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Smith, Raptors eliminate Rockies

Dodgers prospect scores four runs, helps Ogden reach Finals
September 9, 2012
After winning the South Division title in both halves of the season, Ogden wasn't about to exit the Pioneer League playoffs with back-to-back losses.

Eric Smith homered, tripled, drew three walks and scored four runs Sunday as the Raptors defeated Grand Junction, 11-9, in the decisive game of the best-of-3 semifinals.

Ogden will play Missoula in the best-of-3 Championship Series, which begins Tuesday.

"It feels to great to win this," said Smith, the Dodgers' 12th-round pick in the 2012 Draft. "This is something we've all been working towards since we got here. After winning both divisions this year, this was what we all thought we'd be capable of. Every time we stepped on the field, it was to work toward the opportunity to play for the league title."

The series-clinching win came a day after the Rockies erased a late three-run deficit and stayed alive with an 8-7, 11-inning triumph. There were times when Sunday looked like it might be a repeat.

The Raptors jumped out to a 9-4 lead after four innings, thanks to solo homers from Smith, Jose Capellan and Bladimir Franco, only to have Grand Junction tie it again with two runs in the fifth and three in the sixth.

"Nobody really said anything out loud," Smith said. "We have a lot of faith in each other and we've played in a lot of close games together this year anyway. We knew we could handle this like any other game; it was just a matter of doing it."

Ogden regained the lead in the sixth when Capellan scored on a wild pitch by reliever Brian Rike, then added insurance when Smith came home for the fourth time on Jesus Valdez's sacrifice fly in the eighth.

Smith finished the series 7-for-12 (.583) with four walks and eight runs scored out of the No. 2 hole in the lineup. The 21-year-old catcher ranked fourth in the league with a .336 average during the season, adding three homers and 55 RBIs in 63 games. But he'd begun to tail off just before the playoffs began, going 4-for-22 in his last six contests.

"I struggled a little bit before we started here," Smith said. "But I got a little work in and tried my best to turn it around. Today, things went well. The biggest thing I want to do from the 2-hole is just get on base. With [Jeremy Rathjen, Valdez and Corey Seager] behind me, I know that if I'm going to get on base, I'm going to score."

A win in the Pioneer League Championship Series in his first professional season would mean a little something extra for the Stanford University product, whose Cardinal teams were eliminated in the NCAA Super Regionals each of the last two seasons.

"I've been denied the promised land a few times," he said, "it would be phenomenal to finally get a title. It would almost make up for those last two times."

In other Pioneer League playoff action:
Missoula 4, Great Falls 2

Yoimer Camacho allowed a run on two hits while striking out six over five innings as the Osprey advanced to the Finals for the first time since 2009.

Daniel Pulfer went 4-for-5 with a triple and an RBI for Missoula, which bounced back from a 5-4 loss in Game 2.

Thomas McCarthy homered, doubled and scored both runs for the Voyagers. Box score

Sam Dykstra is a contributor to