MISSOULA — Billings Royals pitcher Tyler Frieders has been solid on the mound this season, entering the American Legion Northwest Regional with a sub-1.00 ERA.
Wednesday, he struggled with his pitch locations in the first inning of the regional opener against the Hawaii state champions, giving up three runs and squandering a 2-0 lead.
Frieders bounced back with four scoreless innings and the Royals scored in five of seven frames to overcome a shaky bullpen and win 11-8 at Ogren-Allegiance Park. They’ll face the Washington state champions 4 p.m., Thursday.
“I felt calm, surprisingly, coming in,” Frieders said on the field afterward. “But I didn’t feel too hot after that first inning. I just focused on locating my pitches, throwing up zeroes and giving my guys a chance to come back.”
Frieders found success as he got his curveball over the plate and located his fastball on the corners. He retired eight of nine batters during a stretch from the second through fifth innings.
Frieders loaded the bases in the fifth, but he induced an inning-ending flyout as he reached the pitch-count limit. The Royals led 11-3 before he was pulled to start the bottom of the sixth.
“Sometimes it take him a while to settle in,” Royals manager Bryan Benjamin said. “I thought he was a little nervous. But as soon as he settled down, he was money.”
Billings and Hawaii combined for 28 hits, and Royals first baseman Dawson Smith collected a game-high three RBIs. He crushed a two-out, two-run double to the opposite field, giving Billings the lead for good, 4-3, in the second inning.
Jarrett Leinwand hit a two-run home run to make it 6-3 in the fourth, and Sam Evenson added a solo home run to push the lead to 10-3 in the sixth. Both of them tallied two RBIs.
Brooks Zimmer, Jayden Kay, Connor Hunter and Connor Polkowske drove in one run apiece. Zimmer, Leinwand and Dann Blanchard scored twice each.
“The guys played loose and relaxed,” Benjamin said. “I was worried about how relaxed we were, but that’s the way these guys are.”
The three runs Frieders gave up came as the result of a misplayed chopper that went over the head of Kay at shortstop, canceling out a potential double play. Frieders struck out the next batter, which would’ve ended the first inning without Hawaii scoring a run.
Zimmer, the Royals’ center fielder, preserved the 4-3 lead when he threw out a Hawaii runner at the plate in the second inning.
Since Frieders racked up a high pitch count in the long first inning, the Royals had to go to the bullpen to start the sixth. Relievers Tucker Smith and Cole Miller gave up a combined five runs, all before recording an out. Zimmer pitched a scoreless seventh to seal the win.
The Royals were without starting left fielder Cade Torgerson and shortstop Carson Klompien. Torgerson, who had to report to the University of Jamestown for football, was replaced by utility player Conner Hunter.
Klompien, who is day-to-day with a back injury, was replaced at shortstop by Kay, the normal second baseman. That moved Polkowske, the normal third baseman, to second base and Blanchard off the bench to third.
Wyoming 5, Missoula 3
The Missoula Mavericks have struggled throughout the summer to find consistency at the plate.
They were hurt again by that lack of offense as they opened play in the American Legion Northwest Regional baseball tourney with a 5-3 loss to Wyoming on Wednesday at Ogren-Allegiance Park.
“We’re consistent at being inconsistent,” said Mavs manager Brent Hathaway, whose team will face Alaska in a loser-out game at 1 p.m. Thursday. “Sometimes we show up, many times we don’t. It was a real frustrating game.”
The Mavs jumped out to a 2-0 lead but were stymied by Wyoming pitcher Cody Brooks, the MVP of the Wyoming state tournament.
Brooks limited the Mavs to two runs on three hits in 5 2/3 innings. He retired nine of the final 10 batters he faced and struck out six in a row during that stretch.
“We weren’t aggressive at the plate,” Hathaway said. “We didn’t approach the at-bats with any type of confidence.”
Dane Fraser drove in a run on a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning against Wyoming’s bullpen. The Mavs got the winning run to the plate and the tying run to second base but couldn’t get any closer than 5-3.
All five runs Missoula allowed came with two outs in the inning. Wyoming first baseman Max Pedroza tied the game, 2-2, in the third inning with a two-out double. Wyoming added three runs in the fourth inning on Braxton Innis’ two-out single and Ryan Andren’s RBI single two batters later.
Mavs starting pitcher Dylan Chalmers went six innings but took the loss. He gave up five runs, allowed eight hits and walked three batters.
“We pitched good enough to win,” Hathaway said. “I thought Dylan threw well. We had occasions to make plays and came up empty. We put too much pressure on our pitchers. We didn’t make plays we were capable of making.”
Missoula jumped up 2-0 in the second inning when Sam Bucy drove home Tradd Richardson on a triple to right-center field. Bucy was awarded home as the ball was thrown past third base and out of play.
Missoula will have to win five games over the next four days to claim the regional title and advance to the American Legion World Series.
“You better show up and play tomorrow,” Hathaway said of his message to his team, “or you turn your gear in and we’re done for the year. It’s pretty simple.”
Idaho 8, Alaska 7
The Mountain View Toros scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to earn an 8-7 walk-off win over the Juneau Midnight Suns in the second game of the day.
Jon Milner drove in a team-best three runs for Mountain View, which was making its first regional appearance in program history. Charlie Tentinger came up with the game-winning single, scoring Alex Nielebeck.
Nielebeck was credited with the win, pitching two scoreless innings to close the game.
Juneau scored the game’s first three runs, Idaho took a 4-3 lead in the fourth inning, and Juneau posted four runs in the fifth inning to go up 7-4. Zebediah Storie paced the Midnight Suns with three RBIs, and Philip Wall drove in two.
Juneau will play the Mavs 1 p.m., Thursday, in a loser-out game
Washington 4, Oregon 3
The Yakima Valley Pepsi Pak scored three runs in the top of the seventh inning to pull out a 4-3 victory over the Medford Mustangs in the opening game of the regional.
Carson Vick went 2-for-4 with three RBIs to pace Yakima Valley.
Medford pitcher Joe Johnson took the loss as he gave up three runs, all unearned, in the seventh inning.
Yakima Valley’s Spencer Froula tossed 1 2/3 scoreless innings to close the game and get credited with the win.
Medford will play Hawaii 10 a.m., Thursday, in a loser-out game.