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Rivals Missoula PaddleHeads, Billings Mustangs to clash in Pioneer League postseason

Posted at 10:44 AM, Sep 07, 2022

BILLINGS — The Pioneer League baseball postseason is set, and rivals Missoula and Billings will clash in a best-of-three series beginning Monday in Billings.

With a 67-24 overall record entering Wednesday, Missoula won both halves in the North division. The Paddleheads' second-half record was 31-12, and they had won seven games in a row. Missoula is the defending league champion, and has clinched home field advantage throughout the 2022 playoffs.

Among Missoula's offensive leaders is Patrick Chung, who ranked No. 2 in the league with a .417 batting average entering Wednesday. Jayson Newman was tops in the PL with 32 home runs and 115 RBIs, and was hitting .377.

Lamar Sparks had scored 105 runs, second-most in the league, while closer Sam Hellinger had a league-high 16 saves.

Billings was 50-40 overall, including a 24-19 mark in the second half. The Mustangs clinched a playoff berth by virtue of a 5-1 victory over Idaho Falls on Tuesday — their fourth win in a row — coupled with Great Falls' loss to Glacier, which elilminated the Chukars and Voyagers from contention.

Billings' Gabe Wurtz had hit 20 homers and had 78 RBIs entering Wednesday, both team highs, and had a .306 average. Jackson Raper was hitting .302 with 11 homers, 26 doubles and seven triples. Billings native Jalen Garcia had nine triples, second-most in the PL, and 16 stolen bases.

Kelvan Pilot and Foster Pace each had seven victories to lead the pitching staff.

The South division series will pit first-half champion Ogden (49-43 overall) versus second-half champion Grand Junction (57-33). The winners of the division series will meet for the Pioneer League championship in a best-of-three series.

Saturday will mark the final day of the regular season.

The Pioneer League is in its second season as an independent professional baseball league.