MISSOULA — Charlie Kirgan brought in three, including a two-run home run, made a key stop in the infield and the Missoula Mavericks beat the visiting Billings Scarlets, 5-2, in the opener of a doubleheader Saturday night.
The game was scoreless entering the fourth, with both putting on different types of defensive showings early on.
Billings pitcher Bradley Wagner had a no-hitter brewing in the first three innings and allowed just one batter, Bridger Johnson, to reach base off a walk in the bottom of the third. Missoula, meanwhile, took advantage of some highlight plays in the top of the fourth.
With Alex Certel taking over for starter Eamon Higgins, who pitched the first half of the game, Jackson Schauble of Billings roped a hard-hit ball to Mavericks second basemen Skye Palmer. It looked like trouble until Palmer made a quick dive to his right to make the top and hold Schauble at first — Palmer nearly turned the out but his throw to first was too far off the bag.
Certel then gave up a single to Jaden Sanchez, putting runners at first and second with one out on. Nate McDonald, hitting in the lead-off spot for Billings in the first game, had his own hard-hit ball, this time to third where Kirgan made his own diving stop going to his left as he tagged out Schauble and held McDonald to just a single off a dangerous hit.
Certel got out of the jam, which was lessened by the impact plays of his fielders, when Luke Tallman hit into a fly out.
Following the momentum set by the defense, the Mavs offense got rolling. The bottom of the fourth opened with a strike out, then Palmer hit a ball down the middle to give the Mavericks their first hit if the afternoon.
Palmer didn't wait on base for long as Kirgan brought him in on a two-run home run deep over the wall to break the game open with the first scoring play.
The Scarlets answered with a run in the top of the fifth off the fifth when Kyler Northrop hit a grounder to Palmer who couldn't handle it, allowing a runner from third to come in.
The Mavs retook their two-run lead in the bottom of the frame after Adam Jones weathered a 10-pitch at-bat to hit an RBI triple over the right fielder's head, putting the Mavs up 3-1. Billings again answered in the top of the sixth with an RBI single from Michael Feralio, but the Mavs answered back with RBIs from Kirgan and Connor Jordan in the bottom of the sixth.
Kirgan ended the first game 2 for 3 with a home run, a single and three RBIs. Jordan went 1 for 3 with an RBI and Jones finished 1 for 3 with an RBI. For Billings, Feralio went 2 for 3 with an RBI, Northrop finished 1 for 4 with an RBI. The Scarlets out-hit the Mavericks 9-6 but the Scarlets stranded 11 runners while the Mavericks left just three on.
In the night cap, the two were locked in a 5-all tie after five innings until the Scarlets went for six runs in the top of the seventh for a 11-5 win.
Hitting wise the two were pretty even with the Scarlets outhitting the Mavericks 9-8. The Scarlets stranded 10 runners for the game while the Mavericks stranded eight.
Logan Nyberg led the Scarlets at the plate with four RBIs 3-of-4 hitting. Sanchez added two RBIs on his 3-for-4 performance. For Missoula, Kirgan again led the way with two RBIs on 1-of-4 hitting. Mike Prather added two RBIs on 1-for-4 hitting.
The 1-1 day puts the Mavericks at 11-7 in the Class AA south standings, while Billings is now 3-12 according to the standings on the Montana Legion Baseball website.