The Mustangs’ Tyler Mahle and Missoula’s Gabriel Moya engaged in a good old-fashioned pitcher’s duel Friday night. It just wasn’t against each other.
Mahle opened a doubleheader between the teams with a two-hit shutout for a 5-0 Mustangs’ win, and Moya countered by getting within one out of a no-hitter as the Osprey held on for a 3-1 win in game two and a split of the twin bill at Dehler Park.
Both games were seven innings. The doubleheader between the two top teams in the North division was needed because of Thursday’s rain out.
In throwing his second complete game of the season, Mahle (4-4) retired the first 11 batters. He allowed two hits and two walks and struck out seven, needing just 89 pitches. Missoula never had more than one runner on base, and only two Osprey reached second base.
“Tyler pitched great,” Mustangs manager Dick Schofield said. “He’s come through big for us pretty much all year.”
Mahle, who threw a nine-inning three-hitter against Ogden on July 13, became the first Mustang to throw two complete games in a season since Luca Paneratti in 2009. Paneratti’s complete games came in a seven-inning doubleheader game and a rain-shortened six-inning game.
Missoula’s Moya tried his best to make Mahle an afterthought in the nightcap, easily mowing down the Mustangs even as a steady rain began to fall in the game’s latter stages, making the infield nearly unplayable for the final two innings.
The Osprey starter retired 15 straight after he issued back-to-back walks in the second inning before Taylor Sparks worked a two-out walk in the bottom of the seventh. Then, on a 1-1 count and on Moya’s 112th pitch, Garrett Boulware lofted a soft fly that fell in front of center fielder Dane McFarland for the Mustangs’ first hit.
“I did not think it was going to go (for a hit), but I’ll take it,” Boulware said. “I really, really, really wanted to break up that no-hitter. I mean, honestly, I feel bad for the guy to get so close because he could probably taste it, but I wanted to break it up as bad as he wanted it.”
The split left the Mustangs three games ahead of the Osprey in the North division with 13 games left in the regular season. The winner of the division will earn a playoff spot.
“Everyone’s starting to come out of the funks they were in, getting this first year under their belt and starting to feel better,” said Boulware, comparing the team’s first-half record (17-21) to its second-half record (15-10). “I think we’re starting to come together as team.”
KEY MOMENT: After Boulware’s hit off Moya, Osprey manager Audo Vicente took his starter out and reliever Anthony Bazzani gave up a run-scoring single to Cory Thompson and walked Alex Greer to load the bases. But Bazzani got Alberti Chavez to ground out to end the game.
ON THE MOUND: Moya (4-4) struck out 10 and walked three. Until Boulware’s hit, Moya had allowed only one other ball out of the infield, that being Greer’s fly-ball out in the second inning.
“There was nothing really crazy about what he was doing, he was just getting the job done,” Boulware said. “He made us miss his pitches, so, hat’s off to him.”
AT THE PLATE: The Mustangs had 10 hits in the first game, with Ty Washington collecting three. Sparks hit his eighth home run, a solo shot in the fifth inning that gave the Mustangs a 5-0 lead. Missoula’s Taylor Ard was the only player to drive in two runs, and both came on a fifth-inning double in the second game.
ON DECK: Weather permitting, the teams wrap up their four-game series Saturday night at 7:05. Then the Mustangs start an eight-game road trip to Helena, Great Falls and Missoula.