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Osprey win Pioneer League title09/15/2006 1:48 AM ET
By Tim Leonard / Special to MLB.com
Shea McFeely is already putting the lessons he learned in college to use in the real world.
The Missoula Osprey first baseman played college ball at Oregon State and was a key member of the Beavers team that won the College World Series in June. From that experience, he learned not only his ring size but also to not be one of the guys on the bottom of the celebratory pile that typically occurs near the pitcher's mound.
Both of those lessons came in handy Thursday as McFeely crushed a three-run homer and Osbek Castillo had another strong start, leading the Osprey to the Pioneer League championship with a 7-2 victory over Idaho Falls.
"They're both pretty awesome. Just being on winning teams makes the game more fun to play when you're winning championships like that," McFeely said. "We knew we could do it. Coach has been calling us 'champs' since a few weeks ago. He's been telling us we're the champs. All we have to do is come out and play hard and play with a lot of energy."
The victory gave Missoula its first Pioneer League title since 1999. The Osprey did not lose a game in the playoffs, sweeping the Billings Mustangs to win the North Division crown before doing the same to the Chukars.
Leadoff hitter Tyler Jones went 2-for-4 with two stolen bases and two runs scored. Sean Smith also had two hits to go with an RBI and two runs scored. Missoula totaled 10 hits, with all but one starter getting at least one.
McFeely's homer in the fifth inning all but clinched the title, given how Osprey pitchers have performed in the postseason. With a runner on third and one out, the Chukars elected to intentionally walk batter Gerardo Parra to set up the double play. The move backfired.
McFeely was all over a 2-0 fastball from Blake Wood, taking it over the center field fence for his first playoff homer and a 6-2 cushion. Smith tacked on a run when he led off the seventh with a home run.
"I was looking for a pitch up in the zone to drive in the runner," said McFeely, who went 2-for-3 with an RBI in the decisive third game of the College World Series. "We kind of knew after that. It was 6-2 with four innings left and our pitchers were throwing pretty well."
The offensive fireworks were just a bonus because Castillo again showed why he was among the top pitchers in the Pioneer League. He limited Idaho Falls to two runs on three hits in 5 2/3 innings, striking out eight and walking three.
Castillo surrendered a two-run blast to Jase Turner in the fourth that trimmed the Chukars' deficit to 3-2.
Hector Ambriz relieved Castillo with two outs and a runner on second in the sixth and struck out Marc Maddox to end the inning. He yielded a two-out single in the seventh, the only Idaho Falls hit against him in 3 1/3 innings.
Ambriz retired the last seven batters he faced, fanning the side in the ninth to give him six strikeouts.
"Our pitching came out and shut down all the teams and we put up a few runs for them. They definitely did the job and we scored runs when we needed to," McFeely said. "Castillo has been like that all year. It seems like he strikes out 10 guys a game. Ambriz comes in and throws his fastball 95 or 96 (mph). They were behind it a little bit."
The Osprey didn't have to worry about being behind after scoring three times in the first inning. Missoula loaded the bases on a walk and two infield hits before McFeely grounded into a double play to make it 1-0. Daniel Perales and John Hester followed with run-scoring singles off Wood.
"As soon as we did that, we knew we almost had it," McFeely said. "Then they scored two runs a few innings later and we knew we had to put up some more runs, and we ended up doing that."
So when the Osprey were being sized for rings in their jubilant clubhouse after the game, one player already knew his size. Rather than get one for another finger, he'll just alternate between his College World Series and Pioneer League rings. Not a bad problem to have.
"I got them all for the same finger," said McFeely, who will receive his College World Series ring in November during halftime at a Beavers' football game. "Maybe I'll wear one on the other hand."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.