Anthony Villa and Nate Nolan have marked a lot of milestones together in their baseball careers.
They were teammates at Saint Mary's College, where they led the Gaels to their first NCAA Tournament appearance last year. Then they were drafted 11 rounds apart by White Sox.
On Sunday, they both homered to power Great Falls to a 7-4 win over Missoula in Game 1 of the best-of-3 Pioneer League North Division Finals.
Villa got things going in the first inning, ripping a 2-1 offering from Cole Stapler over the center field fence for a two-run shot that lifted the Voyagers into a 2-2 tie. Nolan followed suit an inning later, turning on an 0-2 pitch and sending it out to left for another two-run blast.
Gameday box score
"It was a cool moment, lot of fun," Villa said. "I've really enjoyed playing with him for the past four years. And for us to both go deep to start the game was pretty special."
"Nate went in the eighth round on the second day [of the 2016 Draft] and then that night was texting me, 'Hey, have you heard anything?' So he was eager and we were both hoping that on Day 3 the White Sox would pick me up and he actually saw it before I did," Villa said. "I looked at my phone and saw a text from him that came through just seconds before I got the call."
They diverged briefly, with Nolan heading to Class A Kannapolis for a 14-game stint, while Villa played 59 contests for Great Falls. They were reunited this summer with the Voyagers.
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Villa had a breakout year, earning MVP honors after hitting .314/.453/.619 with 16 homers and a league-leading 1.073 OPS in 63 games. Nolan put together a .253/.313/.475 slash line with seven homers in 42 games.
"All year, he's been doing it for us in big situations. He's kinda been the guy that everyone wants at the plate," Nolan said. "To kind of follow him up was cool. I know we were both happy for each other and I know the team was happy that it went down that way."
Nolan added to his ledger in the sixth, plating Tate Blackman with a single to cap the scoring. Blackman tripled, doubled and scored three runs.
Game 2 is Monday in Missoula.
In other playoff action:
Ogden 9, Orem 4
Luis Paz and Brayan Morales both had two hits and three RBIs as the Raptors took Game 1 of the other semifinal series. Osiris Ramirez tossed five scoreless innings for the win and Donovan Casey went 3-for-5 with two runs scored out of the leadoff spot for Ogden. "With Orem, they always put up a fight, never back down, so it's a big confidence-booster, but we just need to go into tomorrow like it's a tied series and just be battling as if it were another Game 1," said Casey, the Dodgers' 20th-round pick in this year's Draft. Game 2 is Monday in Orem. Box score