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Big Horn baseball finding its swing on the road

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Lone Peak High School's new baseball program is showing promise. PHOTO BY DAVE PECUNIES

LPHS will have to wait until 2024 to play in Big Sky, as MHSA’s inaugural season wraps up next weekend 

By Jack Reaney STAFF WRITER 

On Tuesday, Lone Peak High School’s first-ever baseball team will “host” its final home game against the Belgrade High School Panthers—in Belgrade.  

This snowy winter complicated the Montana High School Association’s inaugural baseball league, especially in Big Sky where the Big Horns weren’t able to start practicing outdoors until after their first game. The Big Horns traveled to dry fields in Columbus, Laurel, Belgrade, Helena and Butte. On Thursday, April 27, the Big Horns played their “home opener”—but it was at Medina Field in Belgrade.  

With the Big Horns’ final home game on Tuesday, May 9, Big Sky Community Park still won’t be ready for a hometown high school showcase.  

Coach John McGuire explained that decisions and field reservations must be made in advance.  

“It was a super late, super snowy winter,” he told EBS in a phone call. “It was very hard to get the field to a point where we can get rolling consistently and be confident it won’t be overwhelmed by any precipitation… If left field takes any more rain, it’s going to be underwater again.” 

The Big Horns played at “home” at Medina Field in Belgrade. COURTESY OF JOSIE JOHNSON

McGuire added that the softball-oriented diamond at Community Park lacks a pitcher’s mound, and the field hasn’t been in good enough condition to build one.  

“Using the Belgrade field has been a blessing,” McGuire said. “Logistically it was just a lot more feasible.” 

He also thanked the Belgrade Bandits American Legion program for hosting Lone Peak games.  

He said April 27 was a beautiful day for baseball in Belgrade. The Big Horns earned another junior varsity win—the JV squad earned its second victory over Columbus High School, this time blowing out the Cougars, 15-1.  

Eighth-grader Sid Morris pitched a complete game, allowing only three hits and striking out as many. Of course, Morris had plenty of run support.  

Freshman Brady Johnson swung a hot bat, going four-for-four with a double and four runs batted in. Sophomore Walker Bagby was three-for-three, and freshmen Ian Pecunies and Ebe Grabow both had multiple hits.  

“Our young core continues to impress and grow as a team,” McGuire wrote to EBS. In the season preview, McGuire pointed out that the current freshman class is the first group to have played together since Little League on the Big Sky Royals.  

Even varsity, which fell 13-3 in its previous matchup with the Cougars, held a 2-1 lead into the fourth inning. McGuire called it the Big Horns’ best baseball of the season, with big hits from seniors Max Romney and Pierce Farr.  

Unfortunately, clutch hitting from “the high-powered Columbus offense” got a fourth inning rally going and the Cougars ran away with the game, McGuire wrote.  

The Big Horns returned to Medina Field on Friday, May 5, to play against Butte Central Catholic High School. The Big Horns continued to heat up.  

Brady Johnson makes an infield turn against Butte Central Catholic. PHOTO BY DAVE PECUNIES

“As you’d expect, boys are improving dramatically once we were able to get outside on playing fields,” coach McGuire wrote. The Big Horns began practicing at Community Park last week.  

The varsity half was the most competitive effort in its short history, resulting in a “nail biter” loss to the Maroons, 5-4. McGuire is hopeful that on Thursday, May 11, the Big Horns can get their first varsity win in a rematch in Butte.  

Trailing by four, the Big Horns sparked a fourth-inning rally with RBIs from freshman Oliver McGuire, freshman Eli Gale and senior Pierce Farr. The Big Horns managed four hits and four runs, but Maroons’ senior pitcher Rye Doherty struck out 14 and finished a complete game.  

Oliver McGuire and freshman Ebe Grabow pitched for Lone Peak. McGuire went four innings, allowing two hits and four runs. The Maroons made good use of their baserunners, stealing eight bases to manufacture runs.  

Varsity will finish its season in Lewistown on Saturday, May 13 with make-up games against Sidney and East Helena. Still winless, the Big Horns will not qualify for the state tournament in Butte which begins May 18.  

A strong JV future 

Freshman Ebe Grabow throws a pitch in the varsity game. PHOTO BY DAVE PECUNIES

In Friday’s junior varsity game, Lone Peak prospects continued to show promise. They earned another win, this time in dramatic walk-off fashion against the Maroons.  

Morris pitched four innings, striking out three while allowing three hits and three runs. Junior Aidan Germain added two innings of scoreless relief.  

In the third inning, Gale and Oliver McGuire had RBIs in a three-run Big Horn rally. The game was tied at three, heading into the final inning.  

In the bottom of the seventh, Gale raced home on a wild pitch to score the winning run. A sizable crowd of Big Horn fans were on hand to celebrate, coach McGuire wrote. He added the Big Horns played their best baseball of the season on Friday, showing continuous improvement. 

While Big Sky baseball fans will have to save their peanuts and Cracker Jacks until 2024, another year of development promises even stronger baseball when Big Sky Community Park eventually sees its first pitch of high school ball.  

“We’re gonna be good,” McGuire said. “We’ve got some good players in the pipeline.” 

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