The Glasgow Reds’ mostly sizzling summer of 2013 ends like this: third place among eight teams in Montana-Alberta American Legion Class A Baseball Conference championship tournament.
It was third place with an exclamation point, even if the Big Red Machine sputtered at the end in an 8-1 loss to Belgrade that put the Bandits in the title game against eventual champion Laurel.
This summer goes down as one to remember for the Reds. They went 53-11, winning the Eastern A conference title. That makes more than 90 victories over two seasons.
At State, they placed in the top three for the second straight year after 2012’s runner-up performance. Reds Nation also won its second Team and Fans Sportsmanship Award in a row at State – this coming after the Eastern A District Tournament was yanked from Glasgow to Billings at the last minute due to field condition concerns.
“Wins are great, and as coach if you get the players better, that’s great –but if you make them better citizens, that’s even better,” Reds manager Jack Sprague told The Courier on Tuesday, referring to the sportsmanship award.
After the last game at Helena’s Kindrick Legion Field, Sprague told his players that he was proud of them and that they had “really pushed the program forward even if they they didn’t feel like it at the moment. I told them to carry themselves like a Reds baseball player and not make bad decisions even though they made some poor decisions (mentally and defensively against Belgrade) … They were disappointed in their performance and they should be, but it’s one of the things you have to live with.”
And move on.
The Reds lose seven players to age restrictions, but 25 remain in the program and the roster limit is 18. That means they have enough players to field next year’s club right now.
“I still need to evaluate guys who are coming up, but number-wise we’re doing pretty good,” Sprague said.
So a good foundation seems to be there for the program as Sprague looks to the second year of his three-year contract as skipper. He said having the district tournament shifted to Billings was disappointing, but he thanked the community for its support and said most everything has been “super good.”
“If it keeps working out, I’ll be back,” he said. “What I coach for is the kids. If they want me back, I’ll drive 50 miles each way (from his Wolf Point home) for them forever.”
At State, the Reds went 3-2 over five games– including a 9-0, do-or-die gem Sunday over the champion Laurel Dodgers that put Glasgow in the third place game.
Just a week earlier, Laurel beat the Reds for the Eastern A tournament title. But this time around, Jason Thibault hurled a three-hit, seven strikeout shutout at the Dodgers. Gage Legare and Wacy Ortman each had two hits and two RBI, and Keil Krumweide went 4-for-6 with an RBI.
Earlier on Sunday, starter Andy Gardner struck out 14 Missoula Mavericks and allowed eight hits in a 4-2, complete game victory. Tom Leland went 2-for-4, cracking a two-run homer for both of his RBI. Ortman was 1-for-4 with an RBI single.
Glasgow beat the Northern A champion Lethbridge Miners, 10-5, in its opener – a game that started Thursday and ended Friday due to rain. The Libby Loggers beat the Reds, 5-2, on Saturday.
Sprague commended Thibault and Gardner for their must-win complete games – and Walt Dalbey for wanting to pitch both days of the rain-delayed opener, though he wasn’t as sharp the second day and Lethbridge closed in.
At the plate, Krumwiede progressed all season and was at his best at the end, Sprague said. He also recognized Ortman and Leland as “staples” of the team that played well at State.
Laurel defeated Belgrade, 10-7, for its fourth Montana-Alberta championship in five years as tournament MVP and Reds killer Dakota Cortese went 4-for-5. The Dodgers advance to the Class A Northwest Regional Aug. 9-12 in Wheatland, Wyo.
“To be perfectly honest, if we weren’t going to win, we wanted them to do it and I’m sure they felt the same way about us,” Sprague said of Glasgow’s Eastern A rivals. “They deserved it, they really did.”