The league-leading Orem Owlz (18-8) got their second straight win Saturday night at Brent Brown Ballpark, beating the Missoula Osprey (11-15) 8-2 and improving their home record to 12-3.
Missoula scored first with a long home run by Justin Williams in the top of the first.
The Owlz quickly responded in the bottom half of the inning. Miguel Hermosillo reached first and then stole second, and Zach Houchins drove the ball hard into center, bringing Hermosillo home to tie the game at 1-1.
Missoula took the lead again in the second when Dane McFarland singled one well-hit ball into right field and scored off a single by Tyler Humphrey.
The Owlz threatened in the fifth inning. Quinten Davis smacked a double off the wall in left center, advancing to third on a throwing error from Osprey center fielder McFarland. Wendell Soto drilled a ball by second base, prompting Davis to charge toward home. Osprey shortstop Sergio Alcantara whipped the ball home, where Davis was tagged out at the plate.
The Owlz did not waste another opportunity to take the lead in the seventh, with Houchins at bat and runners on second and third. With two outs and two strikes Houchins ripped the ball up the middle, scoring both runners.
Houchins went 3-5 for the night with three RBI. He leads the team with 27. He credited Owlz head coach, Dave Stapleton, for the added confidence.
“(Coach) Barb has given me a lot of confidence,” Houchins said. “When I came here I was letting my backside down. Barb’s now got me striding further when I am swinging. In college I wasn’t a very good hitter at getting RBI’s. That has changed here.”
The Owlz added four more security runs in the seventh. Eason Spivey drove in two runs, and he then scored off a triple from Davis. Soto’s sharply hit double brought home Davis. The Owlz never looked back after the hitting explosion in the seventh.
Stapleton knows the work his players and coaches are putting in will only improve the team’s already impressive batting.
“Our extra work in the cages by Coach Barb and Buck are teaching our guys to have a good approach, and knowing what your pitches and strengths are,” Stapleton said. “The work we are putting in the cages is reflecting what we are able to do on the field, to be able to get our offense to know, ‘Hey, it’s going to happen,’ is a good feeling.”
The Owlz finished the game with 13 hits. Stapleton was impressed with the way the team fought back late in the game.
“It was something we had to reach down and really get; to have somebody like Houchins come up and deliver a key base hit ignited things,” Stapleton said. “I really believe in this team, and they believe in each other.”
The Owlz used four pitchers in the win, allowing two runs while giving up nine hits.
“We pitched well. Our pitching tonight allowed us to try to hang on,” Stapleton said. “Right now our pitching feels really good. Both Robichaux and Rhoades did an outstanding job throwing zeros up, and then Kipper came in and did a really good job and Paredes finished strong for us.”