In a Pioneer League Championship Series rematch, the Orem Owlz bested the Billings Mustangs in their series opener by a final score of 9-3.
The Owlz came away with 13 hits on the night, only one of which was for extra bases. The Owlz also drew 10 walks on the night, tying their season high.
Right-handed pitcher Chris Rodriguez started the game for the Owlz, beginning the night by pitching to his former high school teammate, Billings shortstop Jeter Downs.
Both Rodriguez and Downs attended Pace High School in Miami, Florida, before being drafted two years apart and now facing each other for the first time as Pioneer League opponents.
Downs swung at Rodriguez first pitch of the night and popped out to Owlz catcher Harrison Wenson.
Downs ended his night having gone 1-4 at the plate, with his lone his coming off of Chris Rodriguez in the fifth inning.
The hit by Downs was one of a season-high nine allowed by Rodriguez, who had to work around traffic throughout the night.
Offensively, the Owlz continued to sputter in the early innings, stranding the bases loaded to end the first inning, just as they did in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings of Friday's game.
The next inning was a different story. The Owlz loaded the bases again, giving way to shortstop Leonardo Rivas.
Rivas entered the game having gone 3-3 with a team-best 9 RBIs while the bases are loaded this year.
Rivas held true to that trend, driving a two-run single into right field to get the Owlz on the board, making the score 2-0.
Billings erased those two runs with of their own in the bottom half of the inning, which was the only one where the Mustangs were able to break through against Chris Rodriguez.
Rodriguez pitched through the fifth inning allowing just those two runs, while striking out five batters and qualifying himself for the win, but still locked in a 2-2 tie.
In the sixth inning, the Owlz loaded the bases once again by drawing three walks, and again, giving way to Leonardo Rivas.
Rivas then drew a walk, picking up his 12th RBI with the bases loaded, making the score 3-2.
Franklin Torres then added to the lead, delivering a base hit that scored another run, making the score 4-2.
As it turns out, those four runs were all that the Owlz needed, as Chris Rodriguez ended up picking up his team-leading fourth straight win.
The Owlz tacked on another run in the seventh inning when catcher Harrison Wenson lined a double into the left field corner that allowed Jonah Todd to score and give the Owlz a 5-2 lead.
The double by Wenson was the only extra base hit of the night.
The Mustangs scored their third and final run of the game in the eight inning, when outfielder J.D. Williams lined a single into center field, allowing Mark Kolozsvary to score, chopping the Owlz lead back down to two runs.
The run was scored off of Owlz right-handed pitcher Denny Brady, and was the only run allowed by the Owlz bullpen in four full innings of work.
By holding the Owlz' lead in check, Brady earned his first hold of the season, as did right-handed pitcher Jeremy Beasley.
Beasley came on in relief of Chris Rodriguez to make his Owlz debut, pitching around three walks for two hitless innings.
The Owlz added the icing on top with a four-run ninth inning.
Jonah Todd got the scoring started with his first hit of the night--a single that allowed Ryan Vega to score, giving the Owlz a 6-3 lead.
Third baseman Manuel Guzman then came up with the bases loaded, grounding out to third, but allowing Keinner Pina to come home from third with the Owlz' seventh run of the game.
The Owlz' No. 9 hitter Matt McCann then drew a walk to load the bases for a fourth separate inning.
McCann ended up drawing three walks on the night, which tied a career-high.
The walk loaded the bases, again giving way to Leonardo Rivas.
Rivas once again came through for Orem, ripping a single into shallow right field that allowed Jonah Todd to score from third base.
The run-scoring hit put a cap on Rivas' 2-4 performance at the plate, with both hits (and a walk) coming while the were bases loaded.
Rivas' piled up a season high four runs batted in, giving him a team-best 25 RBI on the year.
Brandon Sandoval ended the scoring for the Owlz by drawing a bases loaded walk to cap the game's final score at 9-3.
The win advances the Owlz to a Pioneer League best record of 18-7 on the year, in control of a 4.5 game lead over the Ogden Raptors atop the Pioneer League South standings.
The Owlz and Mustangs will play Game Two of their four-game series tomorrow afternoon, with first pitch scheduled for 1:05 MT at Dehler Park.
LHP Justin Kelly will get the start for the Owlz, opposite of RHP Jhon De Jesus, with coverage beginning on the Orem Owlz Baseball Network with the Voice of the Owlz, Steven Cusumano, 15 minutes prior to first pitch.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.