This will not be the same Orem Owlz Utah has been used to. Nor were they expecting it to be. Although they had returning players in Andrew Ray and Drew Martinez, the Owlz had a lot of new players coming in this season, none of them coming from the first four rounds of the draft. They are now having a tough start to their season and trying to figure out where to go from here.
Orem started off their season on the road against Idaho Falls and were outscored in a three game set 34-19. They were swept in that series, which for any ballclub is a tough way to start a season. In the third game though, rookies Austin Adams and Michael Morin showed some life in the pen, firing two scoreless innings and striking out two as well. But they weren’t able to overcome the three infield errors by Michael Bolaski, Caleb Bushyhead and rookie Wade Hinkle and lost that final game, 7-1.
Orem was able to bounce back when they came home to Brent Brown Ballpark, defeating the Ogden Raptors because of a huge third inning that saw back-to-back rookie homeruns from Hinkle and Jonathan Walsh and a total of six runs. The Owlz were able to capitalize on a catching error by shortstop Justin Boudreaux that left a man on second and first with no outs. After a few singles and a fielder’s choice which allowed a run to come through, Hinkle came to bat and hit a three-run shot to put the Owlz up 5-1. That was Hinkle’s first homerun of the season and his first of two in the game. He hit a solo homerun in the seventh to put the nail in the coffin.
To the Owlz, that may have been their highlights of the season so far after they went on to lose five straight before defeating Grand Junction and avoiding the sweep in a tight 7-6 win. They then came back to Utah to take the first of a two-game set from the Chukars of Idaho Falls. Despite going 1-11 with runners in scoring position, the Owlz were able to defeat the Chukars 5-3 behind a stellar pitching performance by Aaron Newcomb (1 run, 3 IP), Yancarlos Santiago (0 runs, 3 IP), and Michael Morin (2 runs, 3 IP). There were also two mammoth homeruns that cleared the left field wall from Kyle Johnson and Michael Bolaski. Head coach Tom Kotchman knows that there is still much improvement ahead for the Owlz.
“All you have to do is look at the stats and we’re the last in the league in pitching,” Kotchman said. “If we get good pitching we have a chance to win some games and that’s starting to straighten out little by little.”
Speaking of statistics, after Thursday’s game, the Owlz were still last in the Pioneer League in ERA (6.99) and had the most hits allowed as well (130). Starting pitcher Newcomb sees the issue as well.
“Everybody’s trying to find the zone,” Newcomb said. “When we get into a jam, we’re not making the big pitches to get out of it. I believe once our pitching starts to get it going, it’s going to be a fun ride.”
The Owlz are hoping their fun ride starts this week on the road as they play Grand Junction in a two game set in Colorado. They will then travel to Ogden before coming back to Orem to play the Chukars of Idaho Falls again.