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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Blue Devils riding high into tournament

By Anthony Varriano

Ranger-Review Staff Writer

The Glendive American Legion baseball team is going into its Eastern A District Tournament with some steam as the fourth seed out of seven teams thanks to some extra-inning wins over the Billings Blue Jays in the regular season’s finale at Meissner Field, Friday.

Blue Devils 4, 

Billings Blue Jays 3 (8)

Game one of Friday’s doubleheader required an extra inning to decide, but starting pitcher Cody Rossi tossed all eight innings, allowing two earned runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out 12.

The Blue Devils managed to score the winning run thanks to consecutive singles from Wyatt Buxbaum and Trevor Berreth. Berreth drove in Pacyn Partridge, who singled and stole second base. Berreth was 2-for-4 with two RBI, and Buxbaum was 2-for-4 with a run scored and two RBI. Partridge also had two hits and added two stolen bases.

“I thought we played really well,” head coach Brent Diegel said. “We had some good pitching and some good hitting and we scored runs and took bases when given the opportunity.”

Anthony Lopez took a walk in the fourth and scored after stealing second base. Logan LeProwse singled and stole second right after Lopez, and a single by Buxbaum scored both runners. Buxbaum reached third on a passed ball, and Berreth drove him in with a single to plate Glendive’s three runs in regulation.

Blue Devils 5, 

Billings Blue Jays 4 (10)

Game two took even more extra time, and the Blue Devils had to split pitching duties between starter David Skerritt and Josh Hoffer. Skerritt went four and two-thirds innings allowing three earned runs on eight hits and four walks. He struck out three.

Skerritt was relieved while the Blue Devils were down 4-3, but Hoffer shut down Billings with five and a third innings of no-hit ball. He struck out six, and the only blemish on his line was a hit batter.

Anthony Lopez was the one mauled by his celebrating teammates at home plate in the tenth inning, as he scored the winning run after taking one for the team. Partridge had a hand in the win again, driving a sacrifice fly to right field to score Lopez.

The Blue Devils got a big performance out of their eighth batter, Richie Franks, who finished 4-for-5 with a double, two runs scored and one RBI. Berreth also had a double and RBI, going 2-for-4 with a sacrifice fly.

Rossi had three hits and a run scored, Adrian Valenciano had a hit, a walk and scored a run, and Taylor Conrad was 1-for-1 with a walk and a sacrifice bunt.

Diegel was pleased with his team’s ability to limit the errors in the field and take advantage of scoring opportunities when presented — something he says will have to continue if the Blue Devils are to be one of the last two teams standing in the conference tournament.

“For us, it’s defense and scoring the runs when we have an opportunity. If we can do that we can beat anybody,” he said.

Every Blue Devil is healthy for the tournament, and Diegel will take 17 players to Billings on Wednesday, including Donald Huber, who provides some long relief pitching depth.

Glendive opens the tournament on Thursday at 1 p.m. against the fifth-seeded Billings Cardinals and the winner gets the top-seeded Laurel Dodgers on Friday at 7 p.m. Glendive lost two games by two runs against the Cardinals a month ago, and although Diegel doesn’t know who will start on the mound for him yet, it will be between Rossi and Hoffer. 

Hoffer is likely the team’s best threat against Laurel, as he pitched well against them two weeks ago in a 7-4 loss. Three of those Laurel runs were unearned, though, and Hoffer didn’t allow a lot of hard-hit balls. Rossi allowed six runs in the first inning of the second game of that doubleheader, but settled down nicely after that.

“The thing about Hoffer is he won’t walk anybody…I’ll have to go back to the hitting charts and see, but the way these two are pitching right now, I’d say either of them could be our number one,” Diegel explained.

There’s plenty of parity in the Eastern A this season, as Laurel only beat sixth-ranked Miles City by one run last week, and Glendive has played two one-run games against Laurel this season. 

“Other than Glasgow everyone’s up there with eight wins or more,” Diegel said. 

If the Blue Devils can manage at least a second-place finish in the District Tournament, they’ll qualify for State in Great Falls. It will take four wins to do so.

Reach Anthony Varriano at rrsports@rangerreview.com.

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