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Range Riders ready for (dry) home opener

by FRITZ NEIGHBOR
Daily Inter Lake | May 29, 2023 12:00 AM

It’s a little early to have a formula for winning Pioneer League baseball games, but the Glacier Range Riders are 2-0 when they score six runs or more.

Back-to-back rainouts in Great Falls gave Glacier three off days ahead of their Pioneer League home opener, tonight against the Billings Mustangs. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. at Glacier Bank Park.

With the exception of a 5-3 loss at Great Falls last Thursday, the 2-2 Range Riders have barrelled up the ball when the weather permits.

“We should have won that first one,” said manager Stu Pederson, referring to a 6-5 opening night loss in which the Voyagers rallied late. His team scored 11 and 17 runs in two wins.

In between? “They threw a knuckleball guy at us the third game,” Pedersen said. “And the guys didn’t really make the adjustments.”

Pedersen returned to the Flathead Valley most impressed with infielder Benjamin Fitzgerald, who has half the team’s four home runs and a good portion of its runs batted in (Nine out of 34).

Fitzgerald drove in six in Glacier’s last game, a 17-11 win, and is hitting .500 (6 for 12) on the young season.

Jackson Raper is also hitting .500; catcher Keenan O’Brien has taken advantage of added playing time to hit .417; Crews Taylor is at .389.

“We’re swinging the bats pretty good,” Pedersen said. “We have a number of good hitters, so I feel like that’s something that will continue.”

Jonathan Pinterio, No. 1 starter Noah Barros and Patrick Miner had solid outings in Great Falls, and Pedersen was happy with the bullpen, particularly Andrew Holwager.

Righthander Tanner Solomon is scheduled to start on the mound Tuesday for the Range Riders, who hopefully got the rain out of the way: Last year’s home opener was played in a downpour.

A high of 79 is expected Tuesday in Kalispell.

Billings outfielder Taylor Lomack is hitting .417. Jared Fry, who spent 16 games with the 2022 Range Riders, is one of the Mustang catchers.

Pedersen has heard the Mustangs, who are 3-3, will throw righties all three games of this series. It would appear opening day starter Karan Patel will go Tuesday for Billings.

“Whoever they throw it just comes down to whether we’re hitting the ball the way we should be hitting, and throwing the way we should be throwing,” Pedersen said. “We just have to go play good sound baseball and let everything else take care of itself.”

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