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False start: Mustangs race past Osprey on Opening Day
Billings Mustangs pitcher Leonardo Astorga, right, tags Missoula Osprey Rafael Hilario for an out Tuesday evening during a rundown between first and second base. The Mustangs beat the Osprey, 6-5.
Photo by KURT WILSON/Missoulian

Twice the Missoula Osprey loaded the bases with one out in the later stages of Tuesday's season opener with Billings. Twice the Osprey came up empty.

The Mustangs rapped 16 hits and weathered a pair of late runs by Missoula to hold on for a 6-5 victory in front of 3,023 fans at Ogren-Allegiance Park. The Osprey, who celebrate their 10th summer of baseball in Missoula, lost their eighth straight season opener dating back to 2001.

There were splashes of sun, flashes of leather and lots of dashes on a malfunctioning scoreboard as both team's opened the Pioneer League season and the first game of a three-game series with plenty of kinks to work on.

The Birds inability to push across runs in the eighth and ninth, despite loading the bases in each frame, was the most noticeable.

"It was a pretty good game, no matter what happened," said Missoula manager Audo Vicente, who was making his debut for the Arizona Diamondbacks rookie-level affiliate. "We had opportunities to win the game, it didn't work out, but that's part of the game."

Billings catcher Jordan Wideman went 4-for-4 with two runs batted in to lead the Mustangs. Outfielder Tony Brown was 3-for-3 including one of Billings' four doubles.

Dan Zeffino earned the victory, pitching two innings of scoreless relief, including the sixth inning when the Mustangs scored twice to take the lead, 4-3. They added one run each in the eighth and ninth to keep Missoula at bay.

Zeffino (1-0) followed starter Leonard Astorga, who struck out seven and didn't give up an earned run. He left trailing 3-2.

The Osprey were held in check by Aguido Gonzalez and Jordan Hotchkiss, who both pitched out of bases-loaded jams by coaxing back-to-back strikeouts from the Missoula batting order.

Most of the O's highlights came on the defensive side of the game. Missoula turned two double plays and didn't commit an error in the field.

"We played the game hard," Vicente said. "Win or lose, the guys battled for nine innings, including the last inning."

Billings made three errors, including one by Hotchkiss to start the ninth. A fielder's choice, a hit by pitch and a walk followed, before the Mustangs' closer retired Ryne White and Alberto Diaz, Missoula's No. 4 and 5 hitters, via strikeout.

Brett Reynolds, the O's opening game starter, went five innings and left with a 3-2 lead but couldn't even get a whiff of a win after reliever Justin Mace surrendered back-to-back RBI doubles with two outs in the sixth to Tyler Stovall and Wideman. Stovall was 2-for-4 with two runs scored and a RBI.

Rafael Hilario paced the Missoula at the plate, going 3-for-3 with a double and an RBI single, which gave the Birds a 3-0 lead to close the second inning.

Defense was the name of the game early on for the O's. Left fielder Bobby Stone completed an inning-ending double play in the fourth, when he caught a fly ball and threw out Jose Gualdron, who was trying to tag up and advance to third base.

Missoula shortstop Reynaldo Navarro turned a self-started double play and also threw out a runner from shallow left field in the top of the second.

Defense was an issue for Billings, on the other hand, as Missoula jumped ahead in the second when the Mustangs' third baseman committed a two-run throwing error.

Notes: Missoula 3B Kyle Greene was plunked three times. Tuesday's attendance was the fourth largest in club history, and the fourth time the O's gone over 3,000. First pitch was at 7:27 p.m., it was a strike.

BILLINGS MISSOULA

ab r h bi ab r h bi

Bartles dh 5 0 1 2 Navarro ss 5 0 0 0

Soto 3b 5 1 1 0 Worthington cf 3 0 1 0

Mendez 1b 5 0 2 1 Asencio cf 1 0 0 0

Gauldron 2b 5 0 1 0 Greene 3b 1 1 0 0

Brown lf 4 1 3 0 Canelo 3b 0 0 0 0

Stiffler cf 3 1 1 0 White dh 4 0 0 0

Stovall rf 4 2 2 1 Diaz rf 4 0 1 0

Wideman c 4 1 4 2 Stone lf 3 1 1 1

Rojas ss 4 0 1 0 Kauffman 1b 2 1 0 0

Gomez 1b/c 1 0 0 0

Perez c/3b 0 0 0 0

Musselman c/1b 4 1 0 0

Hilario 2b 1 1 0 0

Elmore 2b 1 1 0 0

Totals 39 6 16 6 Totals 32 5 6 2

Billings 001 012 011 - 6

Missoula 030 000 011 - 5

E-Soto, Wideman, Gonzalez. DP-Missoula 1. LOB-Billings 8, Missoula 9. 2B-Mendez, Brown, Stovall, Wideman; Stone, Hilario.

IP H R ER BB SO

Billings

Astorga W, 1-0 5.0 3 3 0 1 7

Zeffiro 2.0 3 3 0 0 0

Martinez 0.1 0 1 1 2 0

Gonzalez, A 0.2 0 1 0 1 2

Hotchkiss S, 1 1.0 0 0 0 1 2

Missoula

Reynolds 5.0 8 2 2 1 1

Mace 1.0 4 2 2 0 0

Rodriquez 1.2 2 1 1 1 4

Quezada 1.1 2 1 1 0 1

HBP-Greene (by Astorga), Greene (by Astorga), Greene (by Martinez), Asencio (by Hotchkiss).

Umpires-Home, Jason Hutchings; First, Greg Stanzak.

T-3:02

A-3,023

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