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Zac Almond, Missoula PaddleHeads win Pioneer League title

Former North Stanly Comet and Catawba Indian standout Zac Almond just added one more accomplishment to his baseball resume.

Almond and the Missoula (Montana) PaddleHeads of the independent Pioneer League claimed the league championship this past week.

After finishing with a 65-31 record and a .680 winning percentage, one of the highest in pro baseball, the PaddleHeads advanced to the best-of-three championship finals with a 11-2 win versus Idaho Falls.

Versus Boise, Missoula won the first game, 8-2, but lost the second game of the series, 5-4, when Boise rallied for four runs late in the game.

In Thursday’s deciding game, Missoula’s offense scored 11 runs in the first three innings en route to a 14-1 win.

Missoula won the first-half division title on the last day of the first part of the season over Idaho Falls.

The PaddleHeads rallied in the second half of the season to claim a second-half division crown winning 13 of the team’s final 15 games.

Almond and his teammates got back to baseball in May after the 2020 season was cancelled because of the COVID pandemic. The realignment of the minor leagues meant the Pioneer League went from an affiliated club of MLB to an independent league.

The former Comet set a league record this season knocking out 26 home runs.

Winning the championship “means the world to be able to bring this title to Missoula,” Almond said.

“From the owner and front office to the coaches, they are all amazing people and they love the game,” he said. “I’m glad our team was able to win that title for them; they definitely deserve it.”

Almond said he and his teammates “set the table high for baseball in Missoula. It was a season I will never forget with some of the best people in baseball.”

Missoula manager Michael Schlact earned his first title as a manager, something he said starts with having the right mindset.

“We tried to set the tone at the beginning of the season by establishing a culture within the team to continue throughout the season. To see that continue through the season and come to fruition was huge. It’s hard to process emotion like this, these guys never quit.”

Sports Editor’s Note: The Missoula Paddleheads contributed to this story.

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio was the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press from 1999-2001 and has currently served in the same capacity since 2008. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also been honored twice by the North Carolina Press Association.

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