Zach Clark Grand Slam Gives Brewers Early Lead, Hang on for 8-7 Win
A six-run first had the Helena Brewers (4-6) feeling pretty good about winning their third straight game, however the Great Falls Voyagers battled back to take the lead before the Brewers scored two in the sixth to win 8-7. Zach Clark was 2-4 with a first inning grand slam and Andrew Vernon tossed 2.2-innings, striking out 6 for his first save.
Kyle Von Ruden started for Great Falls and he was in trouble right off the bat. After Karsen Lindell struck out the side in the top of the first, the Helena Brewers put up six in the bottom half of the inning.
After Antonio Pinero struck out to begin the frame, Chad McClanahan singled and then stole second base, his first steal of the year. Dallas Carroll then grounded a ball to third. Justin Yurchak tried to get the lead runner but McClanahan reached third before the tag could be applied, allowing Carroll to reach on the fielder’s choice. Payton Henry followed with a walk to load the bases, and Gabriel Garcia then drew a walk to drive home McClanahan, and Helena was up 1-0. Next up was Jay Feliciano, who grounded a ball down to Yurchak. He made a nice play to knock the ball down, but could not throw out Feliciano. That allowed Carroll to score and the bases were still loaded. That brought Clark to the plate, who drilled his second home run of the season, a grand slam, over the left field wall to extend the lead to six.
The Brewers looked to be in complete control, but Great Falls rebounded to get two of those runs back in the top of the second. Yurchak led off the inning by singling into left and Lindell then walked the next two batters to load the bases. A fielder’s choice by Hanleth Otano scored Yurchak before Ricky Mota singled to score Nate Nolan. That made the score 6-2.
Two innings later, Great Falls cut the deficit to two. Hanleth Otano singled with one down and, two batters later, Tyler Frost hit his first home run of the season to make it 6-4.
An inning later, the Voyagers would tie the score. With Robbie Hitt on the hill, he fanned the first two hitters of the inning, but walked Max Dutto to keep the inning alive. That brought Otano to the plate, who clubbed his first homer of the year to tie the game at six.
In the sixth, Great Falls completed the comeback by taking the lead. Alec Bettinger relieved and was greeted by back-to-back singles by Jacob Cooper and Craig Dedelow. A ground out scored Cooper and it was 7-6 Voyagers.
After their bats were kept silent for four innings, the Brewers finally got back on the board, responding with two-runs in the bottom of the sixth to retake the lead. Von Ruden had pitched well after the tough first inning, but he came out and Parker Rigler took over. He was greeted by a double by Payton Henry, who moved to third on a wild pitch. Garcia then grounded to second, scoring Henry to tie the game. With two down, Clark kept the inning alive by lining a double into left and he scored on a base hit by Franly Mallen. That put the Brewers on top, 8-7.
In the seventh, Great Falls looked like they would get back on the board themselves. A walk to Dutto started the inning. He moved to second on a sacrifice and advanced to third on a base hit by Mota. That ended the day for Bettinger (1-0), as Andrew Vernon came on. He struck out Frost before hitting Cooper to load the bases. He then got Dedelow to pop out to end the threat. Vernon finished out the final two-innings for his first save.
Zach Clark led the Brewers offense, going 2-4 with 2-runs and 4-RBI. Gabriel Garcia drove in 2 and Payton Henry scored 2-runs. Hanleth Otano was 2-4 with a run and 3-RBI for the Voyagers.
The Helena Brewers travel to Great Falls Thursday, beginning a seven-game road trip. Chris Comito (0-1, 2.31) will start for the Voyagers. He will be opposed by Carlos Herrera (1-0, 4.91). First pitch is 7:00.
By Robert Pannier