Owlz walk off to championship series

By Brad Curnow / Orem Owlz | September 11, 2016 10:23 PM ET

OREM, Utah-It took 11 innings, but the Orem Owlz advanced to the Pioneer League Championship Series with an 8-7 walk-off win over the Ogden Raptors. John Schuknecht collected his first hit of the postseason with a double on a soft line drive to shallow left center field that drove in Nick Flair and Jack Kruger to tie and win the game.

The Owlz (2-1) took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the second as L.J. Kalawaia drove a triple to the fence in right center to score Franklin Torres all the way from first.

However, the lead was short-lived as the Raptors (1-2) posted three runs in the fourth. The inning was capped by a single back up the middle by Mitch Hansen to score Moises Perez for a 5-3 Ogden lead.

After reclaiming one run in the bottom of the fourth, the Owlz tied the game at five in the sixth. With two on and nobody out, Torres laid a sacrifice bunt down the third base line and starting pitcher Zac Grotz's throw to third was late as Keith Grieshaber slid in safe to load the bases. Kalawaia grounded into a fielder's choice up the middle and Grieshaber came in to score and tied the game. The Owlz were unable to plate any more runs in the innings, however, as Kienner Pina was picked off at third by catcher Keibert Ruiz as Kalawaia took second and Cody Ramer flied out to center.

Brandon Montgomery led off the eighth for the Raptors with a triple to left, then scored as Cody Thomas smoked a ground ball down the third base line for a 6-5 lead.

Despite the one-run hole entering the bottom of the ninth, the Owlz refused to go away. Kalawaia led off the inning with a single to center, then advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Ramer. Zach Gibbons drove a line drive to left center for a double and Kalawaia came in to score easily to tie the game again. Nick Flair nearly ended the game four pitches later, but his fly ball fell just shy of the left field fence and into the of Hansen.

The Owlz had a chance to win in the 10th as Grieshaber led off the inning with a line drive off the left field fence for a double, but was stranded by two ground outs and a strikeout.

David Trexler came on in relief in the 11th for the Owlz in an effort to hold the Raptors for at least one more inning, but Perez teed off on the second pitch and homered to left for 7-6 lead.

With one out in the bottom of the 11th, Gibbons breathed life into the Owlz as he ripped a fly ball to deep center. D.J. Peters tripped and fell as he tracked the ball toward the warning track and Gibbons capitalized for a triple. Gibbons was tagged out at home in an attempt to tie the game as Flair hit a ground ball to third. With two outs, Kruger hit a slow ground ball towards Montgomery at third, but he bobbled the exchange out of his glove and Kruger reached base safely.

After an 0-for-10 start to the Semifinal Series, Schuknecht poked a soft liner to left center to bring Flair and Kruger around to score and end the game.

With the win, the Owlz advance to the Pioneer League Championship Series, where they will play the Billings Mustangs for the league title. The series will start Wednesday in Billings, Mont. at Dehler Park. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. MT.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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