Five weeks ago, after a loss to the Rapid City Hardhats in at the South Dakota Tournament, the Helena Senators AA Legion baseball team slipped to two games under .500, at 12-14.
Then the Senators went on a tear, ripping off a nine-game win streak and winning 14 of their next 16, climbing to 26-16.
After losing the next four, Helena won five in a row — including three straight against the Billings Royals — and finished the regular season 12 games over .500 at 35-23, for their best record in several years.
The Senators enter the American Legion Class AA Montana/Alberta State Tournament on as the No. 4 seed, with a 12-10 mark in league play.
“We have played well down the stretch, and we hope to continue that,” Senators coach Dave Thennis said.
The tourney’s top three seeds are Missoula (20-2), the Billings Scarlets (16-6) and the Lethbridge Elks (15-7).
Helena is batting a healthy .320 as a team, with seven .300 hitters who have accumulated at least 100 official at-bats.
Second baseman Colin Sassano is the team batting champ with a fine .386 average, and also paces the club with 76 hits (197 at bats), 55 runs and a .513 slugging percentage. Sassano ranks No. 2 with 15 doubles, two triples (tie) and 43 RBIs; and is third with a .446 on base percentage.
Outfielder Ryan Arntson is runner-up at .356, and is high with 20 stolen bases. He is second with 60 hits, and No. 4 with 37 runs. Shortstop Kienan Stief is No. 3 with a .342 mark, while leading the Senators with 54 RBIs and 16 doubles. Stief is also No. 2 with a .448 OBP, .460 slugging and 38 runs (tied).
Rounding out the .300 hitters, are Danny Burton at .336, Payton Pappas at .328, Koby Griffin with a .314 mark, and Ray Moore at .303. Burton leads the club with a .476 OBP, while Griffin is second with 38 runs (tie). Payton is No. 3 with 34 RBIs, 11 doubles and two triples (tie).
Four other Senators with fewer than 100 at-bats are also hitting .300, including Ryan Dorvall (.347), Jackson Maynard (.337), Eamonn Byrne (.333) and Henry Bowers (.304). Dorvall paces the squad with three triples, and is No. 2 with 12 steals.
Dorvall leads the pitching staff with an 8-1 record, followed by Henry Bowers at 5-1 (two saves) and Tanner McMahon at 5-3 (two saves).
Carter Pappas (3-3, two saves) owns the lowest ERA, at 1.61, and Dorvall is next with a 2.62 ERA. Koby Griffin (2-6, 4.69 ERA) is the strikeout leader, with 45 whiffs in 60 innings. Payton Pappas possesses a 2.90 ERA.
Newcomers up from the Reps, Tayler Carlson is 3-0, and Andrew Rosston has a 2.12 ERA.
“I think we bring a good combination of confidence and respect for our opponent,” Thennis said. “All of the teams here are sound baseball teams.”