MISSOULA — The Missoula PaddleHeads scored the final nine runs of the game to open their season with an 11-4 victory over the Great Falls Voyagers on Saturday night.
The PaddleHeads put up one run in the fifth, two in the sixth, four in the seventh and two in the eighth to rally from a 4-2 deficit at Ogren-Allegiance Field. All nine of those runs came with two outs in those innings, and six were unearned runs.
In total, they scored four runs on wild pitches or passed balls. They added three runs on home runs from Clay Fisher and Jared Akins.
"Any time we can capitlize on mistakes or capitlize on anything, we're going to try to do it," Missoula manager Michael Schlact said. "I was proud of the guys. They showed a lot of fight tonight."
It was Missoula's first game in 616 days after the 2020 season was canceled by the pandemic. The teams played in front of a sellout crowd of 2,000 people (50% capacity), many of whom remained through rain in the early innings for the franchise's first game since rebranding from being the Osprey.
Despite the name change, what remained was the fan-loved peanut inning. The newly independent club also featured gimmicks like two people in chicken costumes fighting on the field in between innings and the mascot streaking down the third base line and into left field before being playfully tackled.
After a slow start, the PaddleHeads pulled within 4-3 in the fifth inning and took a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the sixth when Dean Nevarez and Fisher scored on a two-out error in left field. They then turned a bases-loaded double play in the top of the seventh to retain that lead.
Missoula made it a 9-4 advantage in the seventh inning when it scored four runs on three consecutive pitches. The first run scored on a passed ball, the second on a wild pitch and the next two came when Fisher plastered a two-run home run to left-center field. All four runs were unearned because of a two-out error in left field with no one on base.
Matt Warkentin made it 10-4 with a two-out triple in the eighth inning. He then scored on a wild pitch to make it 11-4.
"It took a little while to get our timing, we were real amped up and stuff like that," Schlact said. "But I got a lot of faith in these guys, and they started getting the timing and started seeing it and we started really rolling, and I was proud of them."
Missoula had taken a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Nevarez scored from third on a wild pitch. Great Falls struck for three runs in the third inning, the PaddleHeads responded with a solo shot that Akins sent over the two-story wall in right field and the Voyagers added a run in the fifth to go up 4-2 before Missoula reeled off nine consecutive runs to close the game.
Matt Mogollon got the win in relief, while Logan Maxwell took the loss.