Owlz still here for now, but lose home opener to Ogden
Orem Owlz shortstop Livan Soto (7) slides safely into home plate for a run during the Orem Owlz's home opener against the Ogden Raptors on Thursday, June 21, 2018, at UCCU Ballpark in Orem. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald
Orem Owlz center fielder Rayneldy Rosario (12) high-fives his teammates before the Orem Owlz's home opener against the Ogden Raptors on Thursday, June 21, 2018, at UCCU Ballpark in Orem. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald
Orem Owlz third baseman Tim Millard (39) takes off his helmet after being tagged out at the end of an inning during the Orem Owlz's home opener against the Ogden Raptors on Thursday, June 21, 2018, at UCCU Ballpark in Orem. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald
It’s only fitting that the Orem Owlz played the Avengers theme during player introductions for Thursday’s 2018 home opener.
Like many of the heroes in the latest movie in the series — “Infinity War” — the Owlz are disappearing.
OK, not yet. It’ll be two years before the franchise pulls up stakes and moves to Pueblo, Colorado, a bombshell of an announcement that broke this week. The results of the opener didn’t make the news any easier to digest as Ogden bashed its way to a 9-3 victory at UCCU Ballpark.
It’s too early to tell if local fans will continue to support the Owlz, but Thursday’s attendance was disappointing. Orem drew 3,222 supporters to its home opener last season, but only 1,515 showed up Thursday even with the promise of postgame fireworks.
Orem took an early 2-0 lead against Ogden with some fine mound work from Cole Duensing. But the bullpen faltered, allowing three home runs in the later innings.
Duensing — one of the few holdovers from last year’s Owlz team — lasted just 2/3 of an inning in his first outing of the season at Grand Junction on June 16. On Thursday, Duensing was stellar. He threw four shutout innings, allowing four hits and striking out five.
Orem broke out on top 1-0 in the bottom of the third. Livan Soto hit a two-out double and came home when Ogden committed two errors on one play. Jeremey Orocho booted Kevin Maitan’s ground ball and Ronny Brito’s throw home sailed over the catchers head, allowing Soto to score.
Orem made it 2-0 in the fifth on consecutive singles from Orlando Martinez, Francisco Del Valle and Tim Millard.
The Raptors tied things up quickly in the sixth against Orem reliever Jon Malmin. Ronny Briton walked to open the inning and two batters later, Dillon Paulson blasted a two-run homer over the right field fence to forge a 2-2 tie.
Ogden loaded the bases with one out in the top of the seventh against Malmin, who gave way to another reliever. Tyler Smith immediately balked in a run to give the Raptors a 3-2 lead. Brito followed with a single up the middle to score two runs and pushed Ogden’s lead to 5-2.
Orem got one run back in the bottom of the seventh when Mario Sanjur came home a Soto’s fielder’s choice to cut the Ogden lead to 5-3. The Owlz got the tying run to the plate with two on and two out in the eighth, but a nasty breaking ball from Mark Washington froze Sanjur on a called strike three to end the threat.
Ogden roughed up reliever Nick Jobst in the top of the ninth. Luke Hyer hit a two-run home run and Preston Grand Pre crushed a pitch to deep left for another two-run shot and a 9-3 lead.
Soto, Francisco De Valle and Tim Millard all had two hits for Orem (2-5). Ogden (3-4) totaled 12 hits, Jeffrey Souffront leading the way with three.
The Owlz play seven of their next nine games at home, including Friday and Saturday against the Raptors. Ogden and Orem have split the first two games of the series.