GILLETTE, Wyo. — It was the kind of game where both teams played hard, but in the end one of them was going to leave disappointed.
The Billings Royals rallied, but the two-time defending American Legion baseball World Series champion Idaho Falls Bandits prevailed in a hard-fought 4-3 tussle in the undefeated semifinal Friday at the Class AA Northwest Region 7 tourney.
With the win, the Bandits will play in a semifinal/loser-out game against Medford, Oregon, Saturday. The Royals (39-24) will play Cheyenne, Wyoming.
The Royals game is slated to begin at 4 pm Saturday and the semifinal/loser-out at 7 pm However, Billings coach David Swecker said the start times may be adjusted Saturday due to a rainy forecast in Gillette.
Idaho Falls had claimed a 1-0 lead after four innings, but Billings tied it at 1-1 after 4.5 frames.
The Bandits scored twice in the bottom of the fifth for a 3-1 advantage before Billings scored twice in the top of the seventh for a 3-3 tie.
Idaho Falls scored the winning run in the bottom of the seventh.
“It was a battle, two really good teams going at it and wanting to win really bad,” Swecker told The Billings Gazette and 406mtsports.com in a phone interview. “It was a great baseball game and a lot of fun. We came out on the wrong end, but it was a good game.
“It was a great game and could have gone either way at any moment. We had chances. They had chances. Somebody had to lose that baseball game, unfortunately it was us.”
The loss ended a nine-game winning streak for the Royals, who had won their first two contests at regionals and all five games at the State AA tournament.
Owen Doucette hit a two-run double in the top of the seventh for the Royals to score Austin Schaaf and Davis Chakos to tie the game at 3-3.
Idaho Falls answered back in the bottom half of the inning when Chandler Robinson was hit by a pitch. He advanced to second on a bunt single and third on another bunt single before scoring on a throwing error.
Doucette led the Royals offensively, batting 2 for 3 with two doubles and two RBIs. Austin Schaaf, Sy Waldron, Carter Venable and Kruz Slevira all had singles for the Royals, who tallied six hits.
Chakos, Austin Schaaf and Jaiden Turner scored the Royals runs.
Lance Schaaf pitched the first six innings for the Royals, limiting Idaho Falls to four hits and three runs (two earned). He walked four and struck out seven.
Overall, Idaho Falls had six hits. Each team committed two errors. The Royals left eight runners on base and the Bandits six.
The Royals and Cheyenne haven’t played this season.
“We’ll just try to bounce back and play some good baseball and play hard and play fast tomorrow,” said Swecker.