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Matthew Hegre, center, high fives Post 22 teammate Jace Caldwell, left, after Hegre hit the second of his two home runs in the 14-6 win over the Billings Royals Saturday afternoon in the Veterans Classic at Fitzgerald Stadium.

Apparently Matthew Hegre is feeling a little better these days. No, he's feeling a lot better.

Battling through pneumonia the past couple of weeks, Hegre hit two home runs Saturday afternoon and drove in five runs as the Rapid City Post 22 American Legion baseball team earned a 14-6 win over the Billings Royals Saturday afternoon in the Veterans Classic at Fitzgerald Stadium.

Late Saturday night, the Hardhats rallied to beat the Bozeman Bucks 5-4 in eight innings in walk-off fashion on a RBI single by Ryan Bachman.

One of the Hardhats' top bats in the lineup, Hegre has cemented that role the last few days as he has made his way back in the lineup.

"I can actually feel my body now, and I can breathe too, so that is good," Hegre said with a smile after the win over the Royals. 

Still not 100 percent recovered, the pneumonia likely started as a virus, causing him to lose about 10 pounds during the ordeal, although he said he has now put about six pounds back on.

"He got well real quick," Post 22 head coach Kelvin Torve said. "He had a great day. It's one of those games that you dream about. He is back swinging the bat well, so that is comforting."

Hegre blasted a three-run home run in the Hardhats' first inning against the Royals, and added a two-run shot in the bottom of the fourth inning for a little insurance in a game they would win by the eight-run rule.

Out for a couple of games and the designated hitter for a couple more before playing in the field for the first time since his illness Friday night against Billings, Torve said Hegre has been impressive with his ability just to stick with it while ill.

"When you are sick for two weeks, you lose weight and you're weak ... he is mentally tough," Torve said. "He stuck to what he has been doing all year through his illness. Now he is continuing to hit the ball."

Hitting two home runs a game makes a player feeling pretty good regardless.

"I was just seeing barrel," he said. "I knew what they were going to throw, I was seeing the fastball. I saw barrel and luckily both went out."

Post 22 finished with five hits in the first inning and got a two-run inside the park home run from Mason Messinger and a two-run triple by Drew Messer.

Despite the 8-0 start, the Hardhats needed much more offense after Billings got five runs in the third inning, with four coming off of a grand slam home run from Brenden Concepcion.

But the Hardhats responded with four runs in the bottom of the third and the two in the fourth to coast to the win.

"They are a good team. They have a lot of pride over there and they weren't going to take our 8-0 lead lying down," Torve said of the Royals. "They battled back and put a good swing on the ball, and the next thing you knew, it is 8-4. But we responded the very next inning, scoring four runs, and got back in control."

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Still with the bases loaded and an 8-5 game, True Synhorst came on in relief of starter Jake Goble and struck out Connor Hunter on three pitches to end the threat.

"Once True came in, I knew he was going to shut them down," Hegre said. "When we came back and hit, I knew it was game over."

Hunter, Jaeden Jordahl and Concepcion all had two hits for Billings, 9-10.

Against Bozeman, the Bucks took advantage of three singles and one error for three quick runs in the first inning.

Post 22 added one run in the bottom of the first on a Bachman RBI single, and tied the game at 3-3 in the second on RBI singles by Daniel Vigoren and Bransen Kuehl.

Bozeman took a 4-3 lead in the fourth on a RBI double by Ben Hubley.

The Hardhats rallied in the bottom of the seventh to send the game into extra innings. With one out Bachman reached on a single and moved to third on a Hegre double. With two outs, the Bucks intentionally walked Jace Caldwell to load the bases.

Post 22 tied the game when Blake Weaver hit a hard shot to third baseman Logan Pailthorpe, who knocked the ball down and stepped on the bag, allowing Bachman to score and Weaver to reach on a fielder's choice.

Again after an intentional walk, Bozeman got out of the jam when relief pitcher Samuel Schmidt got Colton Hartford to pop out.

The Hardhats, 14-6, walked off the Bucks in the eighth for their seventh straight victory.

Ryan Schmidt opened with a walk, followed by a single by Vigoren. Kuehl reached on a fielder's choice and then stole second to put runners on second and third, setting up Bachman's game-winning single.

Bachman had a huge game for the Hardhats with four hits and two RBI, while Hegre and Vigoren added two hits each.

"It seems like at least the last week or so somebody else is stepping up and having a big game," Torve said. "Ryan drove in the winning run after having two strikes on him, being down 0-2. He battled and smoked it up the middle. He really competed up there."

Troy Wilhelm got the win, going the final three shutout innings in relief of Zach Whitesell, who scattered six hits and gave up just one earned run.

The two teams meet again today at noon. Post 22 will close the tournament against Sterling, Colo. at 3 p.m.

Hubley, Michael Freund and Schmidt all had two hits for Bozeman, 21-8, which will face the Post 22 Expos today at 9 a.m.

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Sports Editor

Sports reporter for the Rapid City Journal.