OGDEN -- The signs of baseball season were fading around them. But as dusk descended in the early innings, the temperature cooling with it, the Ogden Raptors on Thursday evening earned one more day of summer.
Spurred by a seven-run third, the Raptors beat the Missoula Osprey 13-7 at Lindquist Field, squaring the three-game Pioneer League Championship Series at one game apiece and setting up tonight's winner-take-all showdown.
"It's the most fun game all season," said Jeremy Rathjen. "Lose, you go home. Win, you get to play another day. ... Hopefully we can win two of them."
The Osprey had taken Game 1 of the series 4-3 Wednesday in Missoula, Mont., meaning the Raptors would have been eliminated with a loss. Instead, the Raptors now have a chance to capture their first-ever Pioneer League title.
As well as having never won a title, the Raptors had never actually won a championship series game and had been swept in each of their three previous trips to the finals.
"This is my third (Championship Series)," said Raptors manager Damon Berryhill. "Hopefully the third time is a charm."
After answering Missoula's run in the first with three of their own, including a two-run homer from Rathjen, the Raptors knocked out Osprey starter Ross Gerdeman with seven in the third.
The inning at first seemed innocuous -- there were two outs and only one runner on -- but a string of seven Raptors reached, including back-to-back two-run singles from Eric Smith and Rathjen.
"They knew they were flat (in Game 1)," Berryhill said of the offense. "They wanted to make up for that game and get us to this game, and they're going to be fired up tomorrow."
However, the nine-run lead wasn't at that point safe. The Osprey scored five off Ogden starter Lindsey Caughel in the top of the fourth to end the right-hander's outing and make it a 10-6 game.
Caughel gave up eight hits and was charged with six runs (five earned) in 32/3 innings.
Ross Stripling is expected to get the ball for the Raptors tonight, while the Osprey will counter with Yoimer Camacho.
Stripling, who has a 1.24 ERA in limited innings, has been one of the most dominating pitchers in the league and is one of the Raptors' best options for a do-or-die game.
"This is what it's all about," Berryhill said. "Backyard, Game 7, it's the same thing. You play all season, and it comes down to one shot. If you can't get excited to play in that situation, there's something wrong with you."
First pitch tonight is at 7:05 p.m. at Lindquist Field.