Tonight’s Pioneer Day festivities started out with a tribute to the military, having an Iraqi war vet throw out the first pitch and the Orem Owlz donning a red, white, and black army fatigue uniform. That was followed by a pre-game presentation to Owlz manager Tom Kotchman, celebrating his 3,000th game coached.
The spotlight is not a place that Kotchman revels in and he left the field with a hand-shake to the presenter, and a wave to the crowd. In the post-game interview however, he wanted to make sure to say a few words.
“The only regret I have about the whole day is the little thing before the game. The guy that gave me my first job in baseball was here tonight with the Reds, Bill Bavasi. I should have grabbed the microphone and thanked him, because he gave me a job in 1984 when I didn’t have one,” said Kotchman.
The feel good start to the game dissipated quickly as the Billings Mustangs jumped out to a 2-0 lead. Orem’s starting pitcher, 6’10” Joe Meleoris, settled in and more than did his part. He went on a dominant streak, striking out five batters while retiring 11 straight through the fourth inning, before giving up two runs in the fifth.
As it goes with a lot of young teams, the Orem Owlz struggled with consistency against the Mustangs in tonight’s 17-7 loss. What was a pitchers dual, turned into a lopsided slugfest.
The scoring picked up in the fifth, as Billings scrapped together two runs as well as blasting a two-run home-run to take a 6-2 lead. As the Mustangs kept scoring, the Owlz tried to keep up, outscoring Billings 3-2 in the sixth. They cut into the lead slightly making it 8-5.
The Mustangs hot hitting continued as they hit their third two run home-run of the game, pushing their lead up to 12-6. In the seventh inning as Orem was attempting to put some more runs on the board, Kaleb Cowart hit a slow roller down the first base line, and the throw hit him in the back. He was running slightly outside the base path, and by rule, he was out and Frazier Hall’s run did not count, sending both runners back to their bases.
That abruptly put an end to their comeback attempt.
If there was any doubt in the ninth inning, Mustangs 2nd baseman Sammy Diaz, broke it wide open for Billings and slammed the door shut on Orem with a grand slam. Or as Billings radio announcer, Ryan Schuiling put it, “a grand Sammy”.
Due to Orem’s late game rallies this season, Schuiling also said, “with Orem you have to hang some garlic around their neck, shoot them through the heart with a silver bullet, drive a wooden stake into them, and then expose them to sunlight before anyone can say their dead.”
The only fireworks for Owlz fans would come after the game, bringing the Pioneer Day celebration to a close. Orem flirted with scoring a few times, but the 17-7 lead was to much to overcome, exposing them to the proverbial sunlight and bringing their night to a close.