(Billings Mustangs release)
BILLINGS – The Billings Mustangs (0-1) dropped the Pioneer League North Division Series opener 3-2 to the Great Falls Voyagers (1-0) in front of 1,947 on Friday night at Dehler Park for their first playoff loss to the Voyagers since 2008.
Great Falls never trailed in the game, getting two runs in the second to open up an early lead. Bryce Bush led off the inning with a double, his first of two in the game. After a hit batter and a wild pitch, Great Falls had men at second and third with two outs. A grounder to short off the bat was a potential inning-ending out, but a throwing error allowed two runs to score. It was one of five total errors committed in the game, two coming from the Mustangs.
Adrian Rodriguez was otherwise outstanding in the start. The right-hander threw 5.2 innings without allowing an earned run. Rodriguez set a new career-high with nine strikeouts.
Billings was held in a 2-0 hole until the top of the sixth due in part to four double plays rolled by the Voyagers’ defense. Billings led off seven of their nine innings at the plate with a man reaching, but four double plays in the first five innings kept their offense at bay.
After Juan Martinez singled to lead off the sixth off Codi Heuer, an RBI double three batters later from Reniel Ozuna got the Mustangs their first run. Ozuna was 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI Friday while Martinez went 2-for-3 for the only two multi-hit games for the Mustangs.
Billings tied it up with another run in the seventh off another leadoff single, this time from Mariel Bautista to extend his hitting streak to 26 consecutive games. Bryce Bush, the Voyagers’ third baseman, committed his second throwing error of the game to allow Bautista to score on a Drew Mount infield single. The run tied the game 2-2 through seven innings.
Great Falls didn’t wait long to take back their lead with their third unearned run of the game coming in the top of the eighth. With one out and Bryan Connell at first base, Connell took too aggressive of a lead off the bag and was caught up in a rundown. Heading for second, a throw behind him sailed into right field to allow him two bases on the second error of the game for the Mustangs. Connell then scored on the RBI single of Gunnar Troutwine for the decisive 3-2 lead.
The Mustangs made a late push in the eighth by getting the leadoff man on after a third Great Falls error. Miguel Hernandez then advanced all the way to third where he was stranded representing the tying run. The final six batters for Billings were retired to end the game.
The Mustangs will now face elimination on Saturday in game two of the series in Great Falls. First pitch is set for 7:00 p.m. at Centene Stadium.