Michael Ratterree slugged his way through the Pioneer League regular season to earn MVP honors. With the playoffs underway, he didn't miss a beat.
Ratterree went 3-for-4 with a home run, a double and four RBIs to help Rookie-level Helena rout Great Falls, 16-5, in the opener of the best-of-3 North Division Finals. He reached base five times and helped pace a 15-hit attack.
It was the right fielder's first appearance at the dish that set the tone for the entire evening. Facing Jake Sanchez, the circuit's Pitcher of the Year, Ratterree came to the plate with a runner on third base and one out in the top of the first inning.
"I was just trying to drive the ball to the outfield, so I was looking out over the plate," the 22-year-old Brewers prospect said. "He threw me an offspeed pitch. I was able to stay on it and the wind did the rest.
"It was big for us to come out and throw the first punch."
Helena didn't let up either. With the breeze blowing out at Centene Stadium in Great Falls, the Brewers hit three home runs and totaled seven extra-base hits. The offensive outburst was a welcome change for a team that averaged fewer than three runs per game during a season-ending four-game losing streak.
"Our hitting coach [Chuckie Caufield] gave us a little bit of an approach," Ratterree said. "He said just to look out over the plate. We haven't been hitting well over the last couple of days."
The Rice University product said the team had a little bit of extra energy heading into the game against Sanchez. The Voyagers hurler went 6-3 with a 2.87 ERA during the regular season, but he allowed six runs on nine hits in 3 1/3 innings Monday.
"You're always excited for an opportunity like that," Ratterree said. "We had some adrenaline coming into the game."
Every batter in the Brewers lineup had at least one hit. Leadoff hitter Dionis Hinojosa smacked a three-run homer on a four-RBI night. Jose Pena added a three-run homer in the eighth.
Game 2 will be in Helena at 9:05 p.m. ET on Tuesday.
"They have great pitching, great hitting. They're always gonna fight," Ratterree said of Great Falls. "I think we have to keep swinging the bats. That's what's led us all season."
In other Pioneer League playoff action:
Idaho Falls 7, Grand Junction 1
Royals' No. 7 prospect Hunter Dozier went 2-for-4 with a double and Daniel Rockett drove in two runs. Chukars left-hander Jonathan Dziedzic tossed five innings of one-run ball and struck out six batters to earn the victory. His mound counterpart, the Rockies' Devin Burke, allowed six unearned runs in six innings and took the loss. Grand Junction committed eight errors in defeat. Box score »