Friday , September 08, 2017 - 12:00 AM
OGDEN — The Ogden Raptors have more than 900 wins, an all-time record above .500 and have now qualified for the playoffs for the 14th time in 24 seasons.
But a Pioneer League championship has remained elusive for the franchise and its loyal fans, which have led the league in attendance for 21 consecutive years.
The 2017 team is next in line to attempt to change that, equipped with the best record in franchise history.
“It’s a great experience, it’s something a lot of people haven’t been a part of,” center fielder Brayan Morales said of being a playoff team. “I’m excited to be a part of a good baseball team and hopefully we can win it all and get that ring.”
Morales, a two-year community college player prior to being drafted, said he’s never been in a playoff situation before. He grew into a role as the grease of Ogden’s offensive gears over the last month of the season.
The left-hander spent a lot of the early season with double-A Tulsa and single-A Great Lakes with a few games in Ogden mixed in. He re-joined the Raptors for good July 15 with an average of .150 and three stolen bases. By season’s end, his average hung around .300 and he led the league in stolen bases.
Morales is just one example of an Ogden team that continuously re-tooled after call-ups of top players. Six Raptors were named to the mid-season All-Star game in early August, and within days after the game, none remained on the roster.
“All in all, the group that’s been in the clubhouse, although it has changed, what’s important to them hasn’t changed and they’ve passed that along among each other,” manager Mark Kertenian said.
The first-year skipper said the Los Angeles Dodgers have quality coaches throughout their minor-league system, so as players arrive in Ogden from any level, coaches have “developed values in each player that we’ve been able to have here, doing the right things … they’re passionate about what they’re doing and making the right decisions.”
SOUTH DIVISION SERIES SCHEDULE
Game 1: Orem at Ogden — 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 10
Tickets: $5 for all seats, season ticket holders have tickets at will call
Game 2: Ogden at Orem — 6:35 p.m. Monday, Sept. 11
Game 3*: Ogden at Orem — 6:35 p.m. Tuesday, Sept 12
Matt Jones played for an Ogden team in 2015 that missed the playoffs despite owning the league’s best overall record. Converted to pitcher this year, he held an ERA of 1.35 out of the bullpen before being shut down with overuse concerns in late August.
“I’m happy to still be here, glad I got the chance to stick around and be a part of (Wednesday’s) celebration,” Jones said. “Hopefully we have another one come up here soon.”
The Raptors face the Orem Owlz, the league’s best team from start to finish. Ogden went 7-9 against Orem this season.
“Orem is a really good team, but I think we might surprise some people with how we keep playing. I think we’re only getting stronger day by day,” Jones said.
Kertenian said it’s satisfying to attach on-field success to the personal development he’s seen in his players.
“I’m very excited for this group,” Kertenian said. “We’ve definitely, as a group, worked very hard for it and earned it, and would love it to continue.”
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