By Jonathan Boldt
Assistant Sports Editor
Teams as talented as this year’s Owlz squad are championship or bust. Unfortunately for Orem, this season turned out to be the latter after falling to the Ogden Raptors Sunday, Sept. 11
The Owlz started out hot in the closeout game Sunday, hitting several home runs and taking a lead. But as the Raptors pitching improved and the Owlz fell apart, the tide turned as Ogden won 12-9 to take the series two games to one.
“It doesn’t matter how many runs you score,” Kotchman said. “If you can’t stop the other guys in this league you won’t win. Pitching is everything and the key to a successful season.”
Despite their first-round elimination, this season’s team managed to instill some hope for the future of not only the Owlz but the parent organization, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. It remains unclear if first-round pick C.J. Cron will return to Orem or move up the ranks right away post-surgery.
“We just got to deal with it,” said manager Tom Kotchman. “Players will come and go. We can only worry about who we’ve got here now.”
Several pitchers came on strong late in the year. Junior Carlin will remain a focus for Kotchman after pitching in short spurts of no more than two innings at a time. With a full season under his belt, he could be a main spoke in the wheel for 2012.
Aaron Tullo spent some time in Cedar Rapids playing in high A league. If he remains on the team, his improvement from year one to year two should be an asset to the pitching staff.
Late-season addition Nick Mutz could be one of the most important signings for next season. He was able to come in as relief and stabilize some shaky moments, his personality lending itself as a calming influence on the young, up-and-coming pitchers.
“Mutz does a great job,” Kotchman said. “Whenever he comes in he takes control and tries to just do what he always does. He has good command and some good stuff too.”
One player that flew under the radar is pitcher Eric Cendejas.
“Cendejas just quietly goes out there and does his thing,” Kotchman said. “He’s got so many different ways to get you out, it’s almost kinda scary.”
Third-round selection Nick Maronde and late-season addition Austin Wood also earned Kotchman’s attention. Maronde started for the University of Florida in the College World Series prior to signing and made an immediate impact, joining the starting rotation. Wood is a fire-baller who throws close to 100mph. He joined for the last couple weeks of the season, only making a few appearances.
Jonathan Boldt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @jboldt24