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 Missoula PaddleHeads

PaddleHeads Begin Play in Northern Division Playoff

September 11, 2023 - Pioneer League (PL)
Missoula PaddleHeads News Release

MISSOULA, MT - For the 3rd consecutive season, the Missoula PaddleHeads are looking to bring a championship back to the Garden City in the form of a Pioneer League title. After falling just short of a 2nd straight league crown last season, the PaddleHeads will be focused on getting back to the top of the mountain. A familiar foe stands in their way in the opening round of play. They too will have revenge on their mind as the Northern Division Playoff will feature a rematch from last season with the rival Billings Mustangs.

The best of 3 series begins Monday night in the Magic City and surely will feature a lot of twists and turns. The PaddleHeads have known they would be a part of the equation in the postseason for sometime having won the first half pennant. On the other side of the spectrum however, the Mustangs used a torrid run to the finish line to claim their position in the playoffs.

Highlighted by a 15 game winning streak from the end of August into September, the Mustangs climbed to the top of the ladder in the 2nd half standings in the Northern Division claiming the 2nd half pennant on the final day of the Pioneer League regular season. The Mustangs would finish the 2nd half with an impressive mark of 32-16. The PaddleHeads would finish just a ½ game off the pace however and would also finish the regular season with the best overall record in the Pioneer League at 66-29.

The PaddleHeads held a slight edge over Billings in games played during the regular season holding a 10-8 record in games played against the Mustangs. Billings did have the slight advantage in the 2nd half in games against Missoula however, holding a 4-2 record against the PaddleHeads. Surely these 2 squads are familiar with one another having seen their battles over the course of the season. But players on both sides of the diamond have played some of their best baseball coming down the stretch of the season and will look to have that success continue in the postseason.

John Michael Faile of the Mustangs put together a month to remember in August allowing the Mustangs to get into the thick of the 2nd half race to finish 20-7. Michael Faile would tally 34 hits during the month of August finishing with a .391 batting average. Michael Faile would also tally 11 home runs in this stretch and would tally multiple hits in 12 separate games. For his efforts, Michael Faile was acknowledged as the Pioneer League Offensive Player of the Month. The

North Greenville product will face a challenge in game 1 however as the PaddleHeads will counter with the league's best pitcher.

Missoula's ace Alfredo Villa will get the ball in game 1 looking for more success against Billings.

Villa would throw a 7-inning complete game in his 1st appearance against Billings on the 2nd day of the regular season and would go on to have a fabulous regular season.

Villa would go on to lead the league in wins (13), strikeouts (128), and ERA (2.82). In the process, the Arizona native became the first pitcher in the Pioneer League since 2000 to win the triple crown. The 2nd year professional would also be at his best coming down the stretch in the month of August and was acknowledged as the Pioneer League Pitcher of the Month as a result. Villa finished the month with a 1.59 ERA in 6 starts.

The PaddleHeads offense had many contributors throughout the season finishing with a .325 team batting average which ranked 2nd in the league. Missoula would also tally 130 home runs as a team which ranked in the top 3 in the league. Many players had a hand in this effort, but the driving force for a large stretch in the 2nd half of the season would be 2nd year Pioneer League veteran Dondrei Hubbard.

Hubbard would finish the season with a .395 batting average in 70 games played. The Texas native would also be at his best coming down the stretch finishing with a hit in each of his last 12 games played. Furthermore, Hubbard would tally 2 hits or more in 11 of these contests. In Hubbard's last 41 games, Hubbard also recorded a hit in 39 of those contests.

Both of these teams seem to be locked in for a tight postseason battle. In its 75th year of existence as a franchise, the Mustangs are looking to complete an improbable run to the top of the mountain after a torrid run to end the season. The PaddleHeads seemingly have always been at the top of the mountain in this iteration of the Pioneer League reaching the league championship series in each of the last 2 seasons.

Missoula enters this matchup with a chip on its shoulder having fallen short in last season's league championship series. Missoula's 2022 season seemingly unraveled in an instant a season ago in 2 straight games at home allowing Grand Junction to take the league crown. The PaddleHeads have put themselves in the position to get a chance at redemption however earning its place in the postseason as the team with the best record in the league. The Mustangs also have revenge on their mind however after falling to Missoula in the postseason last year. So who will find the winning combination? Will it be the upstart team from the Magic City, or 'The Kings of the North' from the Garden City? The PaddleHeads, and Mustangs open their postseason battle in a best of 3 series on Monday night in Billings. First pitch from Dehler Park is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. Stay tuned in with all the action from the Magic City on ESPN Missoula 102.9 F.M.

The schedule for the remainder of the Pioneer League Postseason is as follows:

Divisional Round:

Wednesday 9/13 - Divisional Round Game 2

Thursday 9/14 - Divisional Round Game 3 (If Necessary)

Championship Series:

Saturday 9/16 - PBL Championship - Game 1

Monday 9/18 - PBL Championship - Game 2

Tuesday 9/19 - PBL Championship - Game 3 (If Necessary)

The PaddleHeads hold home field advantage throughout the post season and would host Games 2, and 3 of the League Championship Series if they advance past the Divisional Round.

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