Four-Run 11th Ruins Helena Brewers Home-Opener, Voyagers Win 5-1
The 2017 Pioneer League season got underway Monday night, as the Helena Brewers played host to the Great Falls Voyagers. This was a fantastic pitchers’ duel, that saw each team able to plate one run through the first 10 innings of the ballgame. However, Great Falls would add four runs in the top of the 11th inning, then watched their bullpen load the bases before Tyler Johnson was able to strike out Jay Feliciano to end the game. The loss ruined a great night by Carlos Herrera, who allowed just 4-hits in his first start of the season.
Herrera was opposed by Chris Comito and both starters looked absolutely brilliant on this night. Neither team was able to score in the first frame, but both would get on the board in the second. In the top of the second, Anthony Villa began the inning with a base hit, and move to third on a double down the left-field line by Franklin Reyes. Two batters later, Hanleth Otano grounded out to third, bringing Villa home to stake the Voyagers to a 1-0 lead.
Helena responded right away in the bottom of the second. With one down, Chad McClanahan singled up the middle and moved to third on a base hit by Franly Mallen. With runners at the corner and one down, Nic Pierre grounded into a fielder’s choice that scored McClanahan to tie the game at one.
From there, both pitching staffs put up eight straight innings of goose eggs. The Brewers threatened in the bottom of the third when they got runners to second and third with two down, but Comito struck out McClanahan to end the frame.
In the top of the fourth, Villa reached on a hit by pitch, but was erased by a double-play. Craig Dedelow followed with a single, but was thrown out trying to steal, ending the threat. In the sixth, the Voyagers looked like they would get the lead, when Luis Curbelo singled to start the inning and moved to second on a sacrifice. A wild pitch moved him to third with just one out, but Herrera made some brilliant pitches, striking out Villa before getting a comebacker to end the threat.
Carlos Herrera would leave after 6-innings. He allowed 4-hits and no walks, with one run scoring. He struck out 4. Chris Comito was nearly as brilliant, lasting 5-innings, allowing 5-hits, a walk and a run with 4-strikeouts.
This became a battle of the bullpens from that point on. Fernando Gallegos relieved Comito to start the sixth, and threw three scoreless innings. Josue Gerardo would pitch of scoreless ninth and 10th innings for the Voyagers.
Herrera was replaced by Parker Bean in the seventh, who pitched 2.2 scoreless innings. He found himself in some trouble with a hit by pitch and a two-out walk put two on for Sam Dexter. Rodrigo Benoit relieved and retired the final batter of the inning to end the threat.
Benoit would find himself in trouble in the top of the 10th, when Great Falls would get a leadoff double by Tyler Frost before Curbelo singled to put runners at first and third with no one out. Benoit looked like he was on the ropes, but he performed quite the Houdini routine, striking out Luis Gonzalez before walking Villa to load the bases. He then induced Reyes to ground into a double-play to keep the game tied at one.
The Brewers reliever had lived dangerously, but they made pitches when they needed them. However, in the top of the 11th his run would come to an end. Dedelow started the inning with a long drive to deep center that was barely out of the reach of Zach Clark. Dedelow raced into second with a double, and moved to third on a ground out. It looked like Benoit would once again escape without allowing a run when he was able to retire Nate Nolan on a shallow flyball, but Dexter followed with a ground ball up the middle that was barely out of the reach of Antonio Pinero. The base hit allowed the runner to score and gave Great Falls the lead. However, they were not done. Frost followed with the soft single that moved Dexter into third before Curbelo was hit by a pitch to load the bases. That brought Gonzales to the place, who lined a double into centerfield, clearing the bases and staking the Voyagers to a 5-1 lead.
In the bottom of the 11th, Tyler Johnson came on looking to finish off the game. He walked Payton Henry before hitting Gabriel Garcia to put two on. Two batters later, McClanahan walked to load the bases, bringing the tying run to the plate. However, Johnson remained as cool as Benoit had in earlier innings. He got Mallen to pop out, before striking out Jay Feliciano to end the game.
Josue Gerardo (1-0) earned the victory for Great Falls. Rodrigo Benoit (0-1) took the loss. Luis Curbelo was 3-4 with a run and an RBI for the Great Falls Voyagers. Luis Gonzales drove in three. The Helena Brewers offense was led by Franly Mallen, who was 2-4.
These two teams will go at it again tomorrow night. Harold Chirino is scheduled to start for Helena. First pitch is at 7:05.
By Robert Pannier