For the first time in their 19-year existence, the Missoula Osprey have secured a regular-season title sweep in the Pioneer League North.
The O's won the first half outright and on Saturday claimed a share of the second-half crown. They'll share it with Great Falls after thumping the Voyagers, 14-3, in front of 1,013 fans at Centene Stadium in Great Falls.
The teams will begin their best-of-3 divisional playoff series on Sunday at 6 p.m. in the Electric City. Missoula finished the regular season at .500 (38-38) while Great Falls takes a 34-42 mark into the postseason.
"It's been a really fun year," said O's catcher Dominic Miroglio, who went 4 for 6 Saturday with a double and an RBI. "Winning both halves wasn't something we wrote on a chalkboard at the beginning of the year, but when you go out and play the game the way we do every day, stuff like that happens."
Osprey starter Edgar Martinez was masterful through five innings Saturday, enabling the O's to build a commanding 6-0 lead.
Missoula drew first blood in the second inning when Dominic Miroglio ripped a one-out double and scored on a two-out single by Jose Caballero. The Osprey added five runs on four hits — and were aided by two Great Falls errors — in the top of the fourth.
The Voyagers replaced starting pitcher Lincoln Henzman with Ryan Erickson with one out in the fourth and that's when the trouble really started for the hosts. After Juan Araujo drew a walk, Miroglio singled and Terence Connelly followed with a base hit that scored Araujo from second.
Caballero laced his second RBI single and Joel Novas reached on a fielding error, allowing Connelly to come home. One out later, Eduardo Diaz hit an RBI double and, after Erickson was pulled in favor of Josue Gerardo, Andy Yerzy reached on another infield error, allowing Novas to plate the fifth run of the inning.
Martinez, who finished with six strikeouts, ran out of gas in the sixth. He allowed three earned runs on four hits, including a Tate Blackman two-run home run, before being replaced by Pierce Romero.
Romero put out the fire, retiring two of the three hitters he faced in the sixth.
Missoula added three insurance runs in the seventh. After Miroglio singled, Connelly doubled and Caballero walked to load the bases, Novas drove home Miroglio with a liner to right field. Maciel then chipped in with an RBI single and Keshawn Lynch drew a walk that scored Caballero.
Missoula added another insurance run in the eighth when Araujo drew a leadoff walk and scored on a sacrifice fly. Then in the ninth the visitors added four more runs, with Connelly's RBI single highlighting the surge.
Martinez (3-3) earned his second win of the season over the Voyagers. Wilfry Cruz earned his first save holding the hosts scoreless in the final three frames.
"Tonight's win is obviously nice but the playoffs are a whole different ball game," Miroglio said. "We're going to have to rev it back up. The games are going to be managed and played differently. Each run means a little more. We'll show up and do what we've done for the past 76 games."
Notes: The Osprey are 10-6 in head-to-head battles with the Voyagers this season. That includes a 4-4 record at Centene Stadium ... Missoula has won seven of its last 11 games. Great Falls has dropped 7 of its last 11 ... The Orem Owlz and Ogden Raptors have earned playoff berths in the Pioneer League South ... Missoula will host Game 2 of its playoff series with Great Falls on Monday at 7:05 p.m.