It took a little more work than usual but, in the end, it was yet another Ogden Raptors victory.
The Raptors again led from start to finish, winning their ninth straight and 19th of their last 21 games, defeating the Missoula Osprey 9-6 on Tuesday night in Missoula, Montana.
Sauryn Lao, a usual third baseman who got his first start this season at first base Tuesday, figured in three key plays for the victorious Raptors (24-6).
His first came in the first inning when Lao hit a two-run homer, his first of the season, to put Ogden ahead 3-0.
The second came in the seventh inning after the Raptors' 7-1 lead had dwindled to 7-5 and Ogden looked like it would leave important runs on the basepaths. After Jeremy Arocho led off with a walk and Sam McWilliams doubled, two Raptors struck out.
Lao singled in Arocho, then successfully executed a double steal with McWilliams to score his fellow infielder to put Ogden up 9-5, a cushion that helped bring the win home.
In between, a Carson Maxwell solo homer and a pair of Raptors errors in the fifth inning helped Missoula (15-15) begin to rally. In the sixth, a Ricardo Hernandez fielding goof on the mound, called a hit, helped the Osprey to two more runs to make it 7-5.
After the Lao-McWilliams double steal in the top of the seventh, Francis Martinez hit his third homer in the last two games, a solo homer, in the bottom of the seventh to make Ogden sweat at 9-6.
Lao's third play came when Missoula put two runners on with one out in the ninth. Aaron Ochsenbein induced a ground ball that became a Zac Ching-to-McWilliams-to-Lao double play when Lao scooped the ball out of the dirt, securing the win.
The Raptors did not clinch the first-half title for the Pioneer League South Division as Grand Junction edged Billings 8-7 on Tuesday but, with the win, eliminated all room for error from the Rockies. For Grand Junction to stay in contention, it must finish the final eight games 8-0 and Ogden must go 0-8; any other result gives the Raptors the first-half title.
Ogden goes for the first-half title, its 10th straight win and an 8-0 road trip when it plays the final game of the four-game set in Missoula at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday.
CASTRO NAMED PITCHER OF WEEK
Right-handed starter Jeronimo Castro was named Pioneer League Pitcher of the Week for his play from July 8-14, the league announced Tuesday.
Castro, 22, was 1-0 with a 0.90 ERA in two starts during the week. He threw 10 innings, allowing one run and six hits while striking out 13 and walking one.
It's the third weekly award for the Raptors this season; outfielder Andy Pages, current league leader in RBIs (30), won player of the week honors in consecutive weeks June 24-30 and July 1-7.