The Ogden Raptors are making a case to repeat as Pioneer League Champions. A 9–4 victory over the Missoula Osprey on July 19 secured them the first-half championship in the Pioneer League South Division and a spot in the playoffs.
The Raptors entered the night needing a win or an Idaho Falls loss to clinch the first half, and two solo home runs from center fielder Chris Roller helped lead Ogden to an 8–0 advantage en route to the victory.
After a rocky start to the season, the Raptors have found their groove.
Following a loss to Grand Junction on June 24, the Raptors went on to win 22 of their next 28 games, including a dominant eight game win streak in which they outscored their opponents 71–26. They also won six straight, which culminated in the clinching win over Missoula.
Raptors first-year manager Jeremy Rodriguez said team chemistry has been a major reason for this season’s success.
“We’re taking things day by day, but we are making sure these kids are having fun,” Rodriguez said. “We are making sure they understand this is a game and treat it like a game.”
The Raptors have been using their hot bats to overwhelm the competition. They lead the Pioneer League in slugging percentage (.499), home runs (56), and total runs scored (349).
Leading the charge has been young Ronny Brito, who recently finished a 15-game hit streak. The 19-year-old middle infielder leads the Raptors with six home runs and 25 runs driven in.
On the other side, the Raptors have been led by ace pitcher Jose Chacin. The young right-hander out of Venezuela has yet to lose on the season as a starter (5-0), and has an ERA of 1.28, the best mark of any starting pitcher in the Pioneer League.
“He throws a mean fastball that is hard to hit when he is on,” Rodriguez said of Chacin.
The Raptors wrapped up the first half by taking three of four games on the road from the Helena Brewers, including a wild 16–14 victory in the final game.
In terms of avoiding a letdown in the second half, Rodriguez said the solution is simple.
“I don’t think we need to do anything different (in the second half),” Rodriguez said. The three things that we preach are respect your teammates, respect the game, and have fun. If we take care of those three things, we shouldn’t see any letdowns.”
Clinching the first half meant Ogden had the luxury of choosing which first-round playoff games they would host. Rodriguez and his staff decided to start the postseason on the road, then return to Lindquist Field for games 2 and 3 (if necessary).
The Raptors will start the playoffs on Sept. 7 against a foe yet to be determined. Ogden is guaranteed to host a game on Sept. 8 at 6:30 p.m., and the ‘if-necessary’ decisive first round game would be played the next night at the same time.