Having wrapped up the conference season on July 5 with a doubleheader sweep of the Powell Pioneers, the Lovell Mustangs embarked on a grueling road trip that included a four-day tournament in Billings over the weekend and doubleheaders this week in Laurel, Cody, Miles City and Glendive — a stretch of 13 games in eight days.
As the Mustang coaches attempted to stretch their pitching staff to make it through the rugged stretch, they allowed 39 runs in five games during the Billings Halos Tournament, though, in general, the team played better as the tournament went on.
Miles City opener
The Mustangs opened the tournament in Billings Thursday afternoon with a 13-6 loss to Miles City. Lovell led 2-1 after two innings, but Miles City got to Lovell starter Riley Hill for six runs in the third inning and three more in the fourth, though Lovell did hang tough, plating three runs in the third and one in the fourth to trail 10-6 before Miles City put the game away with three more in the top of the sixth.
Miles City out-hit Lovell 17-6 and took advantage of six walks, as well. Hill pitched through five innings, allowing 10 runs, Wyatt Horrocks part of one inning and Tanner Brinklow a full inning.
Jeremy Schneider had two hits in four trips to the plate for the Mustangs, and Hill helped himself with a three-run home run in the third. Gehrig Sweat also drove in two runs for the Mustangs with a first-inning single that scored Will Lillard and Justin Bacus.
The tournament host Billings Halos shut out the Mustangs 9-0 in game two Thursday afternoon as Halos pitchers combined for a no-hitter over five innings. Brinklow took the mound for Lovell after finishing the first game and threw four innings, allowing nine runs on 10 hits and four walks.
Two Mustangs did reach base on walks, but the Halos hurlers recorded 12 strikeouts in five innings.
Loss to Blue Jays
The Mustangs played better ball on Friday in a 10-5 loss to the Billings Blue Jays, digging themselves a 7-0 hole in the top of the first inning but outscoring the Blue Jays 5-3 the rest of the game.
Dawson Forcella started the game for the Mustangs on the mound and couldn’t find the target, allowing seven runs while walking six and allowing one hit in two-thirds of an inning. Sweat relieved, hitting three consecutive batters, and then Bacus finished out the inning and the rest of the game, allowing three runs in 5 1/3
innings of work on five
hits and one walk, striking out seven.
Lovell responded with four runs in the bottom of the first to stay in the game trailing 7-4. Sweat led off with a single, advanced on a Cole Wambeke single, stole third and then stole home. Forcella singled, and Wambeke scored on a Jeremy Schneider single. Bacus singled to load the bases, and Forcella scored on a wild pitch. Trey Dickerson scored Schneider on a sacrifice bunt for the fourth Mustang run of the inning.
Bacus threw four shutout innings as Billings clung to the three-run lead, but the Blue Jays plated three runs in the top of the sixth on three doubles. Lovell added a run in the bottom of the sixth on a Sweat single.
Lovell fell to the Jackson Giants 1-0 Saturday afternoon as Mustang starter Dakota Bond and Giant starter King engaged in an old-fashioned pitching duel. Bond allowed just one run on three hits and a walk over seven innings, and King blanked the Mustangs on four hits and a walk over seven frames.
The game was 0-0 until the top of the sixth, when Jackson scored on a pair of singles around a ground out. Lovell got out of the jam with an inning-ending double play but couldn’t push a run across in the final two frames.
Sweat, Schneider, Bacus and Hill picked up a hit each (Hill a double) in the loss.
Lovell faced Miles City again on Sunday and fell 6-4. Details were not available.
The Mustangs played at Laurel Monday night and at Cody Tuesday, facing the Cody B team. They then traveled to Miles City Wednesday and are scheduled to wrap up the long road stretch with a doubleheader in Glendive today (Thursday) at 1 and 3 p.m.
Lovell dropped both games to Laurel Monday, 23-0 and 11-1, but on Tuesday the Mustangs broke the seven-game losing skid by stopping the Cody B team 13-8 in game one of a doubleheader in Cody. Cody prevailed in game two, 15-5.
By David Peck