OREM With the Orem Owlz and the Helena Brewers tied 4-4 in the bottom of the tenth and runners on second and third with just one out, the Brewers had a decision to make.
Face the league hits leader or the league RBI leader.
The Brewers chose the latter and lost.
The Brewers intentionally walked Roberto Lopez, who entered Thursday night's contest leading the Pioneer League with 70 hits, and chose instead to pitch to Luis Jimenez, who entered the game leading the league with 39 RBIs.
The Brewers almost got lucky, inducing a grounder to short. But Jimenez beat the double-play attempt and the Owlz won 5-4.
"Ground ball, I think I hit it good," said a smiling Jimenez afterward. "We won."
Beau Brooks led off the bottom of the tenth with a seven-pitch walk before being lifted for pinch-runner Rian Kiniry. Darwin Perez was then hit by Garrett Sherrill's first pitch to him. Kiniry and Perez pulled off a double-steal, but Ivan Contreras grounded out to short, bringing up Lopez.
Owlz manager Tom Kotchman agreed with the decision to walk Lopez.
"Pick your poison," Kotchman said. "Jimenez is a lot more pitchable. I wouldn't pitch to Lopez either."
The Owlz jumped ahead 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth on Jimenez's 10th home run of the season.
Despite being shut down by Owlz starter Jayson Miller most of the evening, the Brewers finally got a run across in the top of the sixth to tie the score. With one out, John Delaney ripped a double into left field. One out later, Chris Dennis smacked an RBI triple into the right-center field gap that ended up bouncing all the way to the wall.
The Brewers took advantage of a strange series of plays in the top of the seventh to jump ahead 4-1.
Cutter Dykstra, son of former major leaguer and three-time all-star Lenny Dykstra, led off the inning with a single to center. Mike Roberts came up next and grounded one to Perez at short. Perez, who charged in to make the play, couldn't get a firm grip on the ball and both Dykstra and Roberts were safe. After Derrick Alfanso laid down a sacrifice bunt to move both runners up 90 feet, Steve Braun rolled one to Jimenez at third. Jimenez, who appeared to want to throw home on the play to try and get Dykstra, bobbled the ball. Miraculously, Jimenez was able to see Roberts heading to third and regroup in time to throw to Perez, who scampered over from short on the play.
After a bloop single by Erik Miller moved Braun to third, Delaney came up, setting up another strange play. On a 2-1 pitch, Miller took off for second. When the throw to second got there, Miller froze. Perez, who was covering second on the play, looked at third to make sure Braun didn't try to score and then dove to try and tag Miller. Once he dove, Braun came racing home. Perez ended up being late on the tag to Miller, who dove into the second-base bag at the same time. Perez's throw home was late and Braun scored.
Five pitches later, Delaney dunked one into right-center field, allowing Miller to score and bringing Kotchman out of the dugout to make a pitching change.
Steven Geltz came in and walked Miguel Vasquez before getting the final out.
"Miller's the type of guy you've got to play defense behind and we didn't do that," Kotchman said. "He did his normal job tonight. One earned run."
The Owlz tied the game back up in the bottom of the seventh on a three-run drive deep to right-center field by Tyson Auer. It was the first homer of the season for Auer, who went 4-for-11 in the Owlz' recent three-game sweep at Casper.
"I was just trying to stay consistent in my approach," Auer said. "I was just hoping it would fall over the outfielder's head."
The game remained tied until the bottom of the tenth.
The Owlz have now won four straight since losing four of six to open the second half. The Owlz and Brewers will meet again tonight for the second of a three-game series at Brent Brown Ballpark.