HELENA — The Helena Reps trailed the Livingston Braves 5-2 heading into their last at-bat, and rallied for two runs to get within one in the bottom of the seventh inning, before the Braves sealed the win 5-4 on Thursday. 

The game was the last contest of the night during the opening round American Legion Class A Southern District baseball tournament at Kindrick Legion Field.

Livingston will now play at 7 p.m. Friday against Gallatin Valley, while Helena will go up against Butte at 1 p.m. in an elimination contest.

The Braves' deciding runs were scored in the top of the sixth, on back-to-back RBI singles by Cade Busby and Conner Busby. That gave Livingston a 5-1 lead.

Helena got a run in their half of the inning when Hunter Lindgren drove a triple all the way to wall in left centerfield.

In the seventh, the Reps went down swinging. Ethan Keintz scored on a balk, and Chase Neilsen came home on an infield error.

But then Braves' reliever Ethan Bullock recorded the last out for the save.

Livingston starter Sage McMinn fired a four-hitter in his six innings on the hill, allowing two runs, one of which was unearned. He struck out nine and walked four.

"Sage was outstanding, and overall this was a fabulous team performance for us," Livingston coach Matt Schad said. "We played a full seven innings which is one of our goals, we played together as a team, and we kept our cool after the error in the seventh, which is another goal."

The Braves out-hit the Reps 12-5, led by Clayton Busby, McMinn, Bullock, and Wyatt Saile, all with two hits apiece.

Nielsen was the lone Helena player with more than one hit, collecting two singles. Also posting base knocks were Keintz and Tyler Tenney.

Helena starter Dylan Steinmetz sustained the loss, going 5.1 innings and allowing 10 hits and five runs. He fanned five and walked two. Peyton Witham relieved the last 1⅔ scoreless frames.

"Credit Livingston and McMinn, he's their guy, a real tough pitcher," Reps coach Dane Broadhead said. "We just didn't respond. But the boys showed some fight in those last two innings.

"So now we flush this one, and come out (Friday) and play like the season's on the line ... because it is."     

Belgrade 13, Anaconda 3

The Belgrade Bandits showed why they’re the No. 1 seed Class A Southern District tournament with a five-inning run-ruled win over Anaconda at Kindrick Legion Field, thanks to the pitching and hitting of Justin Riekenberg 

Belgrade will face Bozeman next at 4 p.m. Friiday, and the A’s will meet Dillon at 10 a.m. in an elimination contest.

The Bandits banged out 13 hits, paced Cole Thomas’ trhee-hit performance, and Colton Carnholm’s two hits and three RBIs. Also collecting two hits were starting pitcher Riekenberg (two doubles) and Kamren Parsons. Teammate Coby Richards drove in two runs.

Riekenberg worked three shutout innings. He gave up two hits, while fanning three A’s and issuing just one walk.

Anaconda’s Brandon Shaw was hung with the defeat. Bryant Morris had a single and a double for the A’s.

“Justin was very efficient, and when we had the lead we were able to get him out of there early and save him for later,” said Belgrade coach Johnny Graham, referring to the Legion’s new pitch count rule. “Offensively, we had a lot of hard hit balls and were aggressive on the base paths. It was a quality win, which is what you want in a tournament.”

Anaconda coach Shane Jorgenson said his team “can’t keep giving 11 extra outs, or we’ll get killed,” regarding, in part, the teams four errors, which accounted for four unearned Belgrade runs.

“Our guys just need to start playing, they’re not too bad when they decide to do so,” Jorgenson said.

Bozeman 7, Dillon 3

The Bozeman Bucks opened the tournament with a victory over Dillon. The game at Kindrick Legion Field was tied 2-all after four innings before Bozeman pushed across two runs in the fifth, and three more in the sixth to ice the game.

Bucks pitcher Brady Higgs twirled a seven-hitter for the complete game win, allowing two earned runs with three strikeouts and just one walk. Pete Gibson was hung with the loss.

Parker McMan (two doubles, RBI) and Aidan Jarrett led Bozeman’s nine-hit attack with two base knocks apiece. Teammate Ethan Coleman laced a double. The Cubs’ Hunter Wentworth stroked two hits.

Bozeman will next play Belgrade at 4 p.m. on Friday, while Dillon takes on Anaconda at 10 a.m.

“We played pretty good, but one of our better players, catcher Alton Gyselman went down in the first inning with a sprained ankle,” said Bucks coach Dan Pupura. “He’s our leading hitter, and that leaves a big whole in the middle of our lineup for the rest of the tourney.”

Pupura added that “Brady pitched well,” and stayed out of trouble by “not walking” too many batters.

“We competed the whole game, the last time we played Bozeman they hammered us,” Dillon coach Greg Fitzgerald said. “We put balls in play, but Bozeman’s a good team. Higgs is a quality pitcher, he threw strikes. Our goal next game will be hitting in spots when we get guys in scoring position.”

Gallatin Valley 15, Butte 4 (5 inn)

Butte pitchers issued 13 walks as the Gallatin Valley Outlaws posted a win in five innings during the third game of the tourney. The game saw a combined total of just nine hits.

The win advanced No. 2 seed GVO to Friday’s 7 p.m. game versus the winner of the Helena-Livingston game, which was the last contest on Thursday at Kindrick Legion Field.

Outlaws starter Thomas Carlson spun three frames of one-run, three-hit ball, while fanning three Muckers. Reece Cox suffered the defeat.

GVO’s Ryan Murphy produced the lone multi-hit game, going 2-for-2, with a single, a double and an RBI. Derik DeFrance, Hunter Johnson, Michael Jones and Michael Nehring all had two RBIs each for the winners.

“It was tough, because we didn’t see a lot of strikes, but I was happy with how the guys maintained their approach at the plate and stayed patient,” Gallatin coach Duwayne Scott said. “Pitching-wise we got what we wanted, Thomas stayed under 45 pitches, so he’s eligible to come back Saturday if we need him.”

Butte coach Matt Esquibel stated that his diamonders need to “keep their heads up and be ready to go tomorrow. We’re better than what we showed today,” he said.

Curt Synness is on Twitter @curtsynness_IR and can be reached at curt.synness@lee.net or curt52synness@gmail.com

Helena Independent Record Sports Reporter

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