The Missoula Osprey turned in the most hustlin' walk-off win in recent memory to reverse their own last-inning misfortunes against the Billings Mustangs on Monday.
Second baseman Jacob Elmore slapped a game-winning single through the right side of the Mustangs' infield to help the Osprey complete a two-out rally in the ninth and win 6-5 in a Pioneer League game at Ogren-Allegiance Park.
Just 24 hours earlier, the Helena Brewers put together a game-winning rally in their last at-bat to sink Missoula 3-2 in Helena. Now it was the Osprey's turn.
"Just the night before we got one robbed from us in the ninth inning," Elmore said. "They got a walk-off, and it stung. Now we got the opportunity to do it. This could do a lot for the team, man, bring us closer."
Missoula catcher Rossmel Perez motored around third base with the winning run. He banged a two-out double to score Kyle Green, who chugged all the way around from first, with the tying run.
On both hits, Osprey manager Audo Vicente waved home the runners with an excited windmill motion. He was so excited in fact, that Vicente forgot to stop waving his arm - which signals the runners to keep going - for a few seconds.
"One day you'll probably see both guys sliding into home plate," Vicente joked.
Elmore was too busy hustling down the first base line to keep rounding the bases and a throw home from right field was way late. Elmore's "walk-off" helped the Osprey improve to 2-5 overall and 1-2 in one-run ballgames.
"That gives us confidence for down the road when we're in one-run games," Elmore said. "If we lose all of them then we're thinking, 'Gall, we're behind in the ninth again,' but the more you win like this the more you say, 'We can do this, this is nothing.' "
Elmore went 2-for-3 with two runs scored. Ryne White went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI singles and Greene added a 2-for-4 effort, including a solo home run in the second.
Missoula reliever Kenny Sosa earned his first victory after pitching a scoreless ninth. Billings' Jordan Hotchkiss got the loss and a blown save. Sosa walked the first batter and made an error on the next batter, before retiring the next three Billings batters in order, the last two on strikeouts, to get out of a jam.
"That's what I'm talking about - the little things," said Vicente, who was all smiles after his first home win. "Go out there and compete. That's what we want to see."
"That's what bullpens gotta do," Elmore said. "We can't win without a good bullpen. Just keep it close and give your team a chance."
Billings (4-3) had grabbed a 5-4 lead on Brett Bartles' RBI single in the seventh and it looked like Brandon Rice, who had pitched two scoreless innings, was in line to get the win. The Mustangs dropped their third in a row.
White tied the game 4-4 with an RBI single to left in the fifth after the Ponies took a 4-3 lead with a four-run top of the fifth. Tony Brown led off the inning with a homer to help narrow the lead. Carlos Mendez added a two-out, two-run double down the left field line and another run scored on a wild pitch. The inning was prolonged when O's shortstop Reynaldo Navarro threw late to Elmore covering second base on a fielder's choice grounder.
The game was close throughout as both starters went five-plus innings in their second head-to-head matchup of the year. Neither Billings' Oscar Castro, who got the win on June 18, nor Missoula's Randy Rodriguez figured into the decision.
"The guys look better and better every day," Vicente said. "I know they played like three, four, five weeks ago and they only got with us like 10-15 days ago. It's a little tough, so that's why we don't want to put any pressure on the guys, like 'we gotta win the game, we gotta win the game.' No, that's not our philosophy. We want our guys making the little things in the game, having fun in the game, play hard, running the bases hard."
The Osprey didn't turn a triple play, but they did turn two double plays. They've turned eight double plays for the season and have hit into eight double plays.
"I don't see another team playing better defense than us right now," said Vicente.
Missoula put together a two-out rally in the third inning to take a 3-0 lead. White capped the inning with an RBI single that plated Tyrell Worthington from third, just moments after Worthington and Elmore executed a first-and-third double steal for a run.
Notes: Missoula 3B Kyle Greene hit his first homer of the season, a solo shot in the second for a 1-0 lead. It was the second homer of the season for the O's. Every other team in the PBL has at least five. Š Navarro committed his third error of the season. … Former major league pitcher Jesse Orosco was in the stands. His son, Jesse Orosco Jr., plays for Missoula, but did not pitch Monday.
ab r h bi ab r h bi
Means cf 5 1 3 0 Navarro ss 4 0 1 0
Bartles 1b 4 0 1 1 Worthington cf 4 1 1 0
Mendez 3b 5 0 1 2 White 1b 4 0 2 2
Konstanty rf 4 0 0 0 Stone lf 4 0 0 0
Brown dh 4 1 1 1 Asencio rf 4 0 0 0
Stiffler lf 2 0 0 0 Greene 3b 4 2 2 1
Gualdron 2b 4 1 0 0 Kauffman dh 2 0 0 0
Wideman c 3 1 1 0 Hilario dh 1 0 0 0
Rojas ss 4 1 1 0 Perez c 4 1 1 1
Elmore 2b 3 2 2 1
Totals 35 5 8 4 Totals 34 6 9 5
Billings 000 013 100 - 5
Missoula 012 010 002 - 6
E - Gualdron, Wideman, Navarro, Sosa. DP - Billings 1, Missoula 2. LOB - Billings 8, Missoula 4. 2B - Mendez, Wideman, Perez. HR - Brown (3), Greene (1). SB - Means (1), Worthington (1), Elmore (1). CS - Stiffler (1).
IP H R ER BB SO
Castro 6.0 6 4 3 0 5
Rice 2.0 0 0 0 1 1
Hotchkiss L, 0-1 0.2 3 2 2 0 1
Rodriguez 6.0 5 4 1 2 2
Mace 2.0 3 1 1 1 3
Sosa W, 1-0 1.0 0 0 0 1 2
WP - Rodriguez. HBP - by Castro (Elmore).
Umpires - Yuta Niide, Rick Wilson.
T - 2:17. A - 2,244