Early celebration turned into a dragging deficit, but in the end the Ogden Raptors prevailed against the Grand Junction Rockies to inch closer to clinching a playoff spot.
Shortly after a first-inning home run to break the Pioneer League's single-season team mark, the Raptors found themselves trailing by seven. Ogden didn't quit, however, scoring nine unanswered runs to take a 14-12 victory. One more win in the next four against Grand Junction will ensure the Rockies cannot win the second half South division title, which means Ogden will be in the playoffs either as the second-half champion or division wild card (if Orem wins the half).
The Raptors entered Sunday night's game in a tie with the Billings Mustangs' 2011 squad at 97 home runs on the season. Two Raptors quickly made outs in the first, but Rylan Bannon drew a walk and up stepped Carlos Rincon, with one blast in eight Ogden appearances in 2017. Rincon fell behind but hit a laser to right field and over the fence, vaulting the Raptors alone into the single-season team home run lead.
Grand Junction came back in the bottom of the first with three runs on four hits against rehabbing starter Trevor Oaks, who had spent most of 2017 with the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers.
The Raptors plated three in the second to re-take the lead at 5-3, but in the third three consecutive Rockies hits combined with a throwing error to tie the game.
Grand Junction jumped on Raptors pitcher Carlos Felix in the fourth, scoring seven runs on seven hits, including three home runs. After an August barrage, the Rockies entered the night with 96 home runs - meaning their three briefly put them on top of Ogden for the record.
The visiting Raptors entered the fifth inning in a sudden 12-5 hole. Not daunted, Rincon came up with a line drive over the short porch in left field, his second round tripper and third RBI of the night.
The sixth inning saw Ogden complete their comeback. With one out, Kevin Lachance tripled to straight-away center field and then scored on a Ramon Rodriguez sacrifice fly. Donovan Casey's third single of the night spurred a two-out rally, as Romer Cuadrado followed with a hit and Bannon drew another walk to load the bases. Rincon fought off a 2-2 pitch for a bloop hit to center to drive in a pair and bring Ogden within three. Luis Paz then crushed a pitch to right-center for his only hit, a double to score another two. After a pitching change, Mitchell Hansen singled to right field and Paz slid across the plate under the tag to tie the game at 12.
The contest was still tied when Rodriguez came to the plate with one out and the bases empty in the seventh. He hit a high drive to left-center that disappeared over the fence, his second blast and the Raptors' 100th on the season, to give Ogden a 13-12 lead. Again the Raptors struck with two out, as two Rockies errors and a sharp Rincon grounder up the middle plated an insurance run.
The Raptors' bullpen was stingy after the big Grand Junction fourth. Conor Costello earned the win with two scoreless innings, and Justin Hoyt picked up his second save with three strikeouts in three nearly-perfect frames.
Offensively, Rincon's six runs batted in are the most by a Raptors player in a single game in 2017. Lachance finished 3-for-5 with two runs scored, and Rodriguez knocked in a total of three.
In addition to the league home run record, Ogden broke their team record in runs scored during a single season. With six games left the Raptors have plated 540, besting the 531 scored in 75 games by the 2000 Ogden Raptors. And Sunday's win was the 44th of 2017, drawing this team into a tie for most wins in a season with both the 2010 (44-31) and 2012 (44-32) squads.
The Raptors and Rockies play an early game on Labor Day Monday, with the Raptors angling to clinch their spot in the playoffs in a 1:00 pm game.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.