MISSOULA — Home cooking and a new mascot seem to be bringing the Missoula PaddleHeads good fortune to start the 2021 season.
The team improved to 3-0 Monday night with a pair of wins over the Great Falls Voyagers at Ogren-Allegiance Park, 3-1 and 10-0.
In the first game, the PaddleHeads opened the scoring with a run in the bottom of the second inning. Matt Warkentin, a 24-year-old Canadian, smacked a solo home run to left field.
Great Falls answered with a run in the third inning off Missoula starting pitcher Kevin Hilton. Quintin Alexander singled and scored on a double off the fence by Dom Abbadessa.
The PaddleHeads went back in front in the fourth. Former Missoula Osprey Tristen Carranza drew a leadoff walk and came around to score on an opposite field double off the wall by Floridian Jay Hayes. The ball hit just inside the right field foul pole halfway up the wall.
The PaddleHeads missed out on a chance to add to their lead in the fifth. Clay Fisher drew a walk and moved to third on an errant pickoff throw with no outs. The Voyagers wriggled out of the jam without allowing Fisher to score.
Missoula did add a valuable insurance run in the sixth. Former Osprey Zac Almond ripped a double to right center field and Aaron Bond came on to pinch run for him. Bond moved up on a wild pitch by Kyle Taylor and later scored on a wild pitch.
Great Falls threatened in the final inning, the seventh, against reliever Mark Simon. Two runners reached and then two Voyagers were ejected after disputing what they thought was a blown hit batsman call by the home plate umpire. The game ended with Simon striking out Abbadessa.
Missoula's pitching stole the headlines in the nightcap as the PaddleHeads staff compiled 17 strikeouts over seven innings. Domingo Pena was the hero, finishing with 10 strikeouts in just four innings pitched. The native of the Dominican Republic recorded all but two outs in the outing via strikeout in earning the win.
A four-run rally in the third inning put the game out of reach, making the score 8-0. The highlight of the inning was a towering two-run blast off the bat of Daniel Nevarez. Luke Navigato was also stellar at the plate, finishing 3 for 3. Bond and Carranza also chipped in, finishing 2 for 3.
The PaddleHeads will host the defending Pioneer League Champion Idaho Falls Chukars on Wednesday.