MISSOULA — The winningest team in the Pioneer League left a major welt on the Missoula Osprey Sunday night.
The Orem Owlz piled up seven runs in the fourth inning en route to a 15-2 victory at Ogren-Allegiance Park. Not only did the South Division first-half champs leave town with a 2-1 series win, they planted a seed for the playoffs, beating the North Division champs for the fifth time in seven tries.
The good news is Missoula catcher Andy Yerzy hit safely in his 15th straight game. The left-handed hitter laced an opposite-field single to left to lead off the sixth.
The Canadian now boasts the longest hitting streak in the league. Teammate Joey Rose saw his 21-game roll come to an end, going 0 for 4.
"I go up there thinking 80 is 100, which means I don't need to swing as hard as I can," Yerzy said. "It's being calm and relaxed at the plate.
"I try not to think about hitting streaks. I want to get multiple hits every game. So I'm going up there with the same approach every time, trying to barrel the baseball."
Yerzy's team hasn't been the same in the second half of the season, losing eight of 11 contests. The O's are 22-27 overall this season while the Owlz boast a gaudy record of 35-13-1.
"But we had a couple games where we blew some leads so I'm not down on us yet," Yerzy said. "We were 3-7 to start the first half, so I have complete faith in us that we'll turn it around and start winning some games soon."
Osprey starter Edgar Martinez (1-1) struggled from the beginning. Orem came up empty after landing two runners on base in the first inning, but the Owlz plated two runs in the second.
Spencer Griffin lived on a throwing error by Missoula shortstop Keshawn Lynch. Harrison Wenson capitalized with a home run to center field that carried more than 400 feet.
Orem blew the game open with seven runs on seven hits in the fourth. Missoula manager Mike Benjamin made two pitching changes.
After David MacKinnon drew a leadoff walk and Griffin singled, Wenson drove home MacKinnon with a double. Franklin Torres followed with a two-RBI double that marked the end for Martinez.
Missoula reliever Pierce Romero walked the first hitter he faced and then allowed an RBI double to Torii Hunter Jr. Romero then hit Brandon Marsh with a pitch, allowed a two-RBI single to MacKinnon and a base hit to Manuel Guzman that prompted Benjamin to pull him.
Yeison Santana replaced Romero and, after allowing a Griffin single that loaded the bases, struck out Wenson to end the inning.
Missoula loaded the bases on three straight singles in the fifth but managed just one run. The O's loaded the bases again in the sixth and again came away with just one run.
Running short on pitchers, Benjamin called on third baseman Joel Novas in the ninth inning. He surrendered a two-run home run to Ryan Vega.
Orem racked up 19 hits, which was one shy of its season high for a single game.
NOTES: Despite losing its season series with the Owlz, Missoula will have home-field advantage if the teams meet in the best-of-3 Pioneer League championship. Home-field advantage alternates between the North and South every year ... Missoula will also have home-field advantage for its September divisional series, which will pit the team against either Great Falls, Billings or Helena. The O's earned that right by winning the first half ... Osprey leadoff hitter Gabriel Maciel was 2 for 5 Sunday. Going into the game, he ranked second in the Pioneer League with a .375 batting average. If he claims the batting title, he will be the first Osprey to do so since Adam Eaton in 2010.