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State baseball: Belgrade, Florence, Butte, Hamilton win to advance to semifinal round

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Posted at 4:58 PM, May 16, 2024

MISSOULA — The first round of the second state baseball tournament in Montana history got underway Thursday in Missoula at Ogren Park at Allegiance Field. Eight teams entered the tournament, which will run through Saturday.

The first pair of games featured Belgrade beating Whitefish 8-7 while Florence defeated Eureka 11-7. Reigning state champion Polson was unseated later Thursday, falling 12-6 to Butte in their first-round matchup. Hamilton took down Columbia Falls 10-7 in the final quarterfinal to round out the night.

PHOTOS: FIRST ROUND ACTION AT THE STATE BASEBALL TOURNAMENT

Belgrade 8, Whitefish 7, 8 innings

Brayton Van Dyken's bunt with the bases loaded proved to be the difference as the Belgrade Panthers rallied to defeat the Whitefish Bulldogs 8-7 in extra innings.

With the game tied 5-5 after seven, Whitefish jumped out fast in the top half of the eighth. Tait Orme drove in Calvin Eisenbarth on a single to make it 6-5, and Michael Miller's sacrifice fly to bring home CJ Thew made it a two-run advantage for the Bulldogs heading into the bottom half.

But Belgrade was able to respond the entire game and the final frame was no different. Mason Zimmer and Andrew Hazen started the inning off with singles, and Ryas Olson cashed in the runners with a single that tied the game after an error in the outfield allowed time for the second runner to score.

Quickly Belgrade loaded up the bases with just one out in the inning and Van Dyken sealed the deal with a perfectly placed bunt that brought home the winning run that was impossible for Whitefish to field in time.

Van Dyken finished the game with a pair of RBIs, went 2 for 4 at the plate and also scored a run.

Whitefish started the game with a 2-0 lead as Avery Caton singled home Christian Schwaderer who tripled to start the inning, then Reyd Hobart hit a sacrifice fly to bring home another run.

The Panthers showcased their mettle from there, as Zimmer would drive in Gage Banks in the bottom half as Belgrade responded.

Keenan Kraft tied it in the bottom of the third by driving in Olson. The teams would go back and forth from there, until Whitefish again took a 5-4 lead in the top of the sixth when Calvin Eisenbarth stole home. But in the bottom of the seventh, again Belgrade came up clutch as Kraft doubled and Banks drove him home to tie it and force the extra inning.

Banks picked up the win on the mound for the Panthers as well. Belgrade will take on Florence in the semifinal round on Friday at 4 p.m. Whitefish will take on Eureka in a loser-out contest at 11 a.m. on Friday.

Florence 11, Eureka 7

The Florence Falcons held off a stingy Eureka Lions squad, 11-7, to secure the second semifinal spot of the tournament.

Florence vs. Eureka baseball
Florence defeated Eureka in the first round of the state baseball tournament at Ogren Park at Allegiance Field in Missoula on May 16, 2024.

Eureka jumped out and led 2-0 after the top of the first inning, but Florence responded thanks to a two-RBI single from Wes Potter to tie it 2-2 after one. In the second inning, the Falcons blew the doors open with a five-run outburst, highlighted by a bases-clearing double from Isaiah Testerman.

The Lions chipped away from there as Florence's bats went quiet and Eureka found a groove. Tyce Van Orden and Tristan Butts drove in runs in the fifth inning to get Eureka within 8-6, then the Lions made it a one-run game in the top of the sixth inning when Butts hit a sacrifice fly that drove in Tristan Libby.

But in the bottom half, Florence found its offense again and scored three more runs to make it 11-7, as Mason Arlington hit an inside-the-park home run that scored him and another runner to give the Falcons breathing room.

Then in the top of the seventh inning, Jake Roth closed the show on the mound for Florence as he struck out the side to seal the win.

Trapper Oster earned the win on the mound for Florence. The Falcons will take on Belgrade in the semifinal round on Friday while Eureka will battle Whitefish in a loser-out contest.

Butte 12, Polson 6

The Butte Bulldogs came out hot and didn't look back as they toppled the defending state champion Polson Pirates, 12-6, in the opening round.

Butte vs. Polson baseball
Butte defeated Polson 12-6 in the first round of the state baseball tournament at Ogren Park at Allegiance Field in Missoula on May 16, 2024.

Butte wasted no time getting started, scoring three runs in the top of the first inning as Quinn Cox and Logan Carden hit back-to-back triples to get Butte's offense going. Then the Bulldogs extended the lead to 6-0 in the top of the second after Cayde Stajcar hit a two-run triple and later scored on a wild pitch.

Polson didn't quit though as the Pirates had a response in the bottom of the second. The Pirates quickly cashed in four runs to trim the deficit to 6-4, an inning highlighted by Espn Fisher hitting a two-RBI triple.

Butte's bats stayed hot though, as the Bulldogs added breathing room with a four-run third inning. Errors hurt Polson in that frame while Will Stepan and Cox each drove in runs.

The fourth and fifth innings were quiet from both teams as Butte maintained a lead, then the Bulldogs tacked on two more runs in the top of sixth to help pad the lead as Stajcar hit a two-run single. Polson added two runs to stay in the game after triples from Cody Haggard and Landon Shoemake, who drove in Haggard and then was brought home on a sacrifice fly from Cole Wadsworth.

But that was as close as it got for Polson as Butte sealed the win by closing it out in the seventh. Stajcar finished the day 3 for 3 with 4 RBIs and three runs scored while Cox went 2 for 3 with a double, triple, two walks and two RBIs.

Stepan also went 2 for 4 with a RBI while scoring three runs for Butte while Derek Dunmire picked up the win for the Bulldogs on the mound.

The Bulldogs will take Hamilton in the 6:30 p.m. semifinal on Friday, while Columbia Falls will take on Polson in a loser-out game at 1:30 p.m.

Hamilton 10, Columbia Falls 7

The Hamilton Broncs rounded out the final game of the tournament with a 10-7 win over Columbia Falls to advance to the semifinals.

Hamilton vs. Columbia Falls baseball
Hamilton defeated Columbia Falls in the first round of the state baseball tournament at Ogren Park at Allegiance Field in Missoula on May 16, 2024.

It was a dogfight early for the Broncs as the Wildcats came out firing to start. Columbia Falls pitcher Kellen Kroger sent down his first six batters he faced as he was sharp early, and the Wildcats jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first inning as Kroger hit a RBI-double which was followed up by a RBI-triple by Cody Schweikert.

The Wildcats loaded the bases but a double play by Hamilton second baseman Boedy Tadvick prevented more damage.

Hamilton put up three runs in the top of the third inning as the Broncs found their bats. Andrew Ricklefs, Jackson Lubke and Conner Ekin all drove in runs for the Broncs, but Columbia Falls responded in the bottom half as AC Chilson answered with a two-RBI triple to make it 4-3 after three.

After tying it up at 4-4 in the fourth, the Broncs blew the game open in the fifth inning with a six-run frame. Up 5-4 with the bases juiced, Atticus Southwell smacked a deep fly to dead-center that brought everyone home and landed Southwell on second, before he was quickly brought home on a triple by Toby DeMoss.

Columbia Falls picked up a pair of RBIs from Kroger and Schweikert in the sixth inning and one from Connor Venezio in the seventh to tighten the deficit, but it was too much to overcome as the Broncs salted away the win to advance. Cash Lawrence picked up the win on the mound for Hamilton.

Hamilton will take on Butte in the semifinal round on Friday, while Columbia Falls will battle Polson in a loser-out game.