LEWISTOWN — The Helena Senators needed a test.
The Class AA team had been cruising along early in the American Legion baseball season against Class A competition.
Combine a scrappy opponent in the Lewistown Redbirds and missing some of their players due to the prom, the Senators found their test.
And they passed.
The Senators swept the Redbirds on the road Saturday to stay unbeaten. They won the first nonconference game 11-2, but had to rally to win the nightcap 13-8.
“We had a little adversity in some of those innings,” coach Jon Burnett said. “Our pitchers struggled a little bit and left some balls up. And they did a good job of hitting it.”
Several Helena starters were missing, so Burnett needed to call up Helena Reps players to fill out the lineup. Ethan Keintz was standout at the plate and pitched, and Cy Miller was productive both ways, too.
Keintz was 5-for-7 on the day and pitched three innings over the course of two games. Miller pitched four relief innings and had clutch hits.
“It goes to program depth,” Burnett said. “The guys know they need to be ready and be the next guy up when called.”
Hunter Kirkpatrick, a regular shortstop, caught both games since the other two catchers were unavailable or nursing soreness. He not only handled five pitchers through the day, but went 4-for-6 with four runs scored and three RBIs.
"He really stepped up and did a great job," Burnett said.
Zach Spiroff was the most consistent hitter for the Senators in the close game with three hits. Kirkpatrick and Keintz had two each. Conor McCarvel and Miller drove in two runs apiece.
Some defensive breakdowns helped the Redbirds stay in the game and they lead by a run after four innings. It was the first time the Senators trailed this season.
“We told the guys not to take their defense (mistakes) and bring it to their at-bats,” Burnett said. “We had a couple innings that didn’t happen, but they battled back.”
The first game was a simpler contest as the Senators pounded out 13 hits on the way to the nine-run win. Keintz led the way with three hits, while Riley Chisholm, Kadyn Craigle, Keintz, Kirkpatrick and Spiroff had two each.
A back-to-back triple by Kirkpatrick and an inside-the-park home run by Spiroff highlighted the Helena offense.
Tayler Carlson started on the mound with two strong innings and gave way to Miller, who threw four strong innings. Keintz finished.
“Collectively, it has been going great offensively,” Spiroff said. “Practices have been great. We’ve been working hard. It was a good time to have a challenging game. Having a close game brings out the best in everyone. Pressure now will help us against AA teams down the road.”
That next challenge comes at 3 p.m. Sunday at home when the Senators face the first AA team of the season in Great Falls.
"We have a deep team, and next guy will be ready," Spiroff said. "I think that will help us to do well."