HELENA — The Helena Senators will appear the opening game of the Alberta-Montana Class AA Legion baseball State Tournament in Billings, when they meet the Kalispell Lakers on Saturday at 10 a.m. at Dehler Park. And although the Senators, at 11-13 in conference play, are seeded No. 6, second-year coach Jon Burnett is happy with his team’s late-season play, as well as the mind-set of his athletes.
“We are playing our most consistent baseball heading into the tournament, and I really like where we are at,” said Burnett, whose Helena squad owns a 29-23 overall record. “The guys are competing with confidence and are excited for the opportunity that is in front of them. Hopefully we can push past the early jitters of being at the State Tournament and compete at a high level.”
The Senators batted .289 as a team, with five .300 hitters and two other guys just a couple hits shy of that average.
Sell, Keintz own top batting averages
Caden Sell and Ethan Keintz battled for the club’s batting title, finishing with the top marks of .347 and .345, respectively. Keintz led the Senators in three offensive categories, including 28 runs batted in, a .480 on base percentage, and 10 stolen bases.
Sell is a third generation Helena Senator. His grandfather, Keith Sell, had served as a coach, general manager and several other capacities for over 40 years, while his father, Mike, was a standout player in the late 1980s.
Chase Nielsen hit .328, and was No. 3 on the team with 23 RBIs, while Hunter Kirkpatrick batted .315, and topped the squad with 10 doubles, a .500 slugging percentage and 10 steals (tie). Ty McGurran hit .307, while pacing the Senators with 34 runs, and sharing the most hits, at 43, with Matt Krieger.
Zach Spiroff batted .298, led the team with four triples and 10 steals (tie), and was second at 32 runs (tie). Krieger – who shared the most stolen bases (10), and was No. 2 with 25 RBIs and 32 runs (tie) – hit .297.
Ryan Barrett was the home run leader with three dingers.
Miller to start Saturday
The pitching staff was led by Chase Nielsen (6-2), Cy Miller (6-3) and Ethan Keintz (6-4), with six mound victories apiece.
Keintz owned the lowest earned run average, at 2.29, while Miller was high with 57 strikeouts, in 65 innings pitched. Miller will get the start on the mound Saturday versus the Lakers.
Reliever Peyton Witham’s four saves were tops.
Missoula, Bozeman the top seeds
The Missoula Mavericks and Bozeman Bucks are seeded 1-2, with identical conference records of 17-7 and .708 winning percentages.
The third and fourth seeds are Kalispell and the Lethbridge Lakers, both at 14-10. Seeded No. 5 are the Great Falls Chargers with a .500 mark of 12-12.
“Offensively, our goal is to get guys on base and keep pressure on the other team,” said Burnett, when asked about the keys for his team’s success this weekend. “We have the ability to manufacture a run if need be so if the situation calls for it, we won’t be afraid to play a little small ball.
“Defensively it all starts with the guy on the mound. We want our pitchers attacking the strike zone and working quickly, we play better defense when our pitchers are in the zone.”