July 24th, 2024

Elks clinch, Monarchs await fate

By Sean Rooney on July 20, 2017.

NEWS PHOTO SEAN ROONEY - Brady Close (right) of the Moose Monarchs fields a ground ball ahead of Lethbridge Elks runner Torrin Vaselenak during an American Legion conference game Wednesday at Athletic Park.


It was a must-win scenario for the Medicine Hat Moose Monarchs, but the Lethbridge Elks had plenty to play for too.

With playoff spots in the Montana-Alberta American Legion AA conference on the line Wednesday at Athletic Park, it was the Elks who brought their best from the start in an 18-10 win.

“We got our pass to the State tournament, so we’ve got to keep the momentum going now,” said Elks pitcher Torrin Vaselenak.

Medicine Hat was chasing Lethbridge for the seventh spot but now has to hope the ninth-place Billings Scarlets — who have two games left to play — don’t pass them for the final playoff berth.

Seeing run after run cross the plate early was no easy pill to swallow, especially for the Monarchs’ 10 graduating players.

“That first inning was a little deflating,” said relief pitcher Cole Schreiber, among those who played their final home game with the Monarchs. “After that we started putting up some runs, but the eight they got against me, that hurt for sure. If I could minimize that to a couple, we give ourselves a better chance to win.”

Vaselenak threw four innings of relief, giving up three runs on five hits and coaxing a game-ending double play. He also went 4-for-5 with two doubles and a triple, driving in four runs.

“Obviously it’s not that ideal when we had that big of a lead off the start, but we did what we had to to get the win,” he said.

The win guarantees Lethbridge (7-9) a spot in the State AA tournament next week in Bozeman. Medicine Hat finishes 5-13, and could fall as far back as last in the 10-team conference. The Scarlets, 4-12, play their final two games against 7-7 Great Falls. They’ve got the tiebreaker over Medicine Hat on runs for and against, so even one win would do it.

“The fat lady hasn’t started signing yet, but she’s humming,” said Monarchs head coach Skyler Stromsmoe. “We’re still hoping.”

Elks batters hit three singles but an error helped them to a four-run first inning, taking control before the Monarchs even got to bat. Jack Suhai got the home side on the board with a two-run home run in the second, but Lethbridge responded with an eight-run third highlighted by Wyatt Tomalty’s bases-clearing triple, then Penner’s triple which was misjudged off the bat by right-fielder Suhai, who jumped but couldn’t reach the hard-hit ball over his head.

Brendan Kuhn and Alex Andres also homered for Medicine Hat, which went 2-7 down the stretch to miss the post-season.

Nathan Schlachter’s two-out RBI double in the fifth prevented the mercy rule from being invoked, which gave the Monarchs some momentum.

Just not enough.

“The biggest thing is we gave ourselves a chance,” said Schreiber. “We fought back, it just didn’t work out. What can you do, that’s baseball.”

Lethbridge closes out its regular season by hosting Missoula Saturday and Sunday.

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