Raptors clinch first-half title

Ogden rebounds from tough loss, holds off Chukars

Gorman Erickson ranks seventh in the Pioneer League with a .333 batting average. (Bill Mitchell/Four Seam Images)

By Mason Kelley / Special to MLB.com | July 31, 2009 9:26 PM

Ogden let one slip away Thursday night.

The Raptors squandered a three-run seventh-inning lead in the second game of a doubleheader and lost at Casper. Manager Damon Berryhill didn't say anything after the game. He didn't need to.

His players understood what was at stake and, despite an eight-hour bus ride, the Raptors came out and defeated the second-place Idaho Falls Chukars, 4-1, on Friday to clinch the Pioneer League South Division's first-half title.

"The guys, in the back of their minds, said, 'That's not going to happen,'" Berryhill said. "We deserved to win this first half. We came out hungry and ready to go today. They were determined to get this ballgame."

The Raptors (23-13) took a quick 2-0 lead in the first inning after team leaders Brian Cavazos-Galvez and Gorman Erickson provided RBIs with a sacrifice fly and a double, respectively.

Fifth-round pick Jeremy Wise added an RBI double in the fourth and Erickson produced an insurance run with a single in the eighth. With the way Ogden's pitchers were working, the Raptors didn't need much offense.

Antonio Castillo entered the game in the third and allowed three hits over five scoreless innings. Steven Ames, the Dodgers' 17th-round selection in the 2009 Draft, pitched the final 1 2/3 frames to claim his fourth save in as many chances.

"Everybody's put their time in, their effort in and performed really well for us right on down the line," Berryhill said. "It hasn't been a two- or three-person show. It seems like everybody is coming up with big hits at the right time and playing solid defense."

Of the nine players in Friday's lineup, five are hitting .320 or better, including Cavazos-Galvez (.320), Erickson (.337) and Jerry Sands (.352).

Sands, a 25th-round pick, finished the day 2-for-4 with a double and two runs scored.

"They started believing in themselves, got a taste for winning and they come out and try to improve and get after the games every day," Berryhill said.

Even though the Raptors are guaranteed a playoff spot, they understand there's still work to be done.

"It's a good feeling," Berryhill said. "I told the guys today, 'It was a great first half, way to go, but our goal is not complete. Our goal now is to continue to improve and try to win as many games as we can.'"

Mason Kelley 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.

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