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Pioneer League playoffs: Billings beats Missoula in 12, advances to championship series

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Posted at 11:35 PM, Sep 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-15 01:37:27-04

MISSOULA — Mitch Moralez hit an RBI single in the top of the 12th and the Billings Mustangs defeated the Missoula PaddleHeads 8-7 in extra innings Thursday night at Ogren-Allegiance Park to earn a spot in the Pioneer League championship series.

Moralez's single scored Brendan Ryan to give Billings a one-run advantage, then the Mustangs survived in the bottom of the 12th as Missoula's Dondrei Hubbard was thrown out at home trying to score the tying run on a Luis Navarro base hit.

Ethan McRae came on in relief for Billings with two outs and retired Missoula's Jake Guenther to give the Mustangs a win in the deciding third game of their North division playoff series. Billings ended the PaddleHeads' run of two consecutive trips to the championship round.

The victory was the Mustangs' 19th in their past 22 games dating back to Aug. 20.

The PaddleHeads tied the game in ninth when Cameron Thompson doubled to score McClain O'Connor and make the score 6-6. Thompson, though, was thrown out at third base, the second time in the inning Missoula was thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple.

Playoff rules took effect after the ninth, meaning the game went to extra innings instead of the Knockout Round the league uses to settle ties in the regular season.

The teams traded runs in the 10th to extend the game, then played a scoreless 11th.

Ryan went 4 for 5 with two runs scored for Billings while Moralez went 2 for 4 with three RBIs. Alejandro Figueredo and Blake Evans hit home runs for the Mustangs.

Hubbard was 4 for 6 with a home run for the PaddleHeads while Navarro had three hits.

Billings will play the Ogden Raptors in the best-of-three Pioneer League championship series beginning with Game 1 on Saturday in Ogden, Utah. Game 2 will be Monday in Billings.