Wednesday , September 06, 2017 - 10:17 PM1 comment
OGDEN — After giving up a big, early lead for the third straight game, the Ogden Raptors broke out late and finally secured a playoff-clinching win against the Grand Junction Rockies on Wednesday at Lindquist Field.
With the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth, the Rockies sent Chad Spanberger — the league’s second-best home-run hitter — to the plate representing the tying run.
After a battle, Miguel Urena induced Spanberger into a sharp grounder to Luis Paz at first base. Paz smothered it, slid to first base for the out and the Raptors’ dugout poured onto the field having clinched a Pioneer League playoff spot with an 11-7 win.
The win puts Ogden (22-13, 45-28) three games ahead of Grand Junction (19-16, 37-36) with three games left. The best the Rockies can do is tie, and the Raptors own the tiebreaker with a 10-5 advantage in the season series.
The Raptors will host the Orem Owlz at 4 p.m. Sunday in the first game of a best-of-three divisional series. All seats are $5 general admission.
Pioneer League play is split into halves, and winners of each half in each division qualify for the playoffs. Wednesday’s decision guarantees that Grand Junction cannot overtake Ogden or Orem to win the second half in the South Division.
Orem secured its playoff spot by winning the South Division’s first half. If the Owlz also win the second half, the second playoff spot goes to the team with the next-best overall record — a mark already secured by Ogden. Thus, the Raptors do not need to beat out Orem for the second-half title to make the playoffs.
The win also gives the Raptors 45 victories, the most single-season wins in Ogden since the franchise brought baseball back to Junction City in 1994.
With the game tied 6-6 in the sixth, Brayan Morales walked to lead off the inning. With two outs, he stole second, then scored on a Connor Heady fly ball thanks to Lindquist Field’s unique Raptor Ridge feature in right-center field.
Joey Bartosic had to navigate around the jutting wall from center field and his slide wasn’t enough to get to Heady’s ball, resulting in a double and putting Ogden ahead 7-6. Donovan Casey hit his own double to score Heady for an 8-6 lead.
The Raptors continued scoring with two outs in the seventh. Luis Paz doubled to lead off the inning, then with two outs scored on a Morales single. Morales stole second and scored on a single from Gersel Pitre.
Ramon Rodriguez singled Pitre home, giving Ogden an 11-6 lead.
A day after the Raptors gave up a 7-1 lead, they did the same Wednesday after scoring six in the second inning for a 6-0 lead.
The league’s best home-run hitting team used the long ball to finish their rally. Spanberger hit a solo home run in the fourth to make it 6-4, then with two outs in the frame, Jeff Moberg hit a two-run blast to tie the game.
Paz finished with three hits, two of them doubles, to lead the Raptors at the plate. Morales totaled two hits, bringing his hitting streak to 19 games, while Casey, Romer Cuadrado, Carlos Rincon, Pitre and Heady each totaled two hits as well.
Austin Hamilton earned the win on the mound, pitching two scoreless innings in relief of starter Edwin Uceta.
The Raptors and Rockies play the final game of five straight at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. Ogden then hosts Idaho Falls for two games to end the regular season before welcoming Orem for the first playoff game Sunday.
HOME RUN RACE
Grand Junction now leads Ogden 108-102 in the season-end race to determine which franchise will hold the new Pioneer League record for team home runs in a season. Both have eclipsed the previous record of 97.
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