(Billings Mustangs release)
BILLINGS – The Billings Mustangs (0-1) dropped their season-opener, 5-2, to the Idaho Falls Chukars (1-0) on Friday Night in front of 3,298 at Dehler Park. Both bullpens locked in to provide a defensive battle in relief, but an early lead was enough for the Chukars to hold on.
Idaho Falls grabbed the first lead of the game with two runs in the top of the second on two hits. Rafael Romero singled in one while a throw to second after a wild pitch gave Michael Emodi enough time to score one batter later.
Trailing 2-0, the Mustangs immediately jumped out of the hole, plating their only two runs in the bottom of the second on three hits. Quin Cotton singled in his first professional at-bat, leaving a slow roller down the third base line to give him enough time to run it out for the reach. Ranser Amador doubled right behind him to allow the speedy Cotton to score from first. Amador then came home on a sacrifice to left from Claudio Finol.
Tied at 2-2 going to the top of the fourth, the Chukars bounced back with two runs on just one hit, two hit batters, a walk and an error. Chris Hudgins led off the inning with a double and a series of defensive miscues allowed him and Emodi to score later in the frame.
The scored held at 4-2 with the Chukars leading all the way into the top of the ninth thanks to sharp relief pitching from both sides. Justin McGregor threw three innings of shutout relief, allowing just two hits in his return to Billings. Jeffry Nino backed him up with another 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief to keep the Mustangs within striking distance.
The Mustangs were unable to get anything else going at the plate, however, running into the outstanding relief of Nathan Webb (1-0). The right-hander struck out 10 batters, including the last six he faced, in 4 2/3 of shutout relief.
Billings spread their seven hits throughout the lineup, not getting a single multi-hit performance, but collecting three extra-base hits — all doubles.
The Mustangs and Chukars will face off in their second game of a three-game series Saturday, June 15, at Dehler Park. First pitch is set for 6:35 p.m. MDT.