OGDEN — Josh Broughton threw three sterling innings in his first-ever start as a pitcher Thursday night, but it fell apart for the Ogden Raptors in the fourth and the Missoula Paddleheads asserted themselves as the Pioneer League's best team in a 10-1 win.
Each team leads their respective division and entered Thursday with the same record. Now, Missoula's 19-4 mark stands atop the full league table, while Ogden falls to 18-5.
Despite losing two straight to the Paddleheads, the Raptors' lead in the South Division remains a full 10 games after Grand Junction lost in Billings.
Broughton, who leads the league in batting average, got his first start at any level after throwing four hitless, scoreless innings last week in a save in Colorado Springs. He induced Missoula hitters into a variety of groundouts and flyouts for a perfect three innings.
That gave Broughton a string of seven no-hit, scoreless innings, but that ended in the fourth as the Paddleheads got a second look at him. Cameron Thompson hit a leadoff single and Brandon Riley singled him in with a sharp liner to left field.
Aaron Bond doubled to right and, with one out, Ogden elected to walk left-handed Nick Gatewood to load the bases, seemingly trying to get Broughton out of the inning without making a pitching change.
That backfired, as Broughton's final pitch hit Dean Nevarez in the back to push across a run and make it 2-0.
Mitchell Miller then took the mound and struck out Tristen Carranza, but Jose Reyes hit an opposite-field homer to left-center, a grand slam that suddenly put Missoula ahead 6-0 after four innings.
After the strong start, all six of those runs were charged to Broughton's ledger.
A Riley leadoff double led to two sacrifice flies that extended Missoula's lead to 8-0 after five innings.
Bond added a two-out, two-run homer in the seventh to make it 10-0.
The Raptors got a runner to second base in each of the first three innings, including a one-out double from Nick Michaels to center field in the second, but rarely threatened as Missoula sent its starting pitcher, this time Kevin Hilton, into the seventh inning for the second straight night.
Newly signed infielder Andy Armstrong pinch hit to lead off the seventh and singled and Owen Taylor reached by error, but Hilton pitched around it with the help of a diving catch in center field from Riley.
For the second straight night, Ogden had to wait until the eighth inning when Missoula's starter was through to get any kind of offensive traction. Jakob Goldfarb led off with a solo homer and Miguel Tejada Jr. followed with a double to right field. Missoula reliever Kida De La Cruz settled in and got through the inning without more damage, making it 10-1.
Overall, the Raptors managed just five hits.
In all, the first two games of the series make a convincing statement for the Paddleheads — though, through 23 games, the season is young. This week marks the usual spot when the Pioneer League used to begin its season, and there are 73 games remaining.