Belgrade Bandits 2 (copy)

Belgrade’s Cooper VanLuchene hits a fly ball against Bozeman A earlier this season at Medina Field.

In the regular season’s final weekend, Belgrade manager Johnny Graham thought his team fared well.

Despite two losses Saturday, the Bandits prepared for the upcoming district tournament by facing difficult competition in the Boise Summer Classic Tournament.

“I think it gets us ready for postseason play,” Graham said. “These (teams) are a classification above us. They play clean baseball. They’re physical kids, they got good arms. We got to see all that this weekend, and that was the hope. … We swung the bat well, had some nice outings on the mound.”

Belgrade dropped the opener Saturday 5-2 to the Meridian (Idaho) Rangers and Game 2 to the Shadle Park (Washington) Shockers 7-4. Regardless of the nonconference losses, though, the Bandits had already locked up one of the top two seeds at districts.

Against Meridian, Belgrade fell behind early and never led. After the score was tied in the third inning, the Rangers added a run in each of their next three turns at bat. In five innings, starter Marcos Verdeja only allowed two earned runs, but the Bandits’ offense never fully clicked.

Belgrade then rotated in reserves and again fell behind in Game 2. The Bandits scored a run in the fifth and two in the sixth, but Shadle Park responded with two more runs to separate. Lane Neill went 3 for 4 with three runs and an RBI.

The contest that stood out most to Graham, though, was a 5-0 win Friday against Mountain View (Idaho). The Toros won the Bozeman Tournament in late June and have a reputation as one of the top teams in the region.

Easton Page pitched the two-hit shutout while Cole Thomas, Brandon Mathews and Coby Richards each scored a run and drove in a run.

“Our defense was incredible (against Mountain View),” Graham said. “We always talk about taking care of business on the routine plays. We did that and also made some above average plays. … We jumped out to a lead and were able to keep them down the entire time. That was an impressive win.”

In practice this upcoming week, Graham plans to focus on the maintenance of certain skills and reviewing defensive situations. With a full season to look back on, the Bandits have tweaked their practice style.

“We played a highly competitive schedule in the nonconference,” Graham said. “Even some of those losses allowed us to get better. Regular season, I’m happy with it. I think it got us ready for a deep postseason run. That’s the goal. The kids learned a lot over the course of the summer. I think we’re a pretty good baseball team.”

Paul Schwedelson can be reached at or 406-582-2670. Follow him on Twitter @pschweds.

Paul Schwedelson is a sports writer for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.