Opening day in rookie ball. Extra innings.
The Great Falls Voyagers prevailed in 11 innings, knocking off the Helena Brewers 5-1 to open up the Pioneer League at Kindrick Legion Field in front of a crowd of 1,336.
As Rodrigo Benoit looked to keep the Brewers in it, designated hitter Craig Dedelow started the Brewers’ undoing.
Dedelow hit a line drive double to begin the 11th inning. Benoit extracted a ground out from Hanleth Otano, but Nate Nolan flew out next, which moved Dedelow to third. The speedy Sam Dexter struck a grounder, which singled to center field and scored Dedelow. 2-1 Voyagers.
Great Falls wasn’t’ done there.
Tyler Frost singled and then Luis Curbelo was hit by a pitch. Luis Gonzalez doubled with the bases full, adding three insurance runs and giving the Voyagers a 5-1. An Anthony Villa strikeout ended the inning, but the game was complete.
Tyler Johnson came onto the mound for the Voyagers in the bottom of the 11th, and loaded the bases up – walking two and hitting a batter – but got himself out of the jam and preserved the win.
“It was a great game,” Brewers manager Nestor Corredor said. “Like you say early on we look like a lock on our plan, and then we start shooting every pitch. We didn’t execute a couple of times. They took advantage of the opportunities. They gave us the game late in the game, and we didn’t take it.”
Josue Gerardo (1-0) earned the win for the Voyagers, after entering the game in the bottom of the 9th and pitched two innings, giving up one hit and striking out one.
Rodrigo Benoit (0-1) received the loss after entering the game in the ninth with two outs. Benoit worked deep into a 2-2 count before forcing a pop out and get out of the inning.
In the ninth inning, Nicolas Pierre popped up, which prompted Franly Mallen to make a play. Mallen had reached first after being hit by a pitch. Pierre’s pop up saw some confusion by the Voyagers during its fielding. Mallen took second and then third, pausing momentarily before making his charge for home.
Mallen’s run didn’t come. Otano threw him out, reaching Voyagers catcher Nate Nolan before Mallen could attempt a play at the plate.
“I’m really happy with the first game,” Corredor said. “Obviously we lost, and nobody wants to lose. But it’s a good taste.”
Chris Comito started on the mound for Great Falls. He played last season in Great Falls. The 20-year-old, right-hander played against the Brewers once last season. He ended the game pitching five innings and giving up five hits and one earned run, a walk and fanning four batters.
Carlos Herrera started on the mound for the Brewers. The 19-year old went six innings and gave up four hits and one earned run, while striking out four batters. Originally he signed as a non-drafted free agent by Seattle Mariners in 2014. On Monday, he kept his team in the game and gave the Brewers plenty of chances to win the game.
“Herrara did exactly what we hope,” Corredor said. “He goes six inning and he really helped. Parker (Bean), Benoit were awesome. Benoit came in and he kept us in the game.”
The clubs exchanged runs in the second inning.
Voyagers third baseman Villa, who went 1-4, hit a single to the left infield, nabbing a base and then Franklin Reyes followed it up with a shot to left field for a double, moving Villa to second. Hanleth Otano grounded out for a RBI, giving the Voyagers a 1-0 lead. Herrera put Nate Nolan down on strikes to get out of the second.
The Brewers matched the Voyagers’ second inning offense. After a strike out by Yerald Martinez, Chad McClanahan lined to right field for a single and then when Franly Mallen hit a line drive to a similar portion of the field, McClanahan stretched Mallen’s single into third-base appearance. Nicolas Pierre poked a grounder toward second base, bringing in McClanahan to die the game at 1-1.
From the third through the 11th inning, a solid display of defensive baseball took the stage.
Helena won the season opener against Great Falls, 6-4. The Voyagers, after all, went on to win the North Division with a 47-28 record.
The Brewers take on the Voyagers again on Tuesday, as Brewers right handed pitcher Harrold Chirino faces right Luis Ledo. The opening pitch is slated for 7:05 at Kindrick Legion Field.