Raptors’ quest for repeat falls short and stops

Caleb Hintz

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Orlandy Navarro pitching for the Ogden Raptors (Bella Torres / The Signpost)

Coming off their first Pioneer League championship in 2017, the Ogden Raptors aimed for a repeat in 2018. Ogden finished the regular season with 46 victories, the second-highest total in franchise history. However, the Raptors met their match as they were defeated two games to one by the Grand Junction Rockies in the first round of the playoffs.

Following a Raptors defeat in which Grand Junction scored six runs in the ninth inning game one at Lindquist Field, the Raptors came in with determination on Sept. 8 to force a game three. Ogden kept their season alive with a 7–5 victory in front of 2,857 fans.

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Pitching Coach Dean Stiles (Bella Torres / The Signpost)

Raptors manager Jeremy Rodriguez said he was proud of the fight his team showed as they faced elimination.

“This team, you know, we’ve been down before and we came back,” Rodriguez said, “This team probably has the most fight I’ve seen in a team that I’ve managed.”

The fighting spirit was evident early on, as starting pitcher Joel Inoa set down the Rockies in order in the first inning. In the bottom of the first, second baseman Jeremy Arocho lined the first pitch up the middle for a single. Arocho later stole second base and scored on a base hit by first baseman Dillon Paulson.

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Ronny Brito up to bat for the Raptors at the Ogden Stadium (Bella Torres / The Signpost)

Ogden slugger James Outman led off the second inning with a home run over the center field fence, a prelude of things to come.

After Grand Junction battled back to tie the game, the Raptors responded in the bottom of the fourth. Then, after Paulson reached on an error and right fielder Niko Hulsizer drew a walk, Outman electrified the crowd once again. His three-run blast to right-center gave the Raptors a 5–2 lead, one they did not relinquish.

The Rockies plated two in the fifth inning to close within a run, but right-hander Orlandy Navarro came in from the bullpen to escape a bases-loaded jam. Again, the hosts had an answer in the bottom half. After a free pass to Paulson, Hulsizer blasted a Colton Harlow offering 475 feet to left field to make it 7–4.

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Marcus Chiu up to bat for the Raptors at the Ogden Stadium (Bella Torres / The Signpost)

The rest of the night featured close pitching for the home team, who managed to hold a potent Grand Junction lineup to just one run in the final four innings. Elio Serrano closed it out by retiring all four batters he faced to keep Ogden’s season alive.

The following morning, the Raptors traveled to Grand Junction, Colorado for a decisive game three of the first-round series. The Rockies took a 6–0 lead after two innings. Ogden then fought back, led by home runs from third baseman Moises Perez and shortstop Ronny Brito. Alas, the comeback fell one run short as the Raptors fell 6–5 to end their 2018 campaign.

With the victory, the Rockies advanced to the Pioneer League championship series for the first time in franchise history. Grand Junction will take on the Great Falls Voyagers in a best-of-three set this week.