The second time’s a charm.
The expression claims the third time, of course, but the Helena Senators’ Jackson Thennis knew it was too late in the game to wait.
Heading into the bottom of the ninth inning at Kindrick Legion Field, Helena trailed visiting Medicine Hat by four runs. But after Payton Pappas and Chase Rook doubled, Ryan Dorvall reached on a walk, Nick Wrigg rapped a single and Kienan Stief’s ground-ball fielder’s choice plated two more runs. And, suddenly, it was all tied up.
Pinch hitter Henry Bowers was intentionally walked to load the bases with one out, bring up Thennis.
He had been faced with a similar situation in the eighth — the bases juiced with two down — and lined out to end the inning.
“There was only one out this time, and I knew a hard grounder or fly ball to the outfield would score the winning run,” the third baseman said. “So I just wanted to use my hands more and get more solid contact on the ball.”
On the first pitch, Thennis drove a hard grounder to second. As the Moose forced the runner at second, Wrigg raced home with the game winner.
“Baseball is a funny game; you go through spells where nothing goes right and catch every bad break — and that’s what we’ve been going through the last few games,” said coach Dave Thennis, whose Senators improve to 30-18 overall and 4-6 in conference play. “I just kept telling the guys to stay the course, remain positive and sooner or later something will happen.
“Then, in the sixth inning, we got a couple of big hits and you could feel the whole atmosphere change in the dugout.”
Medicine Hat pitcher Mason Close was cruising along with a no-hitter after four innings until it was broken up in the bottom of the fifth with a leadoff single by Thennis.
The Moose (8-5) led 5-1 going into the bottom of sixth before the hosts erupted for five runs, highlighted by Koby Griffin’s two-run triple, and singles by Wrigg, Stief, Thennis, Chase Rook, Danny Burton and Ryan Dorvall.
By the time the dust settled, Helena led 6-5.
The Canadians answered back with three in both the seventh and ninth for an 11-7 advantage prior to the Senators’ dramatic rally.
Helena out-hit the Moose 17-13, led by Rook (double, three RBIs) with four hits, and Burton and Wrigg (two runs, two RBIs) at three base knocks apiece.
“You know, we didn’t have a hit through the first four innings, and then we had 17 in the last five,” the Senators skipper said, shaking his head.
Austin Schibler led Medicine Hat with three hits and two RBIs.
Koby Griffin started on the bump for Helena and worked six innings against a tough Canadian lineup, allowing nine hits and seven earned runs. In the top of the sixth, with runners on second and third and just one out, he fanned the next two batters to get out of the jam.
Kenny Wilson relieved in the seventh, and gave up four hits and three runs to earn the win.
Zach Kunkel was saddled with the loss.
Helena will host Missoula on Friday in the fourth game of a five-game home stand, beginning at 7 p.m. Former Senators player Pat Hurley, a member of the 1968 state championship team, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.