Down but not out, Mavs win state title

Down but not out, Mavs win state title

MISSOULA, Mont. - At the beginning of the season every legion baseball team had one common goal: to win a state championship. For the Missoula Mavericks, that goal became a reality on Saturday.

A year ago at the 'AA' state tournament the Missoula Mavericks had to witness the Billings Royals celebrate after losing to them in the title game. But it was a different story Saturday afternoon as the Mavs celebrated after beating the Royals 3-2 in the state championship.

"It's my last year and I came back from an opportunity to play summer ball and I wanted to play for the Mavs because I wanted to win state," said Mavericks catcher Slade Heggen. "It just feels great to achieve your goal, so it's awesome."

"It's huge to be on the other side of that dog pile," said Mavs outfielder Tanner Rheinschmidt. "It's absolutely huge to be in the dog pile instead of watching it from the dugout."

"You know they've just been resilient," said Mavericks manager Brent Hathaway. "They never let it bother them, they just kept playing and hey, we got a few bounces but their talent and their effort it proved to be good enough to win this thing."

Saturday's game marked a rematch of last year's championship game, and it was only fitting for Missoula to face the Billings Royals with a state title on the line.

"It's a good feeling, it means everything, especially against the Royals," said Mavs first baseman Shane Olson. "They're a quality team, they do everything good. They don't make much mistakes, but when they do we got to capitalize and we capitalized on a couple today and it was really big."

"I mean it took a team effort," said Rheinschmidt. "I mean to win two games against that caliber of team absolutely huge, huge performance by everybody today."

The road to a state title didn't come easy for the Mavs, after losing to Medicine Hat the first day the Mavericks had to win 5-straight games, including back-to-back wins (16-0 and 3-2) over the Royals in the final day of the tournament.

"Every game we played we were either going home or going to stay the night at a hotel and play again the next day," said Heggen. "Our team wanted to play and just having our backs against the wall must have helped us because we just wanted to win."

"We started down and climbed our way back to the top," said Rheinschmidt. "It's been great just coming out every day and showing excitement to be at the field and just trying to bring one in for the boys."

"It's been a roller coaster," said Olson. "I mean its been ups and downs, our team persevered through it all and that's the big thing, I mean it shows a lot about how our team is together. We never feel like we're out of it and so that's a big thing."

For Slade Heggen and Shane Olson, a pair of PAC-12 bound players, winning a state title in their final season with the Mavs is a storybook ending.

"It's awesome, obviously leaving on the highest note possible at this point," said Heggen. "Oregon is a great opportunity, but I had some stuff to do for the Mavs, and with the Mavs, and this was on the check list."

"Ya it's definitely a little sweeter knowing that the last time I'll ever put on the jersey I'll be a state champion," said Olson. "I mean I obviously wouldn't want my season to end any other way. This is just the best feeling in the world ending on a good note like this."

With the state win the Mavericks will now head to the Northwest Regional Tournament, which begins Thursday in Eugene, Oregon.

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