The first two games of the Pioneer League playoffs were rough on Rylan Bannon. The third was as good as a postseason showing gets, and the Dodgers infield prospect got there with some help from his friends.
"I've been struggling the past few games searching for a barrel, and we were actually joking around in the dugout the other day," Bannon said Thursday night. "[Ogden pitcher] Matt Jones was looking for my barrel, searching for a barrel for me, and I think he found it."
Bannon belted two long balls and drove in six runs as Rookie-level Ogden topped Great Falls, 7-4, in the opener of the best-of-3 Pioneer League Finals at Lindquist Field.
Gameday box score
"Game 1 is huge, especially with a three-game series," he said. "It's huge, especially to get that win at home. Just the atmosphere in the clubhouse was awesome. We went out there tonight and had a good feeling going into it."
Ogden got out of a jam in the top of the first inning by stranding two Great Falls runners at the corners, and in the bottom half, the Raptors started their barrage. Donovan Casey tripled to center field and Luis Paz followed with a walk. That set the stage for Bannon, who broke out of an 0-for-9 start to the playoffs by crushing a three-run homer to left and giving his team a lead that wasn't relinquished.
"[Great Falls starter Kyle Von Ruden] kept throwing me inside fastballs the first two pitches, and that was kind of the scouting report on him," Bannon said. "He threw me some off-speed pitches, and I kind of sat on the inside fastball and got one. I hit it well, and it was a great feeling. Putting my team up three runs just like that, one swing of the bat, especially in the bottom of the first inning, that was awesome. Getting back to the dugout, seeing all the smiles and getting all the high-fives is something I'll never forget."
After the Voyagers cut the Raptors' lead to 4-2 in the fourth, Bannon belted his second three-run homer of the night to left-center the next inning for the first multi-homer game of the 2017 eighth-round pick's career.
"He actually threw a changeup like over my head," the third baseman said of his third at-bat against Von Ruden. "I ducked out of the way like, 'What the heck was that?' And then he came back and threw a slider, and it caught a lot of the plate. I put a good swing on it, and honestly, I didn't think I got enough of it. I was sprinting out of the box and I was halfway to second base before I realized it'd gone out."
With one more victory, Ogden will clinch the city's first league championship since 1969, but Bannon and his teammates aren't taking anything for granted.
Complete playoff coverage
"You don't want to get too high on the win," he said. "You want to celebrate. You want to enjoy it, but you're not done yet. You want to come back on Saturday and get the next one. We keep a good mood in the clubhouse. The coaches are great, and they don't let us get too high on things like that. I love it. We're still grinding out here, and we're going to come out and get another one."
Game 2 is set for Saturday night in Great Falls.