PLAY BALL! Last night was the home opener for the Missoula Osprey and one thing stood out; it's soooo nice to have baseball back in Montana for the summer! After the jump I'll provide some observations from last night's game regarding a team that's raw but has tons of heart!Although my wife and I didn't renew our season tickets (darn refrigerator!), I hope to provide semi-regular updates regarding the team, prospects and personal observations from home games. We hope to attend 15-20 home games this year, including last night's home opener! So let's get to some details!
- This team has moxie and tons of heart! They fell behind early, trailing 4-0 by the 4th inning. But didn't give up or even look discouraged. Fighting back, the Osprey made Helena pitchers throw strikes and ultimately took 7 walks throughout the game. Meanwhile, the Osprey bullpen came in and shut Helena down! At the end of the game, the players poured out of the dugout to celebrate while shortstop Joshua Parr performed an excellent, flat footed back flip! A healthy crowd of 3,024 people thoroughly enjoyed the game!
- Speaking of Joshua Parr, although he didn't have an especially good day at the plate, Parr did make some impressive defensive plays at SS. On one play he displayed excellent range towards third, gloving a ball hit in the gap and making an accurate jump throw to first which nailed the runner by a half step.
- Third basemen Ryan Court displayed excellent range, diving for a ball hit sharply down the line in the 8th inning. However his quick throw to first sailed over the head of 6' 7" Jonathan Griffin for an error.
- One of the best plays of the game was by catcher Fidel Pena who following Ryan Court's poor throw was properly playing his position, backing up the throw behind first base. He fired a rocket to second base, nailing the Helena runner trying to advance on the throw to end an 8th inning rally!
- Two plays from the outfield stood out. The first was by Player of the Game, Jeremia Gomez who displayed an exceptionally strong arm in RF. It was a routine play, fielding a shot down the right field line. However, what most typically has resulted in a double over the past five years was a single for Helena due to his no-hop bullet from the right field corner just in front of the warning track. Oh yeah, he also went 1-3 with a 2B, sac fly and 2 RBI's including the 4th run in the 4 run, 4th inning and ultimately the game winner.
- The second play in the outfield was another display of arm strength. With runners on first and second, Helena hit a sharp grounder through the gap into center. Justin Bianco got the ball and fired a rocket home, holding the runner at third. Although the distance wasn't more than from mid-center field, the ball flew on an accurate line, was thrown with good form and hit the catcher's glove at his waist in line to make a play at home if the runner had chosen to advance. Oh yeah, he also went 1-3 with a 3B, scoring a run, 1 BB and 1 SO. His triple was a long, sharply hit ball to right hitting the wall above the jumping outfielder. The RF fence here in Missoula is only 287ft from home, but has a 20ft wall. Later in the season after Helena has learned the field in Missoula, this ball could end up being a double. However, Bianco is one fast dude so he easily had a stand up triple last night. In fact, I began thinking he might have a shot at an inside the park home run! But being only the 4th inning, Hector de la Cruz held him at third.
- The Osprey bullpen performed exceptionally! Johan Jaime pitched two solid innings, striking out 4 while walking only 2. But Conrad Flynn was the pitching stud of the night. Helena couldn't catch up to his fastball (no speeds, gun wasn't working last night) and looked embarased when he threw his change up. Couldn't tell if there was any off speed movement (I sit on the third base line), but he has a good release point and excellent throwing motion when he's tossing his change-up. Getting the victory in relief, he pitched 4 innings of 2 hit ball with 4Ks.
- Lastly, the umpires last night were ridiculously horrendous! I don't believe I've ever seen two interference calls at home which resulted in nullifying a stolen base after a strike out and a potential strike 'em out, throw 'em out double play! Gotta love rookie league umpires!
My hope is to provide y'all with weekly updates at the very least. However please let me know if you would like to know anything about any of the players or from any of the games. If I'm not at the game I'm most likely listening on the radio or online.