Billings, MT - Blake Lillis (W, 2-1) in his third start of the season was in command, allowing just one run in four hits in a career long 5.2 innings, with the lone run coming in the sixth inning. Helena used rallies in the third and fifth innings to take the lead, and put the game on ice with a three run eighth. The Brewers defeated the Billings Mustangs 6-1 to even the series at a game apiece. Helena is now 12-9 and tied with Great Falls for first place in the Northern division.
Helena got the first run of the ballgame in the third thanks to a fundamentally sound rally. Jesus Lujano drew a leadoff walk, and Yeison Coca then singled him up to second. Jean Carmona's ground out moved both runners into scoring position, and Chad McClanahan hit a scorcher off the leg of starter Ricardo Smith that deflected to first. While McClanahan was out at first, Lujano scored, giving Helena the early lead.
The Brewers got two key insurance runs in the fifth, as the inning started with a triple from LG Castillo. The infield came in and Lujano grounded out, but Coca then tripled into the right center field gap, easily scoring Castillo. Carmona then followed with a seeing eye single to right, extending the lead to 3-0.
Lillis faced the minimum in the first inning, as a hit by pitch of Cash Case was erased on an inning ending 6-4-3 double play. He worked around a hit by pitch, walk and an error to keep Billings off the board in the second, and only allowed one runner past second base in the next three innings.
With the 3-0 lead going into the bottom of the sixth, the Mustangs mounted their best chance to tie the game. Lillis allowed back to back singles to start the inning, and a deep fly out from Pabel Manzanero moved both runners into scoring position. Reshard Munroe then grounded a ball back to Lillis, who sprinted home to tag out Case, the lead runner. Because he had reached 90 pitches, Lillis departed for Jenri Montas, who allowed an RBI single to Bren Spillane, and then hit Juan Martinez to put the tying run on base. The crisis was quickly averted as he got a ground out from Michael Spooner to end the inning.
Up 3-1 going into the eighth, the Brewers put the game away with a three run frame, which was highlighted by three Billings throwing errors. McClanahan scored on a throwing error after a David Fry single, and Je'Von Ward and Nick Egnatuk added RBI singles of their own. Montas pitched a scoreless eighth, and Peter Strzelecki closed the game out in the ninths, his fourth straight scoreless appearance.
The Brewers play the rubber game of the series tomorrow, sending Victor Castaneda to the hill. Billings counters with Ricky Salinas, who the Brewers will see for the first time this year. First pitch is at 7:05 PM, with the pregame show hitting the airwaves of helenabrewers.net at 6:45.
Your Helena Brewers return home Saturday for Country Night, presented by US Bank. Fans are encouraged to dress up in country & western attire, and a fireworks show will follow the game, presented by Lewis & Clark Library and Toyota. First pitch is at 7:35 PM. Tickets are available now by visiting helenabrewers.net.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.