Owlz outlast Ogden Raptors in 7-3 decision on Friday
OGDEN — Ogden Raptors starting pitcher Gunnar Groen is quickly growing into an ace-like thrower.
Friday at Lindquist Field, the Northern Colorado Owlz kept even until they could take advantage of Groen’s exit and won for a second straight night, defeating the Raptors 7-3.
The game swung on several plays at the plate, with three involving Ogden right fielder Josh Broughton who returned to the lineup after a day off due to a banged-up throwing hand.
Groen gave up just two earned runs and four hits, striking out seven and walking zero in 5 2/3 innings.
With the game tied 2-2, Groen was pulled with two outs in the top of the sixth and runners on the corners. Reliever Jack Cunningham then got Owlz runner Brian Dansereau hung up off first base, possibly intentionally, which sent rookie NoCo shortstop Brandon Crosby speeding toward the plate.
The play then went home and Crosby appeared to slide around the tag on the back side of the plate, but Ogden catcher Sonny Ulliana recovered for a diving tag as Crosby tried to scoot to touch the plate.
That held a tie in a game that appeared it would go the distance in close margins. Ultimately, Ogden left too many scoring chances unfinished. That included Jesus Valdez grounding out to end the first inning with the bases loaded; leaving a runner on second in the third, fifth and sixth innings; and sending a runner around third for an easy putout at the plate to end the fourth inning.
So, in the seventh, Northern Colorado began to chip away. Marshall Rich singled off Cunningham to lead off the inning, stole second and was bunted to third. After a walk, first baseman Jordan Garr lined one down the right-field line and Broughton used his speed to run it down, making a great sliding catch to save at least one more run, but the difficulty of the play meant he couldn’t get a good throw in to prevent Rich from tagging and scoring. So the Owlz went up 3-2.
Broughton, with his live outfield arm, then showed how difficult it is to get outfield assists in the eighth inning. A walk, an error on what could have begun a double play, and a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases for Northern Colorado.
With one out, Rich flew out to Broughton in right and the Owlz incorrectly tested Broughton’s arm. He fired a one-skip throw to the plate to beat Cameron Phelts, but Ulliana missed snaring the throw and Phelts scored to make it 4-2.
In the next at-bat, Kevin Higgins singled to right to score one run and Broughton got another chance. He found Ulliana with a rope on the fly this time, and Ulliana turned with a tag on Dansereau. For some reason, however, Dansereau was called safe and it was a 6-2 ballgame.
Those unconverted great throws from Broughton gave the Owlz the cushion to bring the game home.
Ulliana was key to get Ogden to that 2-2 score, drawing leadoff walks in the second and fourth innings, then coming around to score on singles from Dakota Conners and Fox Semones.
Northern Colorado’s two runs in that early deadlock came on a solo home run from the skilled Crosby in the fourth, which ended Groen’s no-hit bid, and Rich scoring on a wild pitch in the fifth.
Crosby seems a breakout star in his debut professional series. He joined the Owlz fresh off his senior college season in the NAIA ranks and, in four games, is hitting .438 with the homer, three RBIs, four runs scored and an on-base percentage of .500.
Ogden totaled just six hits, all singles, with Conners and Pat Adams each totaling two. Chance Benton got the win for Northern Colorado, giving up two hits, one earned run and striking out three while walking zero in 2 1/3 innings.
The Owlz have cut Ogden’s lead in the South Division down to two games in the early going. The two teams finish the six-game series with games at 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
Northern Colorado 7, Ogden 3
Grand Junction 11, Boise 2
Rocky Mountain 9, Idaho Falls 5 (ends RMV 12-game losing streak)
Glacier 10, Great Falls 5
Billings at Missoula, late (rain-delayed start)
PIONEER LEAGUE STANDINGS
Idaho Falls 11-4
Great Falls 11-5
Northern Colorado 7-7
Grand Junction 6-8
Rocky Mountain 2-13