OREM Not many teams can say they have the Owlz' number this season.
Unfortunately for the Owlz, the one team that can is the one they need to beat the most.
Gabriel Jacobo slammed two home runs and drove in four RBIs Thursday night but it wasn't enough as the Casper Ghosts defeated the Owlz 9-5 in front of a record crowd of 5,721 at Brent Brown Ballpark.
It was the Ghosts fourth consecutive win at Orem this season.
"They came ready to play," Owlz manager Tom Kotchman said. "They're the ones who got up at six o'clock in the morning and got in at three. We had a full day of rest. They played with a sense of urgency."
With the loss, the Owlz now hold just a slim half-game lead over the Ghosts in the Southern Division of the Pioneer League.
The Owlz had a chance to pull ahead early, loading the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the second. But Rian Kiniry, who entered the game mired in a 1-for-19 slump, popped up weakly to short. Ghosts starter Ethan Hollingsworth got out of the jam three pitches later when Ivan Contreras bounced into a 4-6-3 double play.
"Close games, when you play good teams, you got to do the little things," Kotchman said.
Usually reliable Owlz starter Will Smith faltered in the top of the third as the Ghosts used four hits to jump out to a 4-0 lead.
Center fielder James Sims led off with a sharply hit single to center and then moved to third on a single by Angelys Nina. Alexander Feinberg came up next and grounded one to Jacobo at first. But instead of going to first for the sure out, Jacobo threw home trying to get Sims who was attempting to score. The throw, however, was just a bit late, allowing Sims to slide safely home.
After a fielder's choice by Carlos Martinez that sent Feinberg to second, Willin Rosario laced a single to center, scoring Feinberg. Kiel Roling finished off the scoring for the Ghosts with a double over Kiniry's head in center field, scoring Martinez and Rosario.
Smith pitched just 4 2/3 innings for the Owlz, allowing four runs and six hits. He walked one and struck out four.
Jacobo gave the Owlz their first run with a solo homer in the bottom of the fourth but the Ghosts tacked on two more in the top of the sixth to extend the lead to 6-1.
Jacobo's second homer came in the bottom of the sixth, this time a two-run shot well over the left field fence. The Owlz added one more in the sixth and one in the seventh, cutting the Ghosts' lead to just 6-5.
But the Ghosts weren't finished, taking advantage of two wild pitches in the top of the ninth to score three more.
All three of the Ghosts' runs in the ninth inning came with two out.
Ghosts manager Tony Diaz praised his team's effort after the game.
"When you play the game hard, when you play the game right and with energy, good things happen," Diaz said.
The Owlz still have three games left in the first half of the season, including one more tonight against the Ghosts. The Ghosts have four more, including a double-header Saturday in Ogden. If the Ghosts win tonight, they'll take sole possession of first place, something no team except the Owlz have been able to do so far.
Although Thursday night's loss was tough, the Owlz remain confident.
"We just got to come out with energy and with a lot of confidence," Jacobo said. "We know we're a good club. We're not in first for no reason."