After cruising through the regular season, the Orem Owlz found themselves in an unfamiliar position Monday night: win or go home.
They responded to the challenge the way they have all year.
Luis Jimenez fell a double shy of the cycle and drove in five runs as the Owlz outslugged the Ogden Raptors, 9-7, in the decisive third game of their Pioneer League playoff series.
"We're very happy and proud of these guys," Interim Orem manager Brent Del Chiaro said. "They've been through a lot of adversity during the season and we've lost some key guys, but this was a team effort and we're extremely proud."
The Owlz will be bidding for their fourth league title in five years when they take on the Great Falls Voyagers in the opener of the best-of-3 Finals on Wednesday. Orem has reached the title series in seven of the last eight seasons.
The Owlz didn't deal with much pressure on their way to the playoffs, winning the first- and second-half North Division titles. But they finally faced a must-win game after splitting the first two contests with the upset-minded Raptors.
After home runs by Anthony Delmonico and Steven Caseres in the top of the first inning gave Ogden an early lead, Orem struck right back in the bottom half. Darwin Perez singled and scored on an error before Jimenez put the Owlz on top with a two-run triple.
Jimenez connected for a solo homer in the third, capped a three-run fourth with an RBI single and plated another run with a base hit in the sixth.
Perez went 3-for-4 and scored twice and Michael Wing and Beau Brooks each had two hits and two runs scored for Orem.
Despite the do-or-die scenario, Del Chiaro didn't sense his team pressing entering Game 3.
"It was a disappointing game last night," he said of Sunday's 8-6 loss in Game 2. "I told them even though it's win-or-go-home, it's important they just go out, have fun and not put any pressure on themselves.
"The clubhouse was loose, guys were smiling and having fun in the dugout and they didn't get down after they fell behind."
After going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in the series opener, Jimenez went 6-for-13 over the final two games. The 20-year-old slugger led the league with 15 homers, finished second only to teammate Roberto Lopez with 65 RBIs and ranked third with a .331 batting average.
"I think he got caught up in the hype of the playoffs, swinging at some pitches out of the zone," Del Chiaro said of Jimenez. "I told him just relax and get some pitches to hit. He zoned it all night and used the whole field and stayed within himself."
Orem won five out of seven meetings from Great Falls during the regular season, but the teams haven't seen each other since mid-July.
"They're a different team and I'd like to say it's evenly matched," Del Chiaro said. "They have some top hitters and they have three pitchers at the top of the league in strikeouts. We've got some pretty good pitchers too. It doesn't matter what happened in July, we gotta be ready to play. It's gonna be a battle and a dogfight."
Owlz starter Jeff Boshers (1-0) yielded five runs on six hits and two walks while striking out five over 5 1/3 innings. Jeremy Thorne picked up the save, despite allowing a run on one hit and one walk in the ninth.
Raptors starter Jonathan Dutton (0-1) surrendered five runs -- four earned -- on eight hits while striking out three in three frames.
Anthony Delmonico and Steven Caseres hit solo homers for Ogden.