OGDEN -- C.J. Cron loves to hit in this state.
The Mountain West Conference player of the year and All-American in back-to-back seasons at the University of Utah, Cron kept up his in-state dominance Tuesday at Lindquist Field, jacking three home runs to lead the Orem Owlz to an 8-3 win over the Ogden Raptors.
The 6-foot-4, 235 pound native of Phoenix hit one out to every field as a designated hitter and came close to a fourth homer in the eighth inning with a double off the right field wall.
The Utes star, a first baseman by trade who was the 17th overall pick this year, went deep all three times against Ogden starter Derek Cone, who committed to BYU before signing with the Dodgers in the 31st round in 2010.
Cron said he met Cone once when the pitcher from Mesa, Ariz., took a recruiting trip to the U of U and the two have another connection.
"He also went to my rival high school back in Arizona, so I've seen him a few times," Cron said. "I haven't hit against him in a long time, but it was fun."
Cron's hat trick, with Pioneer League president Jim McCurdy in attendance, marked the second time a league player has hit three homers in a game this season.
Cron overtook Billings slugger Sean Buckley for the Pioneer League home run lead Tuesday and his power and .298 batting average have endeared him to Owlz fans despite Orem's Utah County location.
"Even though I'm in BYU territory, I still get a pretty warm welcome," he said. "There are still some Utah fans there. It's been pretty awesome and I'm definitely enjoying my time there so far."
Utah played a few home series at Lindquist Field over Cron's years at Utah, and he hit well here, but Tuesday's 4-for-5 performance with four RBIs and three runs scored was special.
"I had a pretty big weekend here once against TCU, I think I hit about .700, but this was my first-ever three home run game and it was definitely memorable," Cron said.
Orem (2-1, 24-17) swept the brief two-game series in Ogden (0-3, 22-19), handing the roughed-up Raptors their fifth straight loss and their ninth in their last 11 games.
Ogden has given up seven or more runs in 11 straight games and five or more in its last 14.
Cone (0-2) was shaky through 41âÑ3 innings, allowing seven runs on seven hits, walking four and striking out three in the loss.
Orem lefty Nick Maronde (1-0) shut down Ogden over five impressive innings for the win, striking out four while allowing just one hit and no runs.
Jeff Hunt's double down the left field line in the third was Ogden's only opportunity, but Maronde, a third round pick out of the University of Florida, retired the last eight men he faced and lowered his ERA to 1.04.
O'Koyea Dickson's solo homer in the seventh off reliever Junior Carlin was all the offense Ogden could muster until the ninth, when Joc Pederson singled, moved to third on a Dickson double and came home on a passed ball. Noel Cuevas brought Dickson home with a sacrifice fly, but that was the end of the Raptors' rally.
Scott Wingo, who led the South Carolina Gamecocks to their second straight NCAA title in June and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the College World Series, went 0-for-3 and played second base in his Raptors debut. Shortstop Justin Boudreaux, a 14th round 2011 signee, also came up from the Arizona League with Wingo and was also 0-for-3 in his first game in Ogden.
The Owlz are headed home to Brent Brown Ballpark tonight for a two-game set against Idaho Falls before starting a four-game homestand against the Raptors. Ogden goes to Casper for two games before returning to face its in-state rivals on the road.