BILLINGS — Pitching and defense have been the name of the game for the Billings Royals this season.
Those two things have propelled the Royals to the No. 1 overall seed at this weekend’s State AA American Legion baseball tournament in Billings.
“Our top-flight arms throw a lot of strikes and make guys put the ball in play. It keeps the defense engaged and keeps them playing baseball," Royals head coach David Swecker said. "When you start walking guys and having long at-bats, the defense kind of falls asleep.”
“We’ve got a really deep pitching staff, but honestly it comes down to just playing defense," said Royals pitcher and outfielder Lance Schaaf. "I think we have a really good defense and guys know what to do with the ball when they get it, so you aren’t going to score a lot of runs.”
The Royals have a talented, experienced rotation, but it’s the opposite behind the dish. Two of their three catchers came into the season without previous experience calling the game.
“All season long, all three of them have just gotten better and better behind the dish. Going into the state tournament we trust all three of them given the situation to give us their best effort and do a great job back there," Swecker said.
The Royals have seen a steady climb in their three seasons under Swecker, placing fourth then second. They’re hoping a little home cooking can aid them in a push for a state title.
”There’s a lot of people that support us, so it would just be cool for them to see what we can do. And the Scarlets are here, too, so it would be cool if we matched up somewhere," Schaaf said.
“They’re a pretty fun group to watch. We’re aggressive, we like to run. We like to keep things going and play fast baseball. I think fans like to watch that, as well," said Swecker.
Billings plays its first-round game against eight-seed Bozeman at 4 p.m. on Wednesday at Dehler Park.