saturday night, putting themselves in position for a state tournament berth. Laurel has three league games left, all of them at home. Miles City comes in for a Tuesday doubleheader and the Billings Scarlets pay a Saturday visit.

Two victories would probably be enough to secure a state berth.

“This is huge," said catcher O’shean Moran. “It puts us in a great place."

It might not have happened had the Dodgers not a had team meeting.

“We had a meeting a couple of weeks ago," said catcher O’shean Moran. “We were struggling at the time. We’re with each other and we’re a lot more confident."

“They had their meeting and there were some things that came out," said coach Pat Hansen. “They were able to accept criticism and it made them better."

The Dodgers improved to 12-9 in the league as Nolan Gallagher threw a four-hitter and Moran contributed a timely double.

“I got a little tired toward the end," said Gallagher, who squared his record at 5-5. “My curveball was really good. I didn’t throw the change that much. I was able to spot my fastball."

Gallagher gave credit to the defense, which despite committing three errors, also made some big plays.

The biggest came in the sixth inning and denied the Royals the tying run. After cutting Laurel’s lead to 2-1, the Royals had Chris Anderson at third and Deon Roll at first and tried a delayed steal.

Moran’s throw was cut off by second baseman Jarod Knaub, who fired it back home to Moran. Moran expertly blocked the plate and put the tag on Anderson.

In the next inning, Moran lined a two-out double to right center, scoring Nolan Gallagher and Chris Smith for a 4-1 lead.

“It was on the right half of the plate," Moran said. “I tried to stay down and take it to right. It fell in, finally. It’s been going that way all year. I’ve been hitting it right at someone."

But not this time.

Moran moved to third on a balk and scored when Tully Gallagher dumped a bunt down the third base line.

For the Royals, it was their seventh straight loss, dropping their overall record to 19-43 and league mark to 3-16.

“They’re still picking up our system," said interim coach Bob Emard, who took over after Rusty Strickland resigned on July 9. “If we could have got a couple of bunts down and executed a hit and run, it could have changed the game. We’ve got a week and a half left. We’re evaluating and we’ve told them they are playing for positions next year. We’re doing some good things. We’ve got Cody, Miles City, Helena and the Scarlets and we’re going to go after all of them."

NOTES – Former Royals head coach Anthony Piltz (1994-96) will be with the team for the balance of the season as an assistant coach. Emard said Piltz will coach at first base and act as the hitting coach. Emard said if he is hired as the permanent coach, he would keep Piltz and Stacy Uecker on the staff.

“If I’m back, they’re back," Emard said. “Anthony is a very fundamentally sound hitting coach."

Laurel 002 000 310–6 7 3
Royals 000 001 000–1 4 4

Nolan Gallagher and O’shean Moran; Bryce Doak, Brandon Hoskins (7), David Hicks (8) and Paul Reinholz.

Laurel – Jeff Fischer 2-5, Nolan Gallagher 1-2, Jarod Knaub 0-4, Chris Smith 0-4, O’shean Moran 2-4, Tully Gallagher 2-4, Brent Evans 0-4, Lee VanLuchene 0-2, Shane McCullough 0-3. 2B: Moran, Fischer.

Royals – Bryce Doak 0-4, Matt Deutscher 0-4, Chris Anderson 1-3, MacKenzie Cameron 0-3, Deon Roll 1-3, Justin Ridgeway 1-4, Randy Feragen 0-2, Brandon Hoskins 0-1, David Hicks 0-0, Craig Paulson 0-1, Paul Reinholz 0-2, Ryne Mading 1-3, Blake Gjerde 0-0. 2B: Mading.

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