Great Falls, MT-Despite a first-round playoff exit, the Voyagers posted the most wins for a Great Falls team since 2013 and owned the Pioneer League's best overall record.
Great Falls finished the 2016 campaign with a combined record of 47-28. The Voyagers won the second half North Division title with a 26-11 mark. They finished eight games ahead of Billings after the Mustangs claimed the first half division crown. Overall, the Voyagers were six games in front of Billings for the entire season. They went 27-10 at home and 31-16 against division opponents.
The first half started in slightly rocky fashion as Great Falls dropped its first three of four on the road in a series at Helena back in mid-June. The Voyagers then rattled off its first winning streak by taking the next four to finish the season-opening six-game road swing with a 3-3 record. Great Falls went 4-3 on its first home stand of the season with three wins against the Brewers and one vs. Billings. The Voyagers swept the Mustangs in a two-game series to conclude their second home stand with a winning record as well. In fact, Great Falls boasted winning records on all eight home stands during the entire 2016 slate.
The Voyagers wrapped up the first half of the season while on a 12-day, 10-game road trip at South Division foes Orem and Grand Junction. Great Falls went 4-3 as it split a four-game series at Orem and took two of three at Grand Junction. The Voyagers spent the overwhelming majority of the first half either tied for second or in second place outright. Great Falls 21-17 first half record left them two games back of the Mustangs. The first 38 games featured plenty of close affairs, including five extra-inning contests. Great Falls did not win any of those extra-inning games. The Voyagers also went 7-10 in one-run and two-run games over the course of the first half.
The second half started in similar fashion to the first half, with Great Falls losing a three-game series on the road at Billings two-games-to-one. Following the all-star break, the Voyagers immediately matched two, four-game winning streaks from the first half with four straight victories in the first week of the second half. It started by salvaging the series finale with the Mustangs before returning home to take three of four from Idaho Falls and two of three from Ogden. Great Falls then embarked on a seven-game road stretch at Idaho Falls and Ogden that would leave them in second place but only two games back.
The final 20 games of the regular season saw the Voyagers reach historic heights that nearly matched the Great Falls Dodgers teams of the 1980's and early 1990's. The Voyagers went 7-1 over the course of eight straight against division rival Helena. A 15-game winning streak began on August 22nd with a road victory over the Brewers and did not lapse until a September 7th road loss at Missoula on the back-end of a doubleheader just one day before the regular season finale. The Voyagers concluded the season with a 17-3 mark in the last 20 games. During that spectacular run, the Great Falls pitching staff threw two no-hitters and registered four complete-games. The Voyagers 15-game streak was just one shy of the 1990 Great Falls Dodgers record streak. Great Falls won 11 consecutive home games in the second half as well. The Voyagers turned around those narrow defeats from the first half into close wins in the second half. They went 13-5 in one-run and two-run games in the second half.
A two-game playoff sweep at the hands of Billings did not dampen what was a remarkable season of baseball for Great Falls. The Voyagers pitching staff led the Pioneer League in ERA and strikeouts. The staff also yielded the fewest walks, home runs, and hits. The 3.54 team ERA was the lowest in the Pioneer League since 2003. Great Falls had four mid-season all-stars suit up for the Pioneer League in Ogden, UT against the Northwest League. Pitchers Aron McRee and Jake Elliott joined position players Aaron Schnurbusch and Brady Conlan at Lindquist Field on August 2nd. Conlan had a team-high 19-game hitting streak to start his first professional season. McRee ended up being named the Pioneer League Pitcher of the Year after going 5-0 with a 2.16 ERA. The Voyagers had a total of five players named end-of-season all-stars. McRee was joined on that list by fellow hurlers Alec Hansen, Chris Comito, and Yosmer Solorzano. Schnurbusch was the fifth end-of-season all-star for Great Falls after he finished third in the Pioneer League batting race with a .357 average. Solorzano was part of a combined no-hitter at home against Helena on August 20th, and threw a five-inning, rain-shortened no-hitter at home against Missoula on September 4th. The combined no-hitter was the first one in the Pioneer League since Great Falls did it previously in 2011.
To learn more about Great Falls Voyagers ticketing and promotional information for the 2017 season at Centene Stadium, go online at www.gfvoyagers.com or phone 406.452.5311.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.