GREAT FALLS - The Osprey know small ball too.
Missoula's streaking Pioneer League baseball team tattooed 13 hits, a dozen of them singles, and strolled to an 8-3 win Tuesday night over the reeling Great Falls Dodgers at Legion Park.
It was the ninth straight win for the Osprey, tying a team record set early in their inaugural season of 1999 and equaled at the end of last summer. They go for 10 in a row Wednesday at 7 p.m., when right-hander Justin Wechsler takes the mound.
Wechsler, the Arizona Diamondbacks' fourth-round pick out of Ball State in last month's draft, joined the Osprey after their disastrous 0-6 road trip to start the season. The last three losses were to Great Falls. He's coming off his first professional victory - a 5-2 win over Idaho Falls last Friday in which Wechsler pitched five innings of scoreless ball. He'll face Texan right-hander Brian Steffek (0-1), who pitched for Great Falls last season as well.
More than a win-streak record is at stake. The Osprey closed to within two games of first-place Billings in the Pioneer North when the Mustangs' game with Medicine Hat was rained out. It'll be played as part of a doubleheader Wednesday.
After their current five-game road trip, the O's finish the first half with a three-game home stand against Billings starting Sunday. They must be no farther than 2Þ games behind when the Ponies come to town to have a chance to win the half-season title and a berth in the September playoffs.
Billings owns the tie-breaker with the O's by virtue of a 5-1 advantage in the season series. Because the Mustangs' game last week against Ogden was rained out and won't be rescheduled, chances of a tie in the standings are small.
Great Falls swept the Osprey in the second series of the season. Since then the Osprey (20-11) are 20-5, the Dodgers 9-15. Great Falls will be eliminated from the first-half race with its next loss or Billings' next win.
Missoula amassed seven runs and nine hits in the first three innings off Dodgers starter Vance McCracken. Dustin Vugteveen, last week's Pioneer League hitter of the week, had RBI singles in the first and third innings. His third-inning shot to left with the bases loaded was Missoula's fourth straight single to lead off the frame.
That hit was followed by Craig Nevels' RBI when Great Falls shortstop Manuel Nunez bobbled a potential double-play grounder. Javier Boll followed for the Osprey with a bounder that hopped over second baseman Scott Gillitzer's head for a two-run single.
Sammy Montilla knocked in the fifth run of the inning, reaching on an errant throw by third baseman Ricardo Cordova. There were still no out, and Nevels would have scored from third anyway, so Montilla was credited with an RBI.
Montilla, a Dominican catcher who played in the Arizona Rookie League last season, is the Osprey's top hitter on the road. He doubled in the sixth inning for their only extra-base hit and went on to score the Osprey's lone run in the final six innings. He finished 2-for-4 at the plate.
Missoula's early outburst was plenty for starter Ryan Holsten, who went seven solid innings to notch his third straight victory since joining the starting rotation. Holsten didn't walk a batter in any of those victories.
The Dodgers touched Holsten for at least one hit in six of the seven innings. Hector Guerrero, in his first game since being sent down from the Vero Beach Dodgers of the Advanced A Florida State League, turned on Holsten's opening pitch to him in the first inning and deposited it over the right-field fence.
It broke a remarkable string for Missoula pitchers of 42 straight innings without surrendering an earned run. The last earned run before Guerrero's homer came last Thursday in Missoula, in the third inning of an 8-1 win over Idaho Falls. Opponents scored five runs in the four games after that but all were deemed unearned because of Osprey errors.
The O's had 11 errors in their last two games of a six-game home sweep Sunday and Monday. They were error-free on Tuesday in Great Falls.
Guerrero, a 19-year-old Dominican who played for Great Falls at the end of last season, batted .257 with no home runs at Vero Beach this year.
Holsten gave up another solo home run to Dodgers catcher Jose Diaz in the third inning.
Mikael Davis and Roberto Medina each pitched a scoreless inning at the end for the Osprey.
|Lopez 3b||5||0||1||0||Nunez ss||4||0||0||0|
|Jacobo ss||5||1||1||0||Guererro lf||4||1||1||1|
|Cota 1b||5||1||1||1||Pierce cf||3||0||2||1|
|Hairston 2b||5||2||3||0||Michaelis 1b||4||0||1||0|
|Janz lf||5||1||2||1||Garcia rf||4||0||1||0|
|Vugteveen rf||4||1||2||2||Gillitzer 2b||4||0||0||0|
|Nevels dh||4||1||0||1||Malone 2b||4||0||2||0|
|Boll cf||4||0||1||2||Cordova 3b||4||1||2||0|
|Montilla c||4||1||2||1||Diaz c||4||1||1||1|
E-Nunez, Cordova. LOB-Missoula 8, Great Falls 5. 2B-Montilla. HR-Guerrero (1), Diaz (2). SB-Pierce (9), Garcia (7). CS-Pierce (2), Garcia (6)
|Holsten W 3-1||7||9||3||3||0||3|
|McCracken L 2-1||5||9||7||6||0||2|
HBP - by McCracken (Nevels). WP-Hosford.
Umpires-Todd Waters, Bojo Morris. T-2:16. A-1,855.
Casper 5, Ogden 3
Provo 11, Idaho Falls 7
Medicine Hat at Billings, (rain)
Missoula 8, Great Falls 3
Casper at Ogden
Idaho Falls at Provo
Medicine Hat at Billings, game 1
Medicine Hat at Billings, game 2
Missoula at Great Falls
Rockies 5, Raptors 3
Mitchell, Vargas (7), Serrano (7) and Ingram; Castillo, Saenz (7), Ramos (9) and Alvarado. W-Mitchell (2-1). L-Castillo (2-3). Sv-Serrano (5). HR-Casper, Morel (2).
Angels 11, Padres 7
Perez, Villatoro (6), Dulkowski (8) and Selmo; Shell, Bailey (5), Smith (8), Jackson (9), Allen (9) and Corbeil. W-Bailey, 2-0. L-Villatoro, 0-2. Sv-Allen (2). HR-Provo, McPherson (3).
Up next: Osprey (Wechsler 1-1) at Great Falls (Steffek 0-1), 7 o'clock, Legion Park, KGRZ (1450 AM)