Glasgow Reds Advance To State
Team Places Second At District To Qualify For State Tournament In Great Fll
By J Levi Burnfin Courier Sports
Published: Wednesday, July 25th, 2012
Finding pitching has been the biggest challenge for Reds head coach Jack Sprague. It's not that they don't have quality pitchers – Walt Dalbey, Andy Gardner and Tom Leland, among others, have been good – it's that they have so few experienced pitchers.
"I'm worried about running out of pitchers every single game," said Sprague.
With a small number of experienced pitchers on the roster, quality innings are at a maximum. That was never more true than at the Eastern A District Tournament in Lewistown on July 19-22.
The Reds had just lost to Laurel, eventual tournament champions, in a semi-final game that could have sent them to the Montana-Alberta Class A State Tournament. They had already played three games in three days, a 10-2 win over Sidney on Thursday, a 17-13 win over Lewistown on Friday and the 7-3 loss to Laurel on Saturday. Their ace, Dalbey, had already pitched twice and their bullpen was depleted after Tom Leland went down with an elbow injury and the bullpen had to finish the Laurel game.
And to top it all off, they were facing elimination in a game against tournament-host Lewistown.
That's why Grant Legare's performance was so impressive. Legare took the ball with two imperative goals: 1. win the game to continue their season and 2. throw a complete game because they had very few other pitching options.
That is exactly what he did. Even if it didn't start off the way he wanted. Legare allowed five runs through four innings and it looked as though the Reds were in trouble.
"[The pressure] was intense in the beginning, but . . . Zach [Rodgers] hit a three-run double and that really fired it up and took the pressure off, a lot," said Legare.
The hit that Legare mentioned was actually a single with an error by the left fielder that allowed Rodgers to move to second. But the result was the same, three runs scored to tie the game 5-5.
Legare pitched his best after that. He only allowed five base runners from the sixth inning on, and only one reached third base. That proved to be the only thing keeping the Reds' season alive as the score remained tied into extra innings.
But in the bottom of the tenth, Gardner sent the Reds off with a 6-5 win and on to state with a walk-off double to score Leland, who had reached on an error.
Legare pitched the ten-inning complete game and increased his record to 6-2 for the season. He struck out five and only walked two. But his most impressive stat was the 146 pitches he threw during the game. He usually only gets up to around 90 pitches during his regular season starts.
"I was feeling really good," said Legare. "The first four [innings] were a little sore but after that, my arm got warmed up. And by the tenth inning, I was throwing better than I was in the first."
The win also sent the Reds into the tournament championship game, where Laurel awaited. But the Reds were hurting from the four games in three days and were short on pitchers. And, since Laurel hadn't lost during the tournament, Glasgow would have to beat them on Sunday, stay another night in Lewistown and beat them again on Monday to win district and earn a #1 seed at state.
So, Sprague and his coaches made a strategic decision to sit many of their starters to give them rest. Laurel kept their starting lineup in the game and ran off to the 17-3 win.
"We played well enough to be at state, that's all that matters," said Sprague, who mentioned the two losses to Laurel and a few mental errors during the tournament.
He was right. The goal was to compete for a state title, not win a district tournament and blow out their pitchers' arms in the process.
Still, the Reds will most likely be without the pitching services of Leland, with the elbow injury, at state. He will play in the field at either third or first depending on the severity of his injury.
That leaves the Reds with a shorter rotation and bullpen.
"There are no options now, [pitchers] either come in and get guys out or we lose," said Sprague. "It's grow up time."
Dalbey will be on the mound for the Reds in the first game and depending how that game plays out, Gardner, Legare and Robbie Henville will be the next three scheduled starters for the Reds.
In their first game at 4 p.m. on Thursday, July 23, the Reds will face the one-seed from the west region, the Mission Valley Mariners.
The Reds and Mission Valley have not faced each other this season. The Reds have faced three teams in the tournament, though. The Reds are 0-4 against the Laurel Dodgers, 0-1 against the Gallatin Valley Outlaws and 2-0 against tournament-host Great Falls Electrics.
The Reds have not faced three other teams in the tournament: the Belgrade Bandits, the Libby Loggers and the Vauxhall Spurs.
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