BILLINGS — Last week, after his team was subdued in its first matchup with the crosstown rival Royals, Scarlets coach Adam Hust bemoaned a lack of intensity emanating from the dugout.
What a difference seven days makes.
Backed by a sterling effort from starting pitcher Andy Larsen, the Scarlets showed greater focus Friday at Dehler Park in a 5-1 victory in a rematch with the Royals. The left-handed Larsen, displaying strong command of his fastball, allowed one hit over five innings while striking out nine and walking two.
Larsen fanned the side in the top half of the first and it was smooth sailing from there.
“The fastball was working, and really that was just about it,” a relaxed Larsen said with a laugh. “I threw the curveball quite a bit and I didn’t get a whole lot of swing-and-misses on it, but I threw it when I was ahead in the count and it just kind of kept them off balance.”
The only hit Larsen surrendered came off the bat of Royals third baseman Dann Blanchard, who fought off a breaking ball and looped it over shortstop Koby Croft.
“That was one of the better curveballs I threw all night,” Larsen said. “He stuck the bat out there. I left it a little bit up and he put a decent swing on it. I think it was a two-strike count and he just stuck the bat out there and he got a hit.”
The Royals didn’t get another hit until Ethan Opp singled to lead off the seventh against reliever Jackson Schaubel.
The Scarlets, meanwhile, were locked in offensively from the jump, and scored all five of their runs in the bottom of the first inning on five hits. They also stole four bases in that inning and benefited from three Royals errors.
Ben Egan’s two-run single up the middle with two outs padded the lead.
The Royals finally scored in the seventh when Opp came around on a Michael Morehead single.
“From the first pitch to the last one we were all up — on offense and defense,” Larsen said.
“This is definitely a confidence booster. It’s nice knowing we can beat (the Royals). They’re a solid team. But we know we can go out and do this every day. It’s definitely good for our team morale.”
The game served as the ninth annual Legion Against Cancer fundraiser. The event began with a game between Billings’ Class A feeder teams, in which the Blue Jays defeated the Cardinals 9-5.
Players wore special jerseys and honored family members and friends who have been afflicted by cancer or other illnesses. All funds raised will benefit the Billings Clinic Foundation’s Kelker’s Kids and Piggy Bank funds, which help families of children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
Before the game, the Mike Kuehn Memorial Scholarship awards were presented to Blanchard and Royals teammate Connor Hunter. The $500 gifts are designated for continuing education.
With the victory, the Scarlets improved to 6-3 overall and 1-1 in conference play. The Royals dipped to 5-4 and 1-1.