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Brewers claim first-half title outright
Helena wraps up Pioneer League North Division, playoff berth
07/27/2013 1:16 AM ET
Michael Ratterree is tied for the Pioneer League lead with 32 RBIs.
Michael Ratterree is tied for the Pioneer League lead with 32 RBIs. (Helena Brewers)

This season, if it hasn't been one thing for the Helena Brewers, it's been another.

In a good way.

A night after a loss by Great Falls assured Helena of a playoff berth, the Brewers locked up the Pioneer League North Division first-half title outright with a 9-7 victory over Billings on Friday.

"Anytime you get to go to the playoffs, it's great. To do it in the first half and know you're going to be there is always a plus," said Brewers manager Tony Diggs, who began his eight-year playing career with Helena in 1989. "It was good last night, even though it wasn't the conventional way in."

The Brewers improved to 21-14 after hitting five home runs -- two by Renaldo Jenkins -- in the victory. They rank fifth in the eight-team league in that category, and the longball has not been a primary focus, Diggs said.

"The keys for us have been solid pitching and solid defense. There've been days with letdowns, but the offense always seems to pick up the pace," he added. "The last few nights, we've been driving in runs, but the pitching has been lax. But when it's going good in all three parts of the game, if one goes lax, the others can pick you up."

Of course, Diggs would like to see everything working at the same time as the postseason approaches.

"In the second half, we're going to focus on consistency, playing the game the way it's supposed to be played," he said. "We want to see the players improve. That's how it is in player development -- you don't want to see anybody breaking down walls. What you want to see is guys improving every day and you want to see the improvement they make over the course of the season."

Michael Ratterree singled twice and scored twice to extend his hitting streak to 16 games, while Adam Giacalone went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer to raise his average to .465.

For Diggs, clinching a trip to the playoffs with the team with which he started his career 24 years ago is a bonus.

"The fact that the guys are playing well is really kudos to them. It's easy for me to write the lineup and tell them to execute plays every day," he said. "But it is really special for me to be back here. I've seen a lot of new faces and I've seen a lot of old faces."

Josh Jackson is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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