After a dramatic ninth-inning rally that forced extra innings, the Missoula Osprey cashed in by beating the Great Falls Voyagers in the 10th frame Sunday at Ogren-Allegiance Park.
Buddy Kennedy scored the game-winning run in a 7-6 verdict. He started the 10th at second base under the new extra-inning rule, then scooted around to score when Zach Almond put down a bunt base hit that was thrown away by catcher Vince Arobio on his toss to first.
Setting the stage for the dramatics were Cesar Garcia and Brandon Leyton in the Missoula ninth. Trailing 6-5, the O's were down to their last out when Garcia walked and then came all the way around to score when Leyton's blooper in front of Alex Destino coaxed the right fielder into diving, causing a long delay in his throw back to the infield.
With the win, Missoula moved into a three-way tie for first in the Pioneer League North with Great Falls and Helena. All three teams boast a 13-11 record.
Closer Justin Garcia (2-0) earned the win on the mound. He struck out three and did not allow a hit in two innings of duty.
"It's hard for pitchers starting with a runner on second base with no outs, but we got the W," he offered. "I like traditional baseball but the (new extra inning rule) does speed the game up a little bit."
Leyton led the Missoula offensive attack with three hits and an RBI. David Sanchez had two hits and two RBIs and Almond added two hits and one RBI.
A defensive miscue keyed a three-run outburst by the Voyagers in the third inning. Logan Sowers and Adam McGinnis singled to start the rally, then Ryan Fitzpatrick was hit by a pitch.
With the bases loaded, Jhoandro Alfaro hit a grounder to third that resulted in a throwing error when Kennedy fired the ball home for an attempt at a force out. Sowers scored and Great Falls added two more runs, one coming on a Jay Estes RBI single.
Missoula answered with three runs in the bottom half. Sanchez ripped a two-RBI triple and later scored on a wild pitch by starter Jason Bilous.
The score stayed at 3-3 until the seventh when Osprey reliever Jacob Stevens struggled with his control. He issued two free passes to start the inning, then hit Fitzpatrick to load the bases. One run scored on sacrifice fly and another on a Travis Moniot single, giving the visitors a 5-3 lead.
Great Falls stretched its lead to 6-3 before Missoula rallied with two runs in the eighth. One scored on an Almond double and the other on a ground out.
Missoula will now hit the road for a four-game series at Ogden, Utah, starting Tuesday.