Birds Stumble to Defeat in Elimination Game

Disastrous fourth inning stunts early Osprey momentum in sweep

By Missoula Osprey | September 12, 2017 3:45 AM

MISSOULA, MONT. - Facing elimination at home, the Missoula Osprey built an early lead on Monday night at Ogren Park at Allegiance Field, but were stunned by the Voyagers who scored six times in the fourth inning, eventually beating the Osprey by a final score of 8-5 to eliminate Missoula from the postseason.

With the game scoreless entering the bottom of the third, the Osprey seized the first lead of the night, scoring three times against Voyagers starter Parker Rigler. Third baseman Joel Novas was hit by a pitch to open the inning, followed immediately by a Gabriel Maciel walk. A wild pitch moved the runners to second and third, allowing Novas to score on a sacrifice fly by Keshawn Lynch. With two out in the inning, Andy Yerzy launched a two-run homer-his second of the series-to lift Missoula to a 3-0 lead after three innings.

During the next half inning, however, the Osprey were derailed when Great Falls broke through against 17-year-old right-hander Elvis Luciano. In his fist start for the Osprey, Luciano pitched three scoreless innings to open the game before surrendering three consecutive singles to commence the fourth. Two additional hits with one out allowed the Voyagers to plate three runs and tie the game against Luciano, knocking him from the ballgame. Reliever Casey Kulina entered in the place of Luciano and surrendered a three-run homer to the first man he faced, sinking the Osprey to a 6-3 deficit.

Luciano, who was saddled with only his second loss of the season at any level, finished after 3.1 innings in which he surrendered five runs (all earned) on seven hits and a walk, while striking out one. At 17-years-old, Luciano was the youngest pitcher to appear in an Osprey playoff game since Scottie Allen in 2009.

Missoula answered with a run in the bottom of the fourth with an RBI-single from Novas, but Great Falls immediately countered with two additional runs in the top of the fifth on a two-run homer from Nate Nolan. Trailing 8-4, the Osprey pushed the score to its final margin in the bottom of the fifth on a solo homer from Eduardo Diaz. Missoula managed only two total baserunners in the final four innings of the game, going down in sequence during the ninth.

With the loss, the Osprey were eliminated from the Pioneer League playoffs and ended their season with a 38-38 regular-season record, becoming the first team in franchise history to win the division title in both halves. The sweep marks the first time the Osprey have exited the playoffs without winning a game.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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