MISSOULA — Austin Pope proved to be a blessing for the Missoula Osprey Wednesday.
If only for a short while.
The first-year starting pitcher threw just two innings because he's on a short leash following a busy college season at Fairfield University. In those two, he managed to do something the O's failed to do in their first three games against Pioneer League powerhouse Ogden:
He kept the Osprey even.
The Raptors quickly changed that when Edgar Martinez came on in relief, scoring twice in the third inning. Missoula trailed the rest of the way in dropping its fifth straight game, 9-0, in front of 1,291 fans at Ogren-Allegiance Park.
The Raptors' four-game sweep of the Osprey was less about Missoula's shortcomings as it was a testament to Ogden's rare talent. The visitors held a lead in 33 of 36 innings and never trailed in the series.
Prior to this season, the Raptors (25-6) had never won nine games in a row. They've now won 10 in a row with a team batting average over .300. To put that in perspective, the next best hitting team in the Pioneer League is Grand Junction, whose batting average was a collective .268 heading into Wednesday's action.
Ogden, who clinched the South Division title with Wednesday's win, jumped on Martinez immediately in the third inning. No. 9 hitter Zac Ching lined a single and scored on a double in the right field corner by Justin Yurchak. Andy Pages made it three hits in a row with his single, then Ryan Ward delivered an RBI single.
Ogden added another run in the fourth. Jimmy Titus singled, moved up on a ground out and a Marco Hernandez base hit and scored on a Martinez wild pitch.
Missoula (15-16) recorded its first hit against starting pitcher Kevin Malisheski in the fourth. Tristen Carranza did the honors with a two-out base hit.
Ogden added three runs in the sixth off reliever Oliver Rosario. Joe Vranesh drew a one-out walk and scored on a Titus two-run home run. Hernandez added a solo home run, prompting Rosario's exit.
The Raptors benefited from two Osprey errors in scoring an insurance run in the seventh off Chris Williams. Pages, Brandon Lewis and Vranesh delivered RBI singles to make the score 9-0.
Malisheski, a 21-year-old righty taken in the 38th round of the 2016 MLB Draft, pitched six innings of shutout baseball before departing. He allowed just three hits and struck out eight.
Ogden piled up 14 hits to Missoula's five. Ward led the visitors with three hits, followed by Yurchak, Pages, Titus and Hernandez with two. Liover Peguero and Cam Coursey each collected two hits for the hosts.
The good news for the Osprey is they stayed two games out of first place in the North Division. First-place Idaho Falls dropped a 9-7 home decision to Orem.
The Osprey have seven games remaining on their first-half schedule, including three at home against Idaho Falls next week. The O's will return to action Friday when they play at Great Falls.
Notes: The Pioneer League record for most wins in the first half of the season is 30. The Raptors can tie that mark by going 5-2 over their next seven games ... Ogden outscored Missoula in their four-game series, 44-20 ... Right-handed pitcher Jared Liebelt joined the Osprey bullpen Wednesday. He was selected in the 20th round of the MLB Draft in June. Liebelt helped Mississippi State make a run to the College World Series. He led the Bulldogs with 30 appearances, posting a 2-0 record and 2.74 earned run average. He is a native of Aurora, Illinois.