BILLINGS — There will be baseball in Billings on Friday night.
The Billings Mustangs will not open the Pioneer League season versus Great Falls at 6:35 p.m. at Dehler Park because Minor League Baseball is on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, but a classic crosstown rivalry will play out.
Round three of a scheduled seven-round bout between the Royals (3-7, 1-3) and Scarlets (7-4, 3-1) is set for Friday night at Pirtz Field at 7 p.m.
And while it won’t be Major League Baseball prospects squaring off against each other, Billings’ two American Legion teams hope to entertain baseball fans in the Magic City.
“This summer will be really good for American Legion baseball. We will be the only baseball in town,” said Royals first-year coach David Swecker. “Our kids play really hard, people who watch the Mustangs will be entertained to watch the Royals and Scarlets for sure.”
The Royals and Scarlets played each other on back-to-back days to open the season May 30-31 at Pirtz. The Royals won 11-1 in six innings in the first game and then the Royals rallied from a four-run deficit to win 14-10 the following day.
“You definitely look past that. You don’t dwell on things that happened in the past,” said Scarlets coach Adam Hust. “We are coming off a good two-game (sweep) against Helena last Sunday. We played good. Our pitching and defense was decent and did a good job and our hitting was good enough to keep us in a couple games and get us a win.”
Left-hander Chase Hinkley is scheduled to pitch for the Royals. Righty Jackson Schaubel will get the call for the Scarlets. It is a conference game.
The Scarlets enter the contest on a three-game winning streak. The Royals downed Kalispell 6-5 on June 13 to snap a five-game skid.
“Every game we play is a new game. We take it one game at a time,” Swecker said. “We are both different teams than we were. The Scarlets are playing really well and on a three-game winning streak and we’re just fighting and trying to figure it out.”
The teams will play each other four more times this season — all at Dehler Park. Those games are scheduled for July 10, July 16, July 21 and July 30 (Senior Night).
Billings American Legion Baseball will also host the annual Goldsmith Gallery Tournament at Dehler and Pirtz from June 25-28.
Usually the Scarlets and Royals play a majority of their games at Dehler. On May 1 when the BALB received permission to start practicing from Yellowstone County's public health department and Billings Parks and Recreation after the coronavirus shutdown, chairman Jeff Ballard announced they’d be playing most of their games this season at Pirtz Field for financial reasons as many of the program’s fundraising activities were affected by the virus.
BALB pays rent to the Mustangs to use Dehler, but there is not a fee from the city to use Pirtz, where the Legion teams are the primary user, Ballard said in May.
Both the Scarlets and Royals look forward to the upcoming games at Dehler.
“Obviously it’s a beautiful stadium and beautiful facility. The playing surface is amazing,” said Hust. “We love being there. It’s been our home for years and years. We are looking forward to being out there in that atmosphere. With the weather being nicer in July, helpfully we get some good crowds and people come out there and watch some good baseball and support the youth of Billings.”
“We are very excited to get on Dehler and play the tourney and the Royals-Scarlets games,” Swecker said. “You can’t replace the atmosphere Dehler has and the field and the stands. Pirtz is nice, but you can’t replace the atmosphere at Dehler and the big scoreboard.”
The State AA tourney will conclude the season Aug. 5-9 in Helena, but before that the Royals and Scarlets hope to enjoy the season and build toward playing their best baseball.