Great Falls, MT-The Voyagers raced out to another early lead against Missoula before finally polishing off a 10-8 victory that secured the final Pioneer League playoff spot Friday night at Centene Stadium.
With the win, Great Falls (34-41, 19-18) is headed to the postseason for a second consecutive year and the 10th time in the last 11 seasons. The Voyagers are 6-9 in the season series with the Osprey. Great Falls improved to 20-17 at home this season. Missoula (37-38, 18-19) is 15-22 on the road.
After the Osprey plated a single run in the top of the 1st, the Voyagers took a lead in the home half they would never relinquish. Newly-minted league MVP Anthony Villa started a two-out rally with a walk. Justin Yurchak followed with a single into left. Back-to-back RBI singles by J.J. Muno and Tate Blackman made it 2-1 Great Falls.
The Voyagers extended the lead to 6-1 with one in the 2nd and three more in the 3rd. Nolan Brown reached in the 2nd with a one-out single to left. He later scored on a two-out base hit to left by Anthony Villa. In the 3rd, Tate Blackman led off with a walk. Nate Nolan doubled home Blackman all the way from first with a line drive into the left field corner. With two outs, Craig Dedelow singled home Nolan. Dedelow moved to second on a wild pitch, and scored on a base hit to center by Logan Taylor.
Missoula scored two in the 4th. Terence Connelly tripled and scored on a groundout. Ernie De La Trinidad then crushed a solo home run high and deep to right for his fifth of the season.
Great Falls made it 9-3 with another three-run frame in the 5th. Leading off, Nate Nolan reached on a throwing error by the shortstop that put him at second. With one out, Nolan Brown doubled up the left field line to score Nolan. Craig Dedelow followed with a run-scoring double. A two-out single to left from Anthony Villa plated Dedelow.
The Osprey scored four unearned runs in the 7th to close the gap to 9-7. A single Missoula run in the 8th on a Brandon Leyton solo home run deep to left that banged off the scoreboard trimmed the lead to 9-8. The Voyagers started the bottom of the 8th with back-to-back doubles from Justin Yurchak and J.J. Muno for an insurance run and the game's final margin.
Great Falls outhit Missoula 14-to-11. Six Voyagers posted multi-hit games. Craig Dedelow, Anthony Villa, and J.J. Muno all collected two hits with two RBIs. Gavin Stupienski led the Osprey attack with three hits and a run scored. Brandon Leyton drove in two and scored twice. William Gorman collected two RBIs.
Kyle Von Ruden racked up his ninth quality start of the season for the win. Von Ruden (4-4) lasted six innings and gave up three earned runs on seven hits with four strikeouts and no walks. Jimmy Johnson took the loss. Johnson (3-2) pitched two innings and surrendered five earned runs on six hits with one strikeout and four walks. Will Kincanon earned his third save of the season after he struck out the side in the 9th to end it. Kincanon went two-and-a-third and gave up one earned run on one hit with four strikeouts.
Great Falls plays its final regular-season game at home against Missoula Saturday night. First pitch at Centene Stadium is set for 7 o'clock. The Voyagers begin the Pioneer League playoffs against the Osprey with game 1 of the divisional round series at home Sunday at 6 p.m. Playoff tickets are on sale now. For 2017 general ticketing and promotional information, call 406-452-5311 or visit www.gfvoyagers.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.