Romer Cuadrado entered the Pioneer League postseason on a tear, with hits in 13 of his last 14 games to raise his batting average from .312 to .335.
The Orem Owlz couldn't cool him or the rest of the Ogden Raptors down. Now, the only team that stands in the way of the Raptors' first Pioneer League championship is the Great Falls Voyagers.
Cuadrado had the best night at the plate of any Ogden hitter in 2017, going 5-for-5 with a grand slam and two runs scored, and the Raptors swept their way through the Owlz with a 7-3 win in Orem following Sunday's 9-4 victory.
After scoring seven runs in the first two innings in the series opener, Ogden blasted Orem starter Jose Soriano, who was knocked out with one out in the second, and reliever Isaac Mattson for six runs in the opening two frames Monday.
Orem tried to come back, scoring twice on Raptors starter Edwin Uceta and once against Conor Costello, but they could only muster three innings with a single run each. Zach Hartman pitched a perfect eighth and Justin Hoyt worked around a one-out single in the ninth to send the visitors into delirium.
For the second-straight day, Donovan Casey got the Raptors' half of the first started by reaching base, this time with a walk. Cuadrado singled sharply to center, and after two strikeouts Mitchell Hansen crushed a pitch to right-center for a two-run triple.
After Orem scored on a triple and wild pitch in the home half of the first, Ramon Rodriguez and Kevin Lachance came through with walks to start the second. Casey drew his second free pass with one out, prompting the Owlz to bring in ace reliever Mattson. Cuadrado worked the count to 3-1 against the righty before depositing a pitch just over the center field fence for his second grand slam of the season. Ogden hit four slams in the regular season, with three coming against Orem.
Hansen hit his second triple of the game, something no Raptor had done this season, with one out in the fifth. The drive bounced on the padding on top of the wall before coming back into play. He still came across the plate, as Connor Heady's sacrifice fly did the job for a 7-1 lead.
Uceta pitched well, allowing just three hits and striking out four in five frames for the win. After tallying only seven wins total during the regular season, Raptors starting pitchers have pitched five innings and earned the win in both games of the playoffs.
Fittingly, the final out of the night was a fly ball that settled in Cuadrado's glove, ensuring Ogden a place in the championship series for the first time since 2012. They have been in the series four times without a title, falling short in 1996 and then 2010, 2011 and 2012. Ogden's last Pioneer League title came in 1969, when the Ogden Dodgers finished a run of four-straight championships.
The championship tilt begins Thursday at Lindquist Field, with first pitch scheduled for 6:30 pm. After a travel day Friday, the series shifts to Great Falls for a game Saturday and, if necessary, a Sunday finale.
Tickets to Thursday's game are just $5, so call or come by the Raptors' office to pick them up and support your Raptors in their quest for a championship!
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.