MISSOULA – The Missoula Osprey secured home-field advantage through the Pioneer League North playoff series, but now the team has its back against the wall.
After dropping Game 1 of its series against the Great Falls Voyagers on Sunday night, another loss would mark the end of Missoula’s season. Mike Benjamin’s team is ready for the challenge though, especially given the fact that Missoula owns a 10-6 record over the Voyagers this season, and have won four of its last six regular season games against Great Falls.
“We played each other a lot, so we know each other well,” said Osprey infielder Keshawn Lynch. “So I mean, they definitely know how to pitch against us, we know how to pitch against them, and so it’s going to be a battle. Hopefully we just come out here victorious [in Game 2], and have the fans out here ready to go [for game 3].”
“I think it’s a good thing. You kind of get to know a team, you get to know their strengths and weaknesses,” added Osprey catcher and designated hitter Andy Yerzy, who hit a two-run home run in the loss.
“That kind of plays against us because they know our strengths and weaknesses but, I feel like we’re two pretty evenly matched teams, and I have complete confidence that we’re going to win these next two games and move on to a championship series.”
Despite Missoula owning the season record by four games, Yerzy’s statement about the two teams being evenly matched is fairly accurate, especially as of late. The two teams split the regular season finale four-game series, and over the course of the regular season are separated by only 14 runs, in favor of Missoula.
“They’ve seen us quite a bit, we’ve seen them, so we have an understanding of what they’re trying to accomplish — what their hitters tendencies are, whatnot,” said Benjamin. “But in the same sense they’ve got the same information on our guys. So, it’s just going to be I think a matter of who makes the best adjustments.”
On the mound for Game 2, the Osprey send out 17-year-old right-hander Elvis Luciano, who makes his first Pioneer League start after being called up to the team on September 3. Since joining the Osprey, Luciano has made one appearance, tossing two shutout innings as a relief pitcher against the Voyagers.
Left-hander Parker Rigler will take the mound for the Voyagers on Monday night. As a starter, Rigler is 0-2 versus Missoula, giving up 11 runs (7 earned) in 5.1 innings, with 2 strikeouts and 3 walks. Rigler’s other two appearances against the Osprey were much better, however he pitched out of the bullpen. As a reliever, the 22-year-old is 1-0, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits in 4 innings, while striking out 10 batters and not giving up a walk.
“I would say [finding motivation is] easier because we know it’s a win-win situation,” said Lynch, who went 2-4 on Sunday with one RBI and one run scored. “We have to win, if not we go home. So, I think everybody in the clubhouse is aware and we’re ready to go, ready to play.”
“It’s win or go home right now, but I feel like we’re still going to play the same type of baseball we’ve been playing all year,” Yerzy said.
“We’re not scared to be down 1-0. We’ve banged off two in a row plenty of times so, we have a lot of confidence going into this game and hopefully we can pull out a W.”
First pitch from Ogren Park is set for 7:05 P.M.