OREM When the Orem Owlz bring their hitting shoes, slowing them down can be nearly an impossible task.
Not even when they're facing the best pitching staff in the Pioneer League.
Darwin Perez, Luis Jimenez and Angel Castillo all connected for home runs Thursday night as the Owlz (17-6) pounded out 13 hits en route to a 13-0 decimation of the Great Falls Voyagers (14-9) at Brent Brown Ballpark.
Entering the contest, the Voyagers boasted a league-best 3.82 team ERA and had allowed just 14 home runs, second best in the league. They had also not lost a single game by more than five runs. By the end of the night, the Voyagers' team ERA had ballooned to 4.19.
"We knew they could hit," Voyagers manager Chris Cron said after the game. "Absolutely no doubt about that."
The Owlz lead the Pioneer League in hitting with a team batting average of .307. Before Thursday's game, six Owlz were hitting over .300, including first baseman Roberto Lopez, the league's leading hitter with an average of .444. Lopez also boasts a 22-game hitting streak.
According to Lopez, helping each other out is what has enabled the Owlz to thrive thus far.
"We talk about every pitcher, what we see, how we should approach them," Lopez said.
Lopez also attributes the Owlz success to staying aggressive.
"Our aggressiveness pays off," he said. "You can see that by the numbers."
Because of the nature of single-A baseball, where final rosters aren't finalized until mere days before opening night and a player could be called up at any time, it's hard to predict how well a team will perform on a consistent basis.
But Jayson Miller, who started Thursday night for the Owlz, isn't surprised.
"I knew we would be great from the beginning," Miller said. "But there's still room to improve."
With the shutout, the Owlz moved ahead of the Voyagers for the league's best team ERA. Jayson Miller, who entered Thursday's game with a team-best 0.47 ERA in 19 1/3 innings, improved to 3-0 after throwing seven innings of five hit ball, lowering his already microscopic ERA to 0.34.
"I've been able to command at least three pitches every inning," said Miller, who also has not allowed an earned run in 23 consecutive innings.
Some may wonder if there is a sense of urgency among the pitchers to keep up with the hitting, but Miller denied such an idea.
"We do have a great group of hitters, but it's not a competition," Miller said. "I'm just trying to do my part."
Despite the strong start, the Owlz find themselves only a game and a half in first place ahead of the Casper Ghosts; quite a turnaround from 2007 when only the Idaho Falls Chukars finished the first half with a winning record in the south division.
"We don't have any wiggle room," Owlz manager Tom Kotchman said. "That's the way it goes."
Kotchman admits that while of course he would like to have a larger lead in the division, especially with the Owlz record what it is, he likes his team's ability to stay focused no matter what.
"They know they have to play every game whether they're up by one or up by 10," Kotchman said.
The Owlz finish up their four-game series with the Voyagers tonight at 7:05 before finishing up the homestand with a three-game series against the Billings Mustangs. After the homestand the Owlz will head to Montana to play seven more games against the Voyagers and Mustangs.