IDAHO FALLS, ID - Making their first visit to the Pioneer League's North division in 2019, the Ogden Raptors were ready for a hard-fought battle with their counterparts atop the standings.
The Idaho Falls Chukars, Ogden's former South-division foe - now in the North - began their season on fire before losing six in a row but were still atop their group.
It was a tight game for the most part, with both teams threatening and scoring, but in the end the Raptors pulled away for a 9-3 victory to hold their South division lead at five games with 14 left in the half.
On the road, Ogden benefitted from Sauryn Lao's two doubles, two singles and three batted in, in addition to starting a double play to keep the Chukars from scoring when they loaded the bases with no outs.
The Raptors got on the board in the second inning as Brandon Lewis doubled to left and Lao's fly ball just cleared the Idaho Falls left fielder to put runners at second and third. A Zac Ching walk loaded the bases, and with one out Ramon Rodriguez hit a comebacker that was knocked down and then thrown away by Chukars pitcher Anthony Veneziano to plate two. Andy Pages followed with a double, driving in Ching and Rodriguez, to make it 4-0.
The hosts got two back on a double, single, error and triple in the bottom of the inning, but Alfredo Tavarez struck out two batters to strand the potential third run on third base.
In the top of the third, Joe Vranesh and Justin Yurchak singled. Vranesh stole third base, which put him in position to trot home on a Lao sacrifice fly.
Vranesh also kicked off a two-run sixth by drawing a walk, one of three consecutive to start the frame. Lao, after seeming to put a ball in play for a two-run single but having it be called foul off the foot, looped a flare to right to officially knock in one. With one out, Brandon Wulff drew a walk to force in the second run.
Up 7-3 in the seventh, Lewis singled and then came all the way around on Lao's double to right-center. Lao then started a two-out, bases-empty rally in the ninth for an extra run by singling and later scoring from second on Wulff's single to center.
On the pitching side, Tavarez worked through a potentially-rough outing to complete three-plus innings with two runs allowed while striking out five. Yeison Cespedes earned the win with two innings of relief and a single unearned run allowed, and Reza Aleaziz and Hunter Speer pitched shutout ball for the final four frames to close out the victory.
Game two of the four-game series is scheduled for Thursday at 7:15 PM.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.