OREM, Utah-The Orem Owlz claimed the Pioneer League Championship Friday with a 3-2 win over the Billings Mustangs. L.J. Kalawaia drove in all three runs for the Owlz, including a two-run home run to center field in the fifth inning.
Billings (0-2) took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth after Jose Siri popped straight up in front of home plate, but catcher Keinner Pina could not reel in the fly ball. As the ball hit the grass, Siri trotted into second for a double. The Mustangs produced back-to-back ground balls that allowed Siri to come in and score.
The Owlz (2-0) got on the board in the fifth after Jose Rojas drove a ground ball to right for a two-out single. Kalawaia stepped into the batter's box and ripped the second pitch to center for a 2-1 Orem lead.
The Mustangs refused to go away, however, as Taylor Trammell drove a one-out single to center to plate Alberti Chavez and knot the game at two.
With runners on first and second, Pina dropped a perfect sacrifice bunt down the first base line, and each runner moved up a base. After Jose Rojas drew a walk to load the bases, Kalawaia put the Owlz on top again as he lifted a fly ball to deep right center and John Schuknecht scored easily from third.
The Owlz had a chance to put an insurance run on the board in the inning with runners on the corners and two outs. Cody Ramer smoked a ground ball back to pitcher Jesse Adams, and the grounder deflected off his glove to third baseman John Sansone, whose throw to first just beat Ramer to end the inning.
Despite the missed opportunity, Orem did not need the extra run. The Mustangs threatened in the top of the ninth with two singles, but with two on and two out, Cassidy Brown flied out to Schuknecht in right to end the game.
The Owlz stormed the field in celebration then received the Bob Wilson Trophy from Pioneer League President Jim McCurdy.
The celebration continued in the clubhouse, where players soaked in non-alcoholic champagne took turns fighting over who was going to get their picture snapped with the trophy.
"I think in times like this it's kind of hard to explain [the feeling]," said manager Dave Stapleton. "You could see it in the players' faces what it meant. Especially to guys like this, we've had a lot of changes here, and for me to see them just be able to pull together and win it, you can see… I don't know how to put a word on that. Just excitement, joy, happiness the whole thing. I think there's a lot of things, but for me, I sum it up by what I see right here on the players."
Despite a season where the Owlz finished with a record of 38-38 and an Owlz record 60 players saw time on the roster, Stapleton's squad put together an impressive end-of-season run and finished 4-1 in the Pioneer League Playoffs.