Missoula escaps bases-loaded ninth-inning jam, holds on to beat Dodgers, 14-12
GREAT FALLS - Brian Matzenbacher knows jams.
"Oh, I'm well-known for that," the Missoula Osprey's rookie right-hander said with a grin late Thursday night.
Matzenbacher got himself into, then out of, a bases-loaded, no-out pickle with a two-run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning as the mercurial Osprey hung on to beat the Great Falls Dodgers 14-12.
It was the second victory in as many Pioneer League baseball games for Missoula, a.k.a. the Montana Lumber Company. The O's opened with a 17-9 win on Wednesday.
This time a 16-hit attack that featured three more home runs - from Luis Terrero, from Darryl Conyer, and from Jeff Brooks - almost wasn't enough.
Great Falls scored the last five runs of the game off relievers Brandon Wood and Tim Stanton after trailing 14-7 through six innings.
Matzenbacher got the nod to start the ninth in his first professional appearance.
The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder, who chalked up three no-hitters in a college career that included stints at Creighton and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, promptly walked the first two batters.
The Dodgers' David Detienne laid down a deadened bunt on the first-base line that Osprey catcher J.D. Closser hovered over in hopes it would roll foul. It died on the line to load the bases.
Matzenbacher's next task was J.R. Sampson, who had replaced Great Falls' hottest hitter, Rodney Van Buizen, in the sixth and hit a two-run homer off Stanton in the eighth.
With a 2-and-2 count, Sampson fouled off two pitches. Closser called for a curve, unaware that Matzenbacher prefers his slider in such situations.
"I hadn't talked about it with him," Matzenbacher said.
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He said he hung the curve a bit, but it caught Sampson off guard for strike three and the first out.
Brennan King then lifted a fly to Osprey right fielder Doug DeVore, too short for C.J. Thomas to attempt to score from third. On his next pitch, Matzenbacher induced cleanup hitter Candido Martinez to pop out to first baseman Lyle Overbay to end the game.
"I'm sure my mom and dad were sitting at home (in Illinois) saying, 'Oh, he's doing it again,' " Matzenbacher said, adding they keep up with his pitching on the Internet broadcasts.
Matzenbacher was the fifth Missoula pitcher and the 10th overall in the 3-hour, 22-minute game, played on another balmy evening.
Starter P.J. Bevis lasted five innings for the Osprey, surrendering seven runs. Wood pitched well in the sixth, but was rocked for three hits and a pair of runs as the Dodgers started their comeback in the seventh. Stanton, a left-hander, was ineffective in the eighth, but his problems were enhanced by a pair of errors on ground balls by shortstop Corey Myers.
Myers, one of the heroes of Wednesday's game, walked twice but was the only Osprey starter without a hit. Todd Myers (no relation to Corey), who is slated to start the second game of Missoula's series at Medicine Hat on Sunday, relieved Stanton and finished the eighth, quelling a three-run Dodger outburst.
The Osprey, who have 31 hits in two games, struck for three runs in the second by hitting for the cycle. Overbay, who went 4-for-6, doubled; Terrero homered two batters later; DeVore followed with a triple high off the 15-foot fence in right field, and Jeff Brooks singled him in.
The Dodgers answered with five runs in the bottom of the second off Bevis, three of them on a bases-loaded triple by leadoff man Jason Repko. Repko, like Van Buizen, was replaced in mid-game by manager Tony Harris.
Van Buizen, who went 5-for-5 on Wednesday, was hit twice by Bevis, a fellow 18-year-old Australian. He walked in his other at-bat before giving way to Sampson.
Conyer went 3-for-4 as Missoula's leadoff man, including a fourth-inning solo home run that put the O's back in front. Teammate Jeff Brooks, in his second straight two-hit night, had tied it 5-5 earlier in the inning with a home run to left.
The Osprey and Dodgers complete their three-game series at Legion Field tonight at 7. Right-hander Mark Gentile of the Osprey faces lefty Brian Neal for Great Falls.