If there is one axiom the Orem Owlz have embodied up to this point in the season, it would be home-field advantage is key for victory. Their record at home is an impressive 9-3 while their record away from Brent Brown Ballpark is 3-8.
After starting out winning six of their first seven, Orem went 0-6 on a trip to Casper to play the Ghosts and a painful pit-stop taking on the Chuckars of Idaho Falls. The streak came to a striking halt as soon as they stepped foot back on home turf and won their next three consecutive games.
As quickly as their luck rose, it came crashing back to earth in Billings, Montana as the Mustangs won in the bottom of the tenth inning with a walk-off home-run.
“The toughest part is being on the road so much,” said Owlz second baseman Taylor Lindsey. “Kotchman does a good job of making sure we get our rest and take care of our bodies. The long bus rides are pretty tough though.”
They dodged the executioner’s blade last Thursday in Billings as the game was postponed due to weather. The game was made up as part of a double header the next day.
Part of the inconsistency is due to turnover. Like every year, they have made some additions and had some subtractions. The first to go was pitcher, PJ Jang. He pitched a one-hit shut-out and was promptly called up to Triple A Cedar Rapids. Next to go was Brennan Gowens, who struggled batting a meager .162 before being sent down to the Tempe Angels.
Following the losing streak, Orem lost third basemen/designated hitter Jarrod Parks. He led the league in overall batting as well as leading the Owlz in nearly every offensive category. Parks was called up just as Angels 17th overall pick C.J. Cron signed and was assigned to the Owlz.
Cron joined Orem after playing three years and 45 minutes up the freeway at the University of Utah. He has promptly taken over the offensive reigns and now leads the team in home runs and runs-batted-in.
Beyond the glitz and glamour of Cron’s arrival, diamonds in the rough abound in Orem’s roster. The Owlz are one of the only teams that can boast three first-round draft picks in their starting line-up with Cron, Lindsey, and Kaleb Cowart. Both Lindsey and Cowart are batting a high average (.379 and .404 as of last Friday, respectively). Some timely hitting has sparked some big innings as Orem has exploded for more than 20 runs twice this year.
On the flip side, Cowart and shortstop Brandon Brewer have combined for 13 errors (seven and six, respectively).
Coming into the season, pitchers Aaron Meade and Logan Odom were called upon as returning starters from last season to lead a young pitching staff. Meade has been very good up until the fourth inning, where he has struggled, giving up more than three runs three separate times.
Odom has been the more consistent of the two, throwing two one-hit shut-outs and being among the team-leaders in ERA (1.84 as of last Friday). While Odom doesn’t boast Meade’s speed, he has proven even more capable of retiring the side through good placement instead of power.
“An out is an out,” said manager Tom Kotchman. “We’ll take them how we get them, but that means less opportunity for them and more for us. That’s what it’s all about,”
Orem’s next home stand begins July 21st, by that point, they will have either turned their road woes around – or just be glad to be home.