Ogden Raptors return home with first-half championship in sight
The Ogden Raptors return home Monday from a nine-game road trip with the Pioneer League North Division first-half championship well within reach.
Ogden bounced back from its first series loss of the season against the Glacier Range Riders with a 2-1 series win over league-leading Missoula (30-12) to end the road trip.
At 26-15, the Raptors remain 3 1/2 games in first place ahead of Boise as the two teams have matched results every night for the past seven contests.
So time is now in Ogden’s favor as the first half nears its conclusion. The Pioneer League officially splits the season in half and crowns first- and second-half champions in each division, and those four teams advance to the league playoffs.
The Raptors finish the half at Lindquist Field with seven games against the Rocky Mountain Vibes, who are 18-22 and streaking, winners in 8 of their last 10 games.
The series runs Monday through Saturday with games at 6:30 p.m. each night except for Wednesday, July 12. Action begins at 4 p.m. Wednesday as the two teams will finish a suspended game from June 22, which is tied 1-1 in the fourth inning, then play a seven-inning game after that.
Boise (23-19) hosts Billings (18-24) for six games.
Because Ogden has the head-to-head tiebreaker against Boise so far this season (a 7-5 advantage), it would appear the Raptors’ magic number to win the first half is three. Any combination of Ogden wins and Boise losses that reaches three this week should deliver the title to the Raptors.
Ogden and Boise are locked in another battle this season, too, as the Hawks are giving the Raptors their first push toward the fan attendance crown in some time. Boise currently leads the league in per-game attendance at 3,566 and Ogden is at 3,469.
Here’s how the Raptors finished the road trip in Missoula over the weekend:
RAPTORS 5, PADDLEHEADS 2
In Game 2 of the series Friday night, Ogden used timely hitting instead of its overwhelming barrage from the previous night to grab a win at Missoula.
Ogden got on the board first when, after Coleton Horner doubled and scored on a Cam Phelts sacrifice fly in the third inning, outfielder Reese Alexiades socked a two-run home run for a 3-0 lead. It’s Alexiades’ league-leading 14th homer of the season.
The Raptors scored all five runs against Missoula starter Kelvan Pilot, who entered the day as the league’s No. 1 pitcher by wins and No. 3 by ERA. The other two runs came in the sixth inning when second baseman Dakota Conners sped to a two-RBI triple.
Mulholland surrendered seven hits in six innings and walked one, but struck out seven and found the right outs at the right time. Missoula broke through with a sacrifice fly to score Ryan Cash after he led off the fifth inning with a double.
Keaton Greenwalt hit a solo homer against Foster Pace in the seventh to pull Missoula to within 5-2.
Brandon McCabe sat Missoula in order in the eighth, striking out two and setting up Dan Kubiuk for the save. Kubiuk ran into trouble when Missoula’s McClain O’Connor doubled to put runners on second and third and bring the potential game-tying run to the plate. But Kubiuk struck out Cash and got Greenwalt to fly out, sealing the win.
Conners and Alexiades were the Raptors’ multi-hit batters as Missoula outhit Ogden 10-8.
PADDLEHEADS 4, RAPTORS 3
Margins were thin Saturday night in Missoula as the Raptors went for a three-game sweep. But the home team avoided the goose egg by scoring on two wild pitches and holding off a late Ogden threat for a 4-3 victory.
The Raptors went up 2-0 on a Juan Teixeira home run in the third inning. Teixeira is now hitting .413, second in the league among still-active players, and is tied for second with 17 doubles.
Ed Baram started on the hill for Ogden and gave up three runs in 5 2/3 innings, allowing seven hits and striking out four. Missoula (30-12) tied it 2-2 on a Baram wild pitch that scored Keaton Greenwalt in the fourth.
Patrick Chung then put the home team ahead 3-2 with a solo homer off Baram in the sixth.
In the seventh, Missoula’s McClain O’Connor led off with a single and stole second against Marshall Shill. Adam Scoggins took over and threw a wild pitch that scored O’Connor from third to put the PaddleHeads up 4-2.
Ogden was one hit away from tying the game or taking the lead in the top of the eighth.
Teixeira singled and Logan Williams walked, causing Missoula to replace pitcher Karl Blum with Mark Simon. Simon hit Dakota Conners to load the bases, giving Ogden the go-ahead run on first base with just one out. But the Raptors couldn’t put the ball in play: Rafael Narea struck out, Sal Gozzo walked to push across a run, and Nick Ultsch struck out to end the threat.
That was indicative of the game at large as Missoula outhit Ogden 8-4. The Raptors recorded one hit in the final four innings.