Chukars tie Ogden for division lead with 10-5 win

By VICTOR FLORES
vflores@postregister.com

Tuesday’s game wasn’t a must-win for the Idaho Fall Chukars, but it was close.

Idaho Falls' D.J. Burt makes the play at second base and completes the throw in time for a double play dispite the efforts of Odgen's Gage Green to break up the double during Tuesday night's game at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls’ D.J. Burt makes the play at second base and completes the throw in time for a double play dispite the efforts of Odgen’s Gage Green to break up the double during Tuesday night’s game at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)

I.F. went in trailing the Ogden Raptors by one game in the Pioneer League South Division, and the Chukars hosted the Raptors for a two-game series starting Tuesday.

The Chukars are now tied for the second-half division lead after handling the Raptors 10-5 at Melaleuca Field. I.F. manager Justin Gemoll said his team has a one-game-at-a-time mindset, but the Chukars know the stakes. Seven games remain in the regular season.

“I’ve never been in a playoff before,” said Chukars catcher Xavier Fernandez, who transferred from the Burlington Royals on Monday. “I feel so excited, and I can’t even explain it.”

The Chukars scored first with a three-run bottom of the first inning. Two runs scored on an error, and Fernandez (3 for 5) hit an RBI single after a long at-bat.

Ogden scored once in the top of the second, but I.F. built on the lead in the bottom half. Center fielder Cody Jones kicked the scoring off with an RBI triple.

Next up was D.J. Burt, who hit a towering fly ball to left field. Left fielder Alex Santana froze as the ball went airborne, appearing to be camped under it. But Santana didn’t know where the ball was, and neither did most of Melaleuca Field. Even Burt thought it was an out.

Santana’s confusion didn’t matter. Burt’s fly ball landed over the wall, 410 feet away.

After 273 plate appearances, Burt had his first home run of the season.

“Finally,” said Burt, who hit two blasts in 163 plate appearances for Burlington last season. “It feels good.”

Gemoll, the third base coach, gave Burt a high five but didn’t exchange words with the 19-year-old as he rounded third.

“He was too busy smiling,” Gemoll said.

The Chukars scored four runs in the second inning, taking a 7-1 lead.

Idaho Falls' pitcher Julio Pinto fielded the ball and caught Odgen's Matt Jones between bases during Tuesday night's game at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls’ pitcher Julio Pinto fielded the ball and caught Odgen’s Matt Jones between bases during Tuesday night’s game at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)

I.F. extended the lead to 8-1 on a Brawlun Gomez home run (420 feet), but Ogden cut it to 8-5 with a four-run fourth. The Chukars added some insurance with a two-run sixth.

Julio Pinto made his first start for the Chukars and struggled, despite a mid-to-high-90s fastball. Pinto, previously with Burlington, gave up three runs (all earned) on five hits, a walk, five strikeouts and two wild pitches in 3.1 innings.

Fellow Chukars flamethrower Josh Staumont pitched three scoreless, hitless innings out of the bullpen, giving up two walks with four strikeouts.

Burt went 2 for 4 with two walks and has now reached base 49 games in a row. Newcomer Gabriel Noriega (shortstop) went 3 for 4, Jones went 2 for 5 with a walk and left fielder Roman Collins went 1 for 4 with two walks.

Tonight’s series finale is enormous for the Chukars (34-35). If they win, they’ll not only take a one-game division lead, they’ll improve their season record against Ogden (40-29) to 9-7. The first playoff tiebreaker is head-to-head record.

Derek Gordon is scheduled to start for I.F. in tonight’s game, which starts at 7:15.

Roster notes

Several key I.F. position players were missing from Tuesday’s game. Outfielder Amalani Fukofuka was on the bench getting rest, and Gemoll wasn’t sure if he’d play tonight either. Shortstop Jeckson Flores (hamstring) and catcher Kyle Pollock (hand) are both day-to-day. Gemoll also said catcher Pedro Gonzalez, currently on the disabled list, will not return.

Shortstop Marten Gasparini could return as early as this weekend, Chukars director of broadcasting Alex Cohen said. Gasparini is currently in Japan representing Team Italy in the World Baseball Softball Confederation U-18 Baseball World Cup

Umpires frustrate Chukars in 9-8 loss to Grand Junction

Umpire calls carry extra weight right now for the Idaho Falls Chukars, who are battling the Ogden Raptors for the Pioneer League South Division title.

So the frustration ramps up when the umpires, from the Chukars’ perspective, make mistakes.

That frustration was evident Monday night against the Grand Junction Rockies, who benefited from several calls that drew ire from I.F.’s players, coaches and fans. It didn’t help that the Chukars lost the game 9-8 and fell one game behind Ogden in the South Division second-half standings. There are eight games left in the regular season.

Burt
Burt

“We had a couple of bad calls we should’ve gotten,” Chukars second baseman D.J. Burt said. “But that’s baseball.”

The Rockies scored twice off Carter Hope in the top of the first inning, but the Chukars took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the first. Both teams went on to score every half inning until the bottom of the fifth, when the game was tied 7-7.

The Rockies took the lead back in the top of the seventh on a two-out, two-run single by catcher Chris Rabago off left-hander Ian Thompkins.

The Chukars loaded the bases in the eighth with two outs but failed to score. In the ninth, they loaded the bases with no outs and scored a run, but they needed at least one more.

Most of the Chukars’ frustration with umpires Isias Barba (home plate) and Luis Hernandez (field) stemmed from balls and strikes.

In the sixth, Barba called Burt out on a high strike. Burt voiced his displeasure with Barba’s call as he walked back to the dugout.

Melaleuca Field got heated in the bottom of the ninth, too, when Hernandez ruled that third baseman Logan Nottebrok went around while trying to check his swing. Fans were incensed, and the umpires told several Chukars in the dugout to settle down. Nottebrok struck out looking on the next pitch, and that call wasn’t popular, either.

“They’re young, too,” Chukars’ manager Justin Gemoll said of the umpires. “Hopefully they learn from it. Things happened to both sides; it wasn’t like it was only our team. It’s just part of the game.”

Burt made noise in another way when he hit a triple in the first inning. That hit extended his on-base streak to 48 games, which is a 2015 high for affiliated baseball, according to the Chukars. Burt (1 for 3, two walks) passed Matt Holiday of the St. Louis Cardinals.

“It feels good,” Burt said. “At the plate, I didn’t want to think about it too much. I just wanted to stick to my game plan, be patient and be a spark to this team.”

First baseman Josh Banuelos went 2 for 4 with a walk, left fielder Roman Collins went 2 for 5 and center fielder Amalani Fukofuka went 1 for 3 with two walks.

The Chukars (33-35, 20-10 second half) host the Raptors (40-28, 21-9) for a two-game series starting at 7:15 tonight. The teams have a 7-7 record against each other this season. If they have equal second-half records at the end of the season, head-to-head record would be the first playoff tiebreaker, so both teams crave a sweep in their final series.

Valenzuela traded for Gomes

The Kansas City Royals bolstered their lineup Monday night by acquiring outfielder Jonny Gomes from the Atlanta Braves, first reported by Fox Sports. In return for Gomes, the Braves received shortstop Luis Valenzuela, who started the season with the Chukars.

Valenzuela, 21, hit .486/.472/.600 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) in 37 plate appearances for I.F. this season. On July 2, he was promoted to Single-A Lexington, where he hit .339/.368/.483 in 184 plate appearances.

Valenzuela will be assigned to the Single-A Rome Braves, Atlanta announced.

Sunday’s game

Behind a record sixth inning, the Chukars pounded the Rockies 16-7 on Sunday at Meleleuca Field.

The Chukars trailed 6-3 going into the sixth. After the inning, they led 12-6. The nine runs are the most I.F. has scored in an inning this season.

Designated hitter Amalani Fukofuka had one of his best games of the season, going 5 for 6 and finishing a home run shy of the cycle. The five hits are the most by a Chukars’ batter in a single game this season.

Catcher Nick Dini went 3 for 4 with a double, while Banuelos (2 for 4, double, two walks), right fielder Brawlun Gomez (2 for 4, double, walk), center fielder Cody Jones (2 for 6) and shortstop Gabriel Noriega (2 for 5) each had two hits.

Noriega is on a rehab assignment. He transferred from Triple-A Omaha to I.F. before Sunday’s game.

Chukars Notebook: Second half resurgance

By VICTOR FLORES
vflores@postregister.com

History is brewing at Melaleuca Field.

Second baseman D.J. Burt chases down a ball during the Idaho Falls Chukars’ 9-8 loss to Ogden on June 31 at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)
Second baseman D.J. Burt chases down a ball during the Idaho Falls Chukars’ 9-8 loss to Ogden on June 31 at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)

The Idaho Falls Chukars enter today’s game against Grand Junction with a 19-9 second half record, tops in the Pioneer League. That record is even more impressive when compared to the Chukars’ first half, when they finished dead last at 13-25.

I.F. is currently tied with Ogden in the Pioneer League South Division for the second half. Even if the Chukars miss the playoffs, they might finish with the winningest half since they became a Kansas City Royals affiliate.

The Chukars joined the Royals’ organization in 2004. Since then, their best half was in 2009, when they went 23-14 to end the season. The Chukars would need to go at least 5-5 to surpass the 2009 mark.

It should be noted that the halfway point of a season is an arbitrary endpoint. In other words, the dividing line between the first 38 games and the last 38 games is essentially meaningless.

The beginning of a season is the most significant starting point for a baseball team, and I.F. has gone 32-34 since then. You can create any narrative you want by closing your eyes and randomly placing your finger on a calendar.

The Pioneer League, of course, doesn’t work like the MLB, which rewards season-long records. Teams only need one good half to be in the Pioneer League playoff hunt, as the Chukars have shown. But that doesn’t mean the Chukars went into a telephone booth on July 28 and came out a superteam.

That all said, several I.F. players and coaches said they hit a mental reset button after the first half ended. They knew July 28 marked a new season, and that mental rewiring counts for something.

Plus, several players have gone from bad to elite, and their improvement started almost squarely on July 28. Second baseman D.J. Burt and shortstop Marten Gasparini are at the top of that list.

After July 28, Burt was hitting .198/.324/.215 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage). Through Friday, he was hitting .282/.389/.364, and his defense looks improved.

Gasparini’s slash line dropped to .205/.275/.346 through July 27. Now, it’s .262/.339/.419, although Gasparini might be done for the season because he is representing Team Italy in the 2015 World Baseball Softball Confederation U-18 Baseball World Cup.

“A lot of the position players, especially, are very young, so whenever you go up a level, not everybody’s going to have immediate success,” Chukars reliever Tripp Davis told Chukars director of broadcasting Alex Cohen on Aug. 11. “They’ve put in their time in the first half, and now everything’s clicking.”

The pitching is clicking, as well. I.F.’s first half team ERA was 5.33. It’s down to 4.93 on the season, thanks to pitchers like Davis (2.84 second-half ERA) Derek Gordon (3.12) and Josh Staumont (3.48, 34-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio).

I.F. has also been good/lucky in close games during the second game. The Chukars have won five extra-inning games (7-1 on the season), eight by one run and are 13-4 in games decided by two runs or fewer.

The Chukars will enjoy this success even if they miss the playoffs and fizzle over these last 10 games. Their players have developed in the second half, and that is ultimately all that matters in rookie ball.

PICOLLO VISIT’S I.F.

J.J. Picollo — the Royals’ vice president/assistant general manager for player personnel — has watched the Chukars since Thursday in Ogden, and he’ll be in Idaho Falls through today. He makes trips to see Kansas City’s three Rookie-level teams once a year.

Picollo said he’s here for two main reasons.

“One, getting to learn our new players, guys who were drafted this year. I saw a lot of them in mini-camp but didn’t see them in games,” said Picollo, who has held his current position since 2008. “The second thing is to look at the guys we’ve had in the system, see how they’re progressing, see where they’re at.”

INTERN MIGRATION

Chukars general manager Kevin Greene has been employing college interns since he became GM in 1993, and he believes the opportunties benefit him and the interns.

But every summer, he deals with the same issue: interns going back to school.

This summer, the Chukars had six administrative interns (some receive college credit, but all of them receive stipends, Greene said). Four have begun classes — Jake Guza (College of Idaho), Matthew Donovan, Aaron Palmberg (both BYU) and Desiree Cannon (Lewis and Clark). I.F. also lost several college-age concessions workers.

Greene and the Melaleuca Field staff aren’t too worried about being understaffed, though. After all, they’ve survived the intern migration for 22 years.

ROSTER MOVE

Last Sunday, right-handed pitcher Bryan Brickhouse made a three-inning rehab start for the Chukars against Grand Junction (he allowed two earned runs). The next day, Brickhouse was added to I.F.’s active roster.

This is Brickhouse’s third stint with the Chukars. He made one start for I.F. in 2012 and nine appearances (eight starts) in 2014.

WHO’S HOT?

2B D.J. Burt

Burt’s hot second half gets two mentions in this space. Since July 28, Burt his hitting .398 with nine extra-base hits, seven stolen bases and 15 walks. He’s also reached base (via a hit, walk or hit-by-pitch) in 46 straight games.

WHO’S NOT?

OF Brawlun Gomez

Gomez leads the Chukars with nine home runs, but he’s been in a major slump. In his last 11 games, Gomez is hitting 5 for 41 (.122) with two walks and 22 strikeouts. He has 79 strikeouts on the season, tied for first in the Pioneer League with Gasparini.

Chukars tied for Pioneer League South Division lead after 7-6 loss to Grand Junction

By VICTOR FLORES
vflores@postregister.com

Ten games remain, and the Idaho Falls Chukars are tied for first in the Pioneer League South Division.

The Chukars fell 7-6 to Grand Junction Saturday night at Melaleuca Field. Shortly after the game ended, with lightning streaking across the sky and a fireworks show set to start, the Ogden Raptors beat Orem in 12 innings. Both I.F. and Ogden are 19-9 in the second half.

“All these games are important,” Chukars manager Justin Gemoll said. “We just have to take care of our business.”

Collins
Collins

The Chukars scored two runs on two-out single from designated hitter Roman Collins in the bottom of the first, but Grand Junction tied it up in the top of the third. The 2-2 score lasted until the fifth, when the Rockies got their third run off I.F. starter Daniel Concepcion.

In the bottom of the fifth, Chukars center fielder Cody Jones hit a leadoff single. Second baseman D.J. Burt came up next and hit a medium depth fly ball to right fielder Sam Hilliard. Third base coach Gemoll sent Jones on the tag-up, but he was out by several feet to end the inning.

“I don’t regret it,” Gemoll said. “It’s a left-handed outfielder running toward center field, so his body’s taking him away from the play. He just did a great job of being under it, keeping body control, arm strength, accuracy, all of that.”

An inning later, the Chukars regained the lead. Left fielder Amalani Fukofuka hit a leadoff triple and scored a few pitches later on a failed pickoff attempt by Rockies catcher Campbell Wear. Collins delivered again with an RBI triple two batters later, and he scored on a Brawlun Gomez single for a 5-3 Chukars lead.

The game looked in hand with Josh Staumont on the hill, but the right-hander uncharacteristically struggled in the seventh. The rookie allowed four runs (all earned) on three walks, a wild pitch and a double in the inning.

Before Saturday, Staumont had a 1.62 ERA with six walks and 32 strikeouts in 16.2 second-half innings.

“I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary, I just think he was working up a little bit more than usual,” Chukars pitching coach Jeff Suppan said. “Sometimes you don’t have it every night.”

I.F. got a ninth inning run but it couldn’t muster more.

The Chukars were shorthanded going into the game, and it hurt them. Prior to the top of the seventh, shortstop Jeckson Flores exited the game with a hamstring injury. Ryan Dale replaced him but went to third base, forcing third baseman Logan Nottebrok to second and Burt to shortstop.

Flores, who is day-to-day, is the only true shortstop on the team. Regular shortstop Marten Gasparini is currently in Japan representing Team Italy in the 2015 World Baseball Softball Confederation U-18 Baseball World Cup.

Gemoll said multiple Chukars can play infield, and Chukars director of broadcasting Alex Cohen said after Saturday’s game that I.F. will make several moves before today’s game.

The Chukars (32-34) host Grand Junction (27-39, 8-20 second half) today at 4 p.m. Todd Eaton will start on the mound for I.F. in the third game of the four-game series.

Chukars remain in first after 4-2 win over Grand Junction

The Idaho Falls Chukars lead the Pioneer League South Division second-half standings for another day.

A two-run fifth inning powered Idaho Falls to a 4-2 win over the Grand Junction Rockies on Friday at Melaleuca Field to begin a four-game homestand and give the Chukars their 10th win in the last 11 home games. Coupled with Ogden’s 14-6 win over Orem, the Chukars (32-33, 19-8) remain atop the South Division standings by one game over the Owlz.

Dini
Dini

Nick Dini broke open a scoreless game with a one-out, solo home run in the bottom of the fourth. The Rockies (27-38, 7-20) answered with a solo home run from Jonathan Piron to begin the top of the fifth.

The offensive spark continued in the remainder of the frame, as D.J. Burt put the Chukars ahead again with an RBI-triple that drove in Cody Jones. The hit stretched Burt’s on-base streak to 45 games. The lead was pushed to 3-1 two batters later when Joshua Baneulos scored Burt with a single to right.

Jones, who reached on a fielding error by Grand Junction first baseman Collin Ferguson with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, came home on a wild pitch by James McMahon two batters later for I.F.’s fourth run.

Brendan Rodgers drove in Mylz Jones with a double in the top of the eighth for Grand Junction’s final run.

Dini finished 2 for 3 and Burt went 2 for 5 with a triple, an RBI and a run scored.

Hunter Haynes, who relieved starting pitcher Bryan Brickhouse after three innings, gave up two runs on six hits while walking none and striking out five in five innings. Brandon Thomas earned the save, tossing a scoreless inning while allowing two hits and a walk.

First pitch for game two between the Rockies and Chukars is 7:15 p.m. tonight.

Chukars squander 3-0 lead in eighth inning, fall to Ogden 4-3

The Idaho Falls Chukars took a 3-0 lead over the Ogden Raptors into the eighth inning Thursday. An inning later, they walked off the field with a loss.

The Raptors scored four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to take a 4-3 lead, which they maintained for a win Thursday night at Lindquist Field in Ogden, Utah. Ogden’s two-game sweep shrunk Idaho Falls’ Pioneer League South Division second-half lead to one with 12 games to play.

Flores
Flores

I.F. got on the board first in the top of the second. First baseman Josh Banuelos led off with a single, and left fielder Roman Collins reached on an error a batter later. Designated hitter Kyle Pollock walked two batters later to bring up shortstop Jeckson Flores.

Flores might have been on the bench Thursday if Marten Gasparini was active. But Gasparini is currently in Japan representing Italy in the 2015 World Baseball Softball Confederation U-18 Baseball World Cup, which starts today and ends Sept. 6.

Flores (2 for 4) took advantage of his opportunity in the second, driving in Banuelos and Collins to give the Chukars a 2-0 lead.

That lead would hold until the seventh, when Flores hit a solo home run. Before that blast, Flores had gone nearly five minor league seasons and 974 plate appearances without hitting a home run.

Gordon
Gordon

I.F.’s pitching had silenced the Raptors up to that point. Starter Derek Gordon went five scoreless innings, giving up six hits and two walks with seven strikeouts. The right-hander is now second in the Pioneer League with 61 strikeouts (5.1 per start) on the season.

Fellow righty Alberto Rodriguez pitched two scoreless innings for I.F., as well, but he struggled in the eighth. Following a leadoff strikeout, Rodriquez gave up a solo home run to Alex Santana, a single to Matt Jones and an RBI single to Michael Medina.

Righty Brian Bayliss replaced Rodriguez to face Edwin Rios. The third baseman blasted a 439-foot two-run home run to right field, giving Ogden a 4-3 lead.

This is the third time the Chukars have blown a lead in the eighth inning or later this season. All three losses have come against the Raptors.

I.F. squandered an 8-7 lead heading into the eighth on July 3 (losing 14-10) and an 8-6 lead heading into the ninth on June 30.

Banuelos went 2 for 4 and second baseman D.J. Burt went 2 for 3 with a walk, extending his on-base streak to 44 games.

Idaho Falls (31-33 overall, 18-8 second half) returns home for a four-game series against Grand Junction (27-37, 7-19) starting tonight at 7:15. Ogden (36-28, 17-9) hosts Orem (37-27, 13-13) for a game series starting tonight, as well.

Ogden beats Chukars, creeps closer to South lead

The Idaho Falls Chukars can’t afford many bad performances the rest of the season, especially not in this two-game series at Ogden.

But on Wednesday night, they laid an egg.

I.F. lost 5-1 to the Raptors at Lindquist Field in Ogden, Utah. The Chukars now lead Ogden by two games in the Pioneer League South Division second-half standings with 13 games to play.

Banuelos
Banuelos

I.F. starting pitcher Carter Hope didn’t pitch poorly overall, but a few mistakes increased his season ERA.

After retiring the first six Raptors, Hope gave up a single to third baseman Jimy Perez to lead off the bottom of the third inning. Perez got caught in a rundown a batter later, but he dodged a tag to remain on second base. Faustino Oguisten followed with a home run to left field, giving Ogden a 2-0 lead.

Hope exited the game with one out in the sixth inning after giving up a run on a single, two doubles and a walk. The right-hander was charged with five runs after an RBI double from Oguisten, who finished a triple shy of the cycle.

Hope gave up five earned runs on eight hits, one walk and five strikeouts in 5.1 innings.

The Chukars’ offense had chances but couldn’t deliver a run until the ninth. In the top of the third, I.F. put runners on second and third with no outs but failed to score. In the sixth and seventh, the Chukars had runners on first and second with two outs, but the rallies ended there.

Chukars second base- man D.J. Burt led off the seventh with a walk, but he was picked off. Two batters later, first baseman Josh Banuelos was called out on strikes, and the buildup of frustration reached its boiling point. Banuelos yelled at home plate umpire Luis Hernandez following the strike three call, and Hernandez ejected him. This is the first time an I.F. player has been ejected this season.

Fukofuka.
Fukofuka

Catcher Kyle Pollock hit a solo home run in the top of the ninth, but that was all I.F. could muster.

Center fielder Amalani Fukofuka went 2 for 4 with a double, shortstop Jeckson Flores went 1 for 3 with a walk and Banuelos went 1 for 4. Along with Pollock, those were the only Chukars to get hits in the game.

Burt’s walk extended his on-base streak to 43 straight games.

Drew Milligan and Josh Staumont pitched 2.2 scoreless innings out of the bullpen. Staumont pitched two full innings without allowing a baserunner, and the righty struck out five of the six batters he faced.

The Chukars (31-32, 18-7) look to earn a series split against the Raptors (35-28, 16-9) tonight at 6:30.

Chukars capitalize on Grand Junction mistakes in 9-5 win

Second baseman D.J. Burt of the Idaho Falls Chukars fields the throw to second base in time to tag Sam Hilliard of the Grand Junction Rockies out as Hilliard tries to steal second during the bottom of the third inning of Tuesday's game at Suplizo Field in Grand Junction.  (Gretel Daugherty / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)
Second baseman D.J. Burt of the Idaho Falls Chukars fields the throw to second base in time to tag Sam Hilliard of the Grand Junction Rockies out as Hilliard tries to steal second during the bottom of the third inning of Tuesday’s game at Suplizo Field in Grand Junction. (Gretel Daugherty / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)

Monday’s game had an odd result for the Idaho Falls Chukars. It was a blowout loss.

Idaho Falls had lost five second half games going into Monday’s 10-2 loss to the Grand Junction Rockies, and its largest defeat was by five runs.

The Chukars rebounded on Tuesday with a 9-5 win over the Rockies at Suplizio Field in Grand Junction, Colo. The win, fueled by several Grand Junctions mistakes, gave I.F. a 3-1 series win.

The Chukars fell behind 3-0 after two innings with Todd Eaton on the mound. But Eaton settled down after that, and his offense caught fire in the top of the fifth.

Second baseman D.J. Burt led off the inning with an infield single, extending his hitting streak to 11 games and his on-base streak to 42. Right fielder Amalani Fukofuka singled the next at-bat, but he reached third base and Burt scored on an error by Rockies center fielder Wes Rogers.

Chukars first baseman Josh Banuelos reached on an error the next at-bat, scoring Fukofuka. Left fielder Roman Collins subsequently walked, and catcher Nick Dini reached on an error, scoring Banuelos and Collins.

The Chukars rounded out the scoring on a single by designated hitter Kyle Pollock, a double by third baseman Ryan Dale and a single by center fielder Cody Jones.

In total, I.F. scored seven runs on five hits and four errors in the fifth, taking an 8-3 lead.

Starting pitcher Todd Eaton of the Idaho Falls Chukars throws to a Grand Junction Rockies batter during the bottom of the second inning of Tuesday's game at Suplizio Field in Grand Junction. (Gretel Daugherty / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)
Starting pitcher Todd Eaton of the Idaho Falls Chukars throws to a Grand Junction Rockies batter during the bottom of the second inning of Tuesday’s game at Suplizio Field in Grand Junction. (Gretel Daugherty / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)

The fifth inning proved to be the difference for the Chukars behind Eaton, who retired the last nine batters he faced. The right-hander went 5.1 innings, allowing three runs (all earned) on four hits, three walks, a home run and two strikeouts.

The Chukars drew 10 walks, tied for the second most in a game this season. Collins led the patient charge, walking in all five of his plate appearances. No I.F. batter has walked more in a game this season. The Pioneer League record for walks in a game is six.

Banuelos and Dini each went 2 for 4 with a walk. Dale went 1 for 4 with a double and a walk.

The Chukars (31-31, 18-6 second half) start one of their biggest series of the year tonight at Ogden, Utah, for a two-game series against the Raptors (34-28, 15-9), who trail I.F. by three games in the Pioneer League South Division. Tonight’s series opener starts at 6:30 p.m. Carter Hope gets the start for the Chukars.

Gasparini named to Team Italy

Chukars shortstop Marten Gasparini was not in Tuesday’s lineup. That’s because he had been selected to play for his home country Italy in the 2015 World Baseball Softball Confederation U-18 Baseball World Cup, the Chukars announced around gametime.

The World Cup runs from Aug. 28 to Sept. 6 in Osaka, Japan, with 15 teams participating, including the United States (ranked No. 2). Gasparini, 18, departed for Japan immediately, according to the Chukars, so he could arrive in time for No. 11 Italy’s opening game against No. 3 Cuba on Friday.

Gasparini might return to I.F. if Italy’s World Cup run is short, and if the Chukars make the playoffs and go deep, Chukars director of broadcasting Alex Cohen said.

Gasparini is hitting .262/.339/.419 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) in 225 plate appearances for I.F. this season. He leads the Pioneer League with 79 strikeouts and 35 fielding errors.

Grand Junction Rockies ruffle red-hot Chukars

One day after the Idaho Falls Chukars finally made their way back to .500, they fell flat in Grand Junction, Colo.

 Idaho Falls Chukars second baseman D.J.Burt jumps to make the catch as Grand Junction Rockies baserunner Wes Rogers steals second base in the second inning during Monday nights game from Suplizio Field in Grand Junction, Colo. (Christopher Tomlinson / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)
Idaho Falls Chukars second baseman D.J.Burt jumps to make the catch as Grand Junction Rockies baserunner Wes Rogers steals second base in the second inning during Monday nights game from Suplizio Field in Grand Junction, Colo. (Christopher Tomlinson / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)

The Idaho Falls Chukars started the season 3-3, but improved to 30-30 with an 11-7 victory over the Rockies on Sunday in Grand Junction, Colo.

The record dipped back below .500 with a 10-2 loss to the Rockies on Monday. Combined with Orem’s win over Ogden, the Chukars maintained their three-game lead over the Raptors in the Pioneer League South Division second-half standings.

The Chukars trailed throughout Monday’s game, falling behind 1-0 after one inning and 2-0 after two before I.F. scored a single run in the third on back-to-back two-out singles by Ryan Dale and DJ Burt and an RBI single from Roman Collins.

But the last-place Rockies answered with four runs in the bottom of the third, powered by a two-run double from Jonathan Piron and a two-run single by Bobby Stahel.

I.F. got another run in the fourth on a solo homer from Josh Banuelos, his fourth of the year. But the Rockies scored three more in the bottom of the fourth, another in the fifth and got five shutout innings from four relievers to send the Chukars to only their second loss in the past 10 games.

Burt and Banuelos each had two hits for the Chukars (30-31, 17-6), who wrap up their four-game series in Grand Junction at 7:05 tonight.

 

Chukars dominate Grand Junction 11-7, return to .500

Idaho Falls Chukars shortstop Jeckson Flores tags out Grand Junction Rockies base runner Sam Hilliard, who tried to steal second base in a Sunday afternoon game at Suplizio Filed in Grand Junction, Colo. (Christopher Tomlinson / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)
Idaho Falls Chukars shortstop Jeckson Flores tags out Grand Junction Rockies base runner Sam Hilliard, who tried to steal second base in a Sunday afternoon game at Suplizio Filed in Grand Junction, Colo. (Christopher Tomlinson / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)

The Idaho Falls Chukars started the season 3-3. Fifty-four games later, they returned to .500.

The Chukars dominated the Grand Junction Rockies 11-7 Sunday at Suplizio Filed in Grand Junction, Colo. The win not only got the Chukars back to .500 on the season, it improved their second half record to 17-5 to maintain their three-game lead over the Ogden Raptors.

Idaho Falls got started with a six-run third inning. Third baseman Logan Nottebrok led the inning off with a solo home run. Shortstop Jeckson Flores singled to left field and center fielder Cody Jones bunted for a single that Rockies manager Anthony Sanders disagreed with. He was subsequently ejected for the first time in his managerial career.

Idaho Falls Chukars first baseman Josh Banuelos watches his three-run home run in flight during Idaho Falls’ six-run third inning in a Sunday afternoon game against the Grand Junction Rockies at Suplizio Filed in Grand Junction, Colo. (Christopher Tomlinson / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)
Idaho Falls Chukars first baseman Josh Banuelos watches his three-run home run in flight during Idaho Falls’ six-run third inning in a Sunday afternoon game against the Grand Junction Rockies at Suplizio Filed in Grand Junction, Colo. (Christopher Tomlinson / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)

Second baseman D.J. Burt came up next and doubled, scoring Flores. Two batters later, Josh Banuelos hit a three-run home run (his third of the season) to center field. Idaho Falls scored its final run in the inning after a double from left fielder Roman Collins and a single from catcher Kyle Pollock.

The Chukars took a 6-2 lead into the sixth inning, when they scored three more runs. Nottebrok hit his second home run of the night (and third of the year), a two-run shot two batters into the inning. Burt later scored on a wild pitch.

Jones, Burt, Banuelos, Nottebrok and Flores had three hits apiece. Banuelos was a triple shy of the cycle. Collins also went 2 for 5. The Chukars racked up 18 hits as a team.

Bryan Brickhouse made a rehab start for Idaho Falls, giving up two runs (both earned) on two hits, two walks and two strikeouts in three innings. Brickhouse is making his third stint with the Chukars. He made one start for them in 2012 and pitched 27.2 innings for them last season. Brickhouse pitched 6.1 innings in the Arizona League this season before being promoted to Idaho Falls.

The Chukars (30-30) play Grand Junction (25-35, 5-17 second half) again Monday night at 7:05.