Orem Owlz manager Tom Kotchman is wrapping up his 31st season in baseball. But even he was hard-pressed to remember a performance like the one Casey Haerther enjoyed in the decisive third game of the Pioneer League Finals.
Haerther tied a team record and set a career high with seven RBIs as the Owlz captured their third championship in five years Saturday, holding on for a 13-10 triumph over the Missoula Osprey.
"Off the top of my head, the only night I can think of with seven RBIs in a championship game is Todd Greene in 1993," said Kotchman, who has guided Orem to nine consecutive postseason appearances.
"I went 7-for-7 in college one night. That was probably my greatest single game," said Haerther, the Angels' fifth-round pick in the 2009 Draft. "But I never won a championship, was never part of a dogpile, so this is top of my list."
Facing former UCLA teammate Charles Brewer, the 21-year-old third baseman slugged a three-run homer in the first inning. Missoula tied it in the bottom half, but Haerther hit an RBI single in the third.
"I hit my first professional home run in my last at-bat on Friday and I had the same game plan [tonight]," he said. "I kind of know how (Brewer) pitches, so I took advantage of that. ... I probably faced him 60 times in fall ball at UCLA, so I pretty much know his repertoire. When you have some sort of a plan with what the pitcher comes at you, it makes you comfortable in the box."
Brewer was gone by the fifth, when Haerther's three-run double highlighted a six-run outburst that extended Orem's lead to 11-3.
The cushion was up to 13-4 heading to the bottom of the ninth, but the Osprey did not go quietly. They strung together four hits off David Carpenter to close within three runs and had the potential tying run on deck when Jae Yun Kim struck out to end the game.
"That's the craziest ninth inning. I'm trying to remember what happened," Kotchman said. "It started snowballing on us. Carpenter was throwing 92 mph with sink and they just kept hitting him. But he got the last guy on a strikeout, then the celebration began."
The title capped a remarkable stretch run for the Owlz, who went 31-7 to run away with the second-half South Division title, then swept Ogden in the semifinals.
"This one's definitely unique because of the way the first half started," Kotchman said. "The whole second half was so weird because probably our best prospect, Jean Segura, breaks his finger sliding into second base, then we go on a 15-game winning streak. That's the weirdest thing I've seen in my life."
After losing the opening game of the Finals at home, Orem stayed alive Friday by hitting a league playoff-record six homers, including two from catcher Carlos Ramirez.
"To lose that first game at home and drive 570 miles to Missoula and win the two games on their field, it will make that 570-mile bus ride a lot easier," Kotchman said.
Jeremy Berg (1-0) got the win in relief, striking out eight over four innings and giving up a run on two hits.
Brewer (0-2) was charged with five runs on five hits in four innings for the Osprey, who got three hits and three RBIs from first-round pick Bobby Borchering.