Cesar Mendoza wasn’t supposed to be in the game Saturday for the Ogden Raptors but, when fellow catcher Ramon Rodriguez left the game with an injury in the second inning, Mendoza put on his gear.
He threw out three would-be base stealers from there, helping Ogden hold off a slew of Rocky Mountain Vibes baserunners.
He then hit one of his team’s four singles in the ninth inning, helping the Raptors rally from a 6-4 deficit. Mendoza singled in a run to make it 6-5 and was on second with the bases loaded and one out when Zac Ching singled.
Jeremy Arocho easily scored from third base to tie the game but Mendoza, the catcher, was thrown out at the plate as the go-ahead run.
Joe Gray then led off the bottom of the ninth for the Vibes and hit his first home run of the season in 49 at-bats, lifting the home team to a 7-6 win at UCHealth Park in Colorado Springs.
The Vibes (25-31, 8-10) mashed extra base hits (eight of their 13 hits went for extras) to take a 4-0 lead with four runs in the second inning, beating up Yeison Cespedes — making his first professional start since 2016 — who got the start because Ogden’s All-Star starter Kevin Malisheski was called up to single-A.
Ogden second baseman Jorbit Vivas hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning after Mendoza drew a walk to make it 4-2.
But errors undid any rally the Raptors (42-14, 11-7) tried to mount.
Rocky Mountain pushed across a run in the fifth when a Nelfri Contreras balk put a runner on second, who then scored on an error from Ogden’s Brandon Lewis to take a 5-2 lead.
In the seventh, Vivas hit a sacrifice fly to score Arocho, then Mendoza scored on a wild pitch to cut the deficit to 5-4.
A fielding error from Ching in the bottom of the eighth put Cam Devanney on base, who came around to score on a single from Nick Egnatuk for an all-important insurance run and a 6-4 lead.
A crowd of 7,048 saw the game in Colorado Springs — easily the top crowd in the Pioneer League this season and likely one of the best, if not the best, across the league in several decades.
The Raptors are a stellar 21-6 on the road and three of those losses have come in walk-off fashion.
The two teams play game two of a four-game series at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.