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As the 2009 season winds down, follow along with MiLB.com as the Minors' best teams face off in an attempt to take home their league's crown.
Great Falls vs. Missoula
Great Falls Voyagers
For those who have followed the Pioneer League closely this season, this series might look familiar. The defending-champion Great Falls Voyagers needed to win both of the final two games of the first half to tie the Missoula Osprey atop the North Division standings, and they did.
Then, in a one-game showdown for the title, Great Falls scored five runs over the seventh and eighth innings to put the Osprey away.
Missoula responded to that defeat, though, by staying strong in the second half. The Voyagers finished with a better record, but the Osprey came in a close second and claimed the playoff berth that opens up when the first-half division winner also wins the second half.
Paul Goldschmidt, a 2009 eighth-rounder who finished in the top 10 in average, home runs and RBIs, should play a key role for the Osprey. If he starts out swinging a hot bat, it could be hard to curb Missoula's momentum.
Jordan Cheatham, who won the 2008 Pioneer League batting title, can be a real difference-maker for Great Falls. His speed and ability to get on base can spark the Voyagers offense in any situation.
The winner of this series advances to the Finals, which begin Sept. 16.
Ogden vs. Orem
The presence of Ogden's Brian Ruggiano and Orem's Dillon Baird, who were two of the best hitters in short-season ball this year, should be enough to make this an exciting series, but the drama hardly ends there.
The Owlz were barely above .500 at the end of the first half, going 20-18. Out of the gate after the All-Star break, though, Orem cruised to a 31-6 mark to open the second half. They're entering the playoffs for the ninth consecutive season.
Almost a mirror image of the Owlz, the Raptors blitzed to a playoff berth with a 24-14 mark at the break. However, they danced around .500 the entire second half.
These two clubs finished at the top of the circuit in team batting while Orem also paced the circuit in ERA. Heavy hitters like Ruggiano and Baird and commanding hurlers like Orem's Stephen Locke and Ogden's Matthew Magill should keep this matchup intense.
Josh Jackson is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.