Royals V Scarlets Legion Baseball

The Royals’ Lance Schaaf winds up in his delivery during a American Legion baseball game against the Billings Scarlets on June 7 at Pirtz Field. The annual Goldsmith Gallery Jewelers tourney begins Thursday. 

BILLINGS — The champions are back.

Times three.

The past three titlists at the annual Goldsmith Gallery Jewelers Baseball Tournament are in the field as this year’s tourney begins play Thursday at Dehler Park and Pirtz Field.

Last year, the Northwest Premier (Idaho) Black team went 5-0 at the tourney, capped by a 8-0 victory over the Great Falls Chargers in the title game. Of NWP’s wins, four came by the mercy rule.

The Colorado Lightning (2019) and Billings Royals (2018) won the previous two Goldsmith titles. The Lightning toppled the Laurel Dodgers 13-4 in 2019 and the Royals beat NWP 8-1 in 2018.

“It is a lot of returning champions that have been here and are quality programs, that love to come to Billings to compete,” said Scarlets coach Adam Hust. “The competition is what you want. You want good, quality teams and that will make us better.”

Hust said Billings American Legion Baseball is proud to host the annual competition and he remembers competing in it as a Scarlet in the early 1990s.

“We always get excited when we get a chance to host a tourney and run games at Dehler and Pirtz,” he said. “We are looking forward to playing at home and getting a chance to be better and becoming a better team.”

First pitch at the tourney is set for noon on Thursday when the Royals tangle with the Chargers at Dehler and the Lightning meet Sheridan, Wyoming, at Pirtz. The Scarlets will play Beaverton, Oregon, at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday at Pirtz.

The eight teams entered in the tourney will be split into two pools and bracket play begins on Saturday. The championship is set for 3 p.m. on Sunday at Dehler.

The Royals, Great Falls, Rogue (Colorado), and NWP are in Pool A. The Scarlets, Sheridan (Wyoming), Lightning, and Beaverton (Oregon) are in Pool B.

Royals coach David Swecker said overall he expects quality baseball to be played.

“It will be a good, competitive tournament,” he said. “All the teams are good, competitive teams. The Colorado Rogue team has some older guys that could be solid. The quality of play will be really good from top to bottom.”

The Royals enter the tourney with a 26-7 overall record and 7-0 league mark. The Royals have won eight games in a row, including the championship game of a tourney in Mandan, North Dakota.

“We are really happy with how the boys are approaching every game,” said Swecker. “They are grinding at the plate and on the mound. We have been tough outs at the plate and our pitchers have been able to execute pitches. We are looking forward to playing some baseball and excited to get back out there with our home tournament and are hoping to get to the title game and take care of business when we are there.”

For the Royals, first baseman Davis Mosier leads the team in hitting with a .431 average. He also leads the club with a slugging percentage of .514. Mosier’s .529 on-base percentage is second on the club.

Royals shortstop Jaeden Jordahl leads the club with an on-base percentage of .533 and he is second in slugging percentage at .473. Jordahl, the leadoff batter, has walked 22 times and only struck out twice. He has been hit by a pitch a team-high seven times and his 30 stolen bases top the club. Jordahl also paces the Royals with 27 RBIs and 32 runs and has doubled a team-high six times.

Right fielder Kruz Slevira is second on the Royals with 19 RBIs and leads the club with three triples.

A pair of left-handers lead the Royals starting pitchers. Lance Schaaf has a 1.68 ERA and Reagan Walker has a 2.00 ERA. Schaaf has struck out 60 and walked 19 in 41 innings. Walker has fanned 51 and issued 17 walks in 43 innings.

Swecker said relievers Hunter Eliason, Owen Doucette, Burke Steppe and Michael Ohlin have “been really good for us.”

The Royals have a fielding percentage of .959 and have only committed 39 errors this year.

Catcher Rocco Gioioso leads the Scarlets (8-15, 3-9) with a .429 batting average and shortstop Kyler Northrop is second on the team with a .392 average. Outfielder Spencer Berger is batting .365 and third baseman Nate McDonald .342.

Outfielder Luke Tallman leads the Scarlets with five home runs and is fourth on the team with 10 RBIs. First baseman Michael Feralio leads the Scarlets with 14 RBIs. McDonald has scored 21 runs to lead the team.

Starting pitcher Jaiden Turner is 3-1 with a 2.65 ERA and Bradley Wagner leads the Scarlets with 27 innings pitched.

Hust said his young squad is experiencing “growing pains,” and hopes the tourney experience will help come state tournament time July 28-Aug. 1 in Great Falls.

“Everything, especially with this group is getting to one common goal at the end,” Hust said, “and that is competing for a state title in July, regardless of what our record is.”

Email Gazette Sports Editor John Letasky at john.letasky@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsJohnL

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