Already atop the Eastern A standings, the Glasgow Reds are in good position to win the regular season title. However, a 10-game home stand over the next week will go a long way in deciding the conference.
Starting on July 10 with two games against Lewistown, and ending July 18 with two more contests against the Billings Cardinals, the Reds host 10-straight conference games against five opponents. Two-game sets with the Billings Blue Jays, Sidney and Laurel are also scheduled.
With the Reds sitting at 13-5 on the season and only one game ahead of Laurel (12-6), those 10 games will be the deciding stretch for the Reds and the conference.
The Reds could have made things a bit easier on themselves on July 3 in a double header in Laurel, but instead dropped both games, 4-1 in the first game and 5-2 in the night cap.
“Luckily, we’re still in first,” said Manager Jack Sprague. “We dropped two games to Laurel and they turned around and dropped two games to the Blue Jays in Billings. We gave two away and someone else helped us out.”
The Reds did not dwell on the two defeats for long, though, winning four games and the championship at the 1st National Tournament in Williston on Friday through Sunday.
Glasgow jumped out to a nice start with a dominating 11-0 win over Burlington on Friday night. But it was the performance of starter Andy Gardner that stood out to Sprague.
Gardner spent much of the early season trying to come back from a severe leg injury suffered during football in the fall and then also pulled his hamstring in the opposite leg early during baseball. His pitching suffered because of it.
Against Burlington, though, he had his best outing of the season, striking out 10 in a five-inning complete game for the win. He only walked one and allowed two hits.
“His mechanics were cleaner,” said Sprague. “All he did was work on trying to throw strikes, get back into what we want. He did a good job.”
Gardner still wasn’t 100 percent, sitting in the mid-70s instead of mid to upper 80s with his fastball, but was still very effective.
“It gives us yet another option moving forward,” said Sprague.
Gardner’s effort was supported by Keil Krumwiede, who drove in three on 1-for-1 from the plate. Krumwiede was also hit by a pitch and had a sacrifice fly.
The Reds came back for another win on Saturday morning, this time an 8-0 victory over the Williston 15-year-old all-stars. Grant Legare pitched the complete-game shutout, only allowing one hit and striking out four. The Williston staff also only allowed one hit but walked eight and hit several more batters. Sam Schultz picked up the lone hit for the Reds.
In the night cap on Saturday, the Reds ran over Watford City 12-1, hitting two doubles, a triple and a home run in the process. Wacy Ortman hit the round-tripper in the third, scoring Gardner, to give the Reds a 3-0 lead at the time.
Cutter Kolstad threw the seven-inning complete game for the Reds, allowing the single earned run, striking out four and walking two. The win sent the Reds into the tournament championship against the Bismarck Capitals.
Jason Thibault was given the rock for the Reds and showed his dominance, even if it wasn’t quite as spectacular as usual.
“Jason’s been kind of dominating on the mound with his velocity,” said Sprague. “He’s been overpowering because there’s not many guys throwing like that. So when [other teams] see him, it takes awhile (to adapt.) Those guys battled right out of the box. He had to work the whole game. They were fouling balls off. So it was really good for him and really good for our team.”
Thibault was still too good for Bismarck, though, earning the five-inning complete-game win, striking out five and only allowing two earned in the 12-2 victory, bringing the Reds’ overall record to 34-6 on the season.
Gardner, Tom Leland and Ortman provided the offensive firepower, driving in seven runs combined. Gardner went 1-for-3 with a home run and two RBIs. Leland was 3-for-3 with a triple and a double and three RBIs. Ortman had a pair of triples, one RBI and one run during his 2-for-2 day.
Gardner’s home run also helped the Reds win the home-run poker award by the tournament, where each team is given two playing cards for each home run and the team that ends the tournament with the best poker hand wins. The Reds finished with six cards for three home runs and brought back the award with king-high.
The Reds also came home with several individual awards, such as overall MVP, which went to Leland, offensive MVP, which went to Ortman, and the Hot Wheels award, which is a competition where each team designates runners to run around the bases in the fastest time possible. Chase Fossum and Ryan Padden ran for the Reds.
Those hot wheels were useful for Fossum on Monday during the B-team’s games, when he hit an inside-the-park home run.
Sprague said he saw a lot of improvement from the B-team on Monday.
“[Jake] Page was outstanding,” he said. “[Keil] Krumwiede same thing. When they play down with kids their same age, they’re just lightyears ahead of them. So that was fun to see.”