(Billings Mustangs release)
BILLINGS — The Billings Mustangs (3-10) fell in their series opener to the Missoula Osprey (6-7) 7-2 in front of 2,503 at Dehler Park on Thursday night to deny the Mustangs their first back-to-back wins of the season.
A night after the Mustangs set a new season-high for hits in a game, they were held to a season-low six hits against the pitching staff of the Osprey.
Both sides stayed scoreless through the first five innings of Thursday night’s contest. Ricky Karcher delivered three shutout, no-hit innings in the start, walking four and striking out three. Johnnie Schneider (1-1) followed by throwing two scoreless innings before running into trouble in the sixth.
Tied at 0-0, the Osprey had three of their first four batters reach in the top of the sixth inning, getting RBI hits from Cesar Garcia and Luvin Valbuena to lead a three-run inning.
They followed that up with another four runs on four hits in the seventh, this time getting their first four to the plate on base and consequently all four around to score.
The Mustangs broke through for a pair of runs in the eighth after seven scoreless innings at the plate. TJ Hopkins was walked with one out and Nate Scantlin doubled to left right behind him. Both scored on a throwing error by catcher Luvin Valbuena to pull Billings within five runs.
Alberto Gonzalez III threw 2 1/3 innings of perfect relief to finish the game on the hill for Billings, striking out four in the process.
Claudio Finol went 2-for-4 at the plate with a triple.
The Mustangs and Osprey will face off for the fifth consecutive game and game two of their three-game series Friday night at Dehler Park. The Zooperstars will make an appearance at the game, scheduled to start at 6:35 p.m. MDT.