Raptors have just enough: Babitt, Stover, Nunez provide key hits

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 1:21 PM

Roy Burton

OGDEN — The Raptors purchased insurance with a pair of eighth-inning runs.

And like a good neighbor, they were glad it was there with two outs in the ninth when Great Falls’ Danny Hayes fought off eight pitches before dropping a bloop fly ball just inside the left field line to score two runs and put the Voyagers’ tying run on first and the go-ahead run at the plate.

That’s when Raptors closer Jacob Rhame did what he was brought in to do, striking out Corey Thompson to close the game as Ogden defeated Great Falls 8-7 on Thursday night at Lindquist Field.

With a four-run lead going into the ninth and Rhame in the game, the Raptors weren’t looking for any excitement, but the got it when the Voyagers got a pair of singles, an error and another single to score one run before Hayes’ two-RBI blooper after a battling through a long at-bat. Despite his adventures, Rhame struck out the side in the ninth.

Pat Stover, Gerson Nunez and Zach Babitt each drove in two runs to lead Ogden (27-26, 7-8 second half), which bounced back from a 16-11 loss Wednesday night to Great Falls (32-22, 13-3).

The Voyagers, who have dominated the Pioneer League North Division since the break, got a three-run homer from Jairo Kelly.

Manager Damon Berryhill led Ogden to the Pioneer League playoffs in each of his first four seasons, but the Raptors have ground to make up on Idaho Falls and Orem if they’re going to qualify for the South Division second half title and a playoff slot.

Berryhill says Ogden’s arms can give the Raptors the lift they need to move ahead in the playoff chase. Ogden is 4-6 in its last 10 games and stands in third place in the Pioneer League South.

“We have to do a little better job pitching,” he said. “We’ve gotten two games from (Great Falls) but we haven’t really pitched real well. We need our pitching staff to do a good job and keep us in ballgames and offensively, the last few games we’ve been doing much better in situational hitting and driving in runs and we’ve got to continue doing that.”

Babitt agrees. The 10th round draft pick from Albany, Calif., went 2 for 2 with a triple, two RBIs, a run scored and two walks.

“If our bullpen keeps doing a great job, we should be fine. I think we can get into that last playoff spot,” Babitt said. “We’re a great offensive team. If the bullpen continues to throw the ball well, we should be able to get into the playoffs.”

Aggressive baserunning paid off for Ogden in the second inning. With two outs, Nunez lined a single to right with men on first and second. Berryhill waved Kyle Farmer around third and right fielder Jacob Morris’ throw was in time but skipped past catcher Trey Wimmer as Farmer scored.

The risk paid even greater dividends with the next batter when Babitt smoked a two-run triple down the left field line for a 3-0 Raptors lead.

Baserunning didn’t have much to do with Great Falls’ answer. Kelly launched a three-run home run that nearly hit the flagpole in straightaway center to tie it in the third.

The Raptors practiced the fine art of hit-’em-where-they-ain’t in a three-run fifth inning.

Hank Yates bounced a single up the middle past a diving shortstop to score Babitt before Pat Stover lined a two-run double past a diving left fielder to retake lead at 6-3.

The Voyagers loaded up the bases with two outs in the sixth inning, but the costliest voyages were a pair of free passes from Ogden reliever Kyle Hooper to force in a run. Hooper struck out Kelly to end the threat in the sixth and settled down to toss 2 1-3 innings without being charged with a run.

Farmer’s leadoff double in the eighth set up an RBI double by Alex Santana and Ogden added an RBI groundout by Nunez that proved to be the winning run.

Ogden starter Francisco Villa (3-4) lasted 5 2-3 innings, allowing six hits and four runs while striking out two and walking two for the victory.

David Haselden (4-4) went five innings for Great Falls, giving up six runs to take the loss.

The Raptors wrap up their four-game home series with the Voyagers tonight at 7 p.m. Ogden will wear camouflage jerseys in honor of Military Affairs Night.

Sign up for e-mail news updates.