As the Billings Mustangs inched closer and closer to a walk-off win on Saturday, instead the Helena Brewers walked out of their season with a victory, holding on for a 12-11 win at Dehler Park.
Helena (28-48) led 12-9 entering the bottom of the ninth, but relief pitcher Parker Bean struggled, giving up a run and putting the tying run on second before the Brewers yanked him and brought Cody Martin in. Martin got the outs he needed and the Brewers closed their season on a positive note.
The 28 victories match their win total from last season, though their winning percentage was actually better due to missing two games. The Brewers went 28-46 last season.
The Brewers started things off in the first with two runs. Gabriel Garcia hit an RBI single and the Brewers picked up a second run after a wild pitch from Ricardo Smith.
The Mustangs answered in resounding fashion. In the bottom of the first inning, J.D. Salmon-Williams hit a two-run homer to knot the game. Then, Pabel Manzanero hit a three-run homer and give the Mustangs a 5-2 lead.
The scoring slowed until the fifth, when Jay Feliciano hit his own three-run homer, his 13th home run of the season.
The Mustangs retook the lead in the bottom of the same frame. Alejo Lopez hit a RBI single and then Leandro Santana slashed a two-run homer and Billings went up 8-5.
Helena got a few runs in the bottom of the sixth when Jose Gomez hit an RBI-double to left field. A stolen base incited a throwing error by Manzanero, which allowed another Brewers run to make the game 8-7.
The Brewers surged ahead in the seventh. Nick Roscetti struck out, but a wild pitch by Ryan Nutof allowed a run across the plate to tie the game. Nic Pierre hit an RBI single to score two more runs. Franly Mallen singled to right and scored another. Feliciano hit an RBI single to give the Brewers a 12-8 edge.
From there, it was a matter of hanging on.
Santana hit an RBI grounder to give the Mustangs a run back in the seventh.
Then, the Brewers survived the late spree by the Mustangs and avoided extra innings a night after going into 13.
Helena had 14 hits on the night, led by Antonio Pinero’s 3 for 4 showing.
Matt Hardy (1-0) got the win on the mound for the Brewers. He picked three innings and gave up two hits and struck out two in relief.
Great Falls landed in the playoffs as the second-half winner. Missoula won the first-half of the season, so the pair will begin a playoff series next week.
The Brewers, meanwhile, will be back in Helena next summer for their final season.
-- Erik C. Anderson