Chukars snap Raptors’ six-game win streak

The Idaho Falls Chukars used a strong start from Jake Newberry and a big seventh inning to hold off the Ogden Raptors 6-5 on Monday in front of 2,622 fans at Lindquist Field.

The Chukars trailed 3-2 entering the seventh when they scored four runs on four hits, two walks, an error and a balk to take a 6-3 lead. Corey Toups, Ryan O’Hearn and Samir Duenez had RBIs in the inning while the other run scored on an error.

Ogden scored two runs in the ninth and had home run leader Justin Chigbogu up with a man on and two outs, but the 6-foot-4, 250 pounder flied out to deep right off Nick Green to end the game.

Duenez had a big night, going 3 for 5 while O’Hearn walked three times and drove in two runs.

Newberry finished his season in style, allowing three runs, two earned on seven hits with no walks and seven strikeouts in six innings. Jon Fitzsimmons allowed two runs, one earned, in 2.1 innings of relief and Green got the final two outs to earn his fourth save.

The Chukars and Raptors play against tonight at Ogden before heading to Melaleuca for the final two games of the regular season Wednesday and Thursday.

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O’Hearn wins Pioneer League MVP, makes All-Star team with four other Chukars



The 2014 Idaho Falls Chukars won’t repeat as Pioneer League champions, but their players sure made an impression on the league this summer.

The Chukars posted a league-high five players on the Pioneer League’s 2014 All-Star team, and also walked away with the summer’s top prize when first baseman/right fielder Ryan O’Hearn earned the Ralph Nelles Award given to the league’s MVP.

Third baseman Mike Hill, shortstop Corey Toups, outfielder Robert Pehl and right-handed pitcher Torey Deshazier joined O’Hearn on the All-Star team.

O’Hearn, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound left-handed slugger out of Sam Houston State, is the first I.F. player to win the Nelles Award since Clint Robinson in 2007.

He started his pro career with a 5-for-5 night in his debut and never stopped hitting. His .372 batting average entering Saturday’s game was second in the league, and he leads the league in hits (87), runs (58) and slugging percentage (.598) while also belting 12 home runs and driving in 50 runs. He’s currently second in the league in on-base percentage at .449.

“I want to thank God first of all, and my teammates and coaches,” O’Hearn said in a news release. “I’ve been so blessed to end up in an awesome organization in the Royals, and to start my career with the Chukars. I have nothing but great things to say about the fans and my time here. It’s an honor to get picked for this award, and it’s something I will always cherish.”

Toups, a teammate of O’Hearn’s at Sam Houston State, shook off a slow start and is hitting .330 with 46 walks and an on-base percentage of .452. He also has 20 doubles.

Hill showed a strong arm at third base and is also hitting .282 with three home runs, 30 RBIs and a league-high seven triples.

Pehl has been the team’s cleanup hitter for most of the summer, batting .339 with 41 RBIs.

Deshazier has been the Chukars best pitcher all summer, posting a 5-2 record and a league-low 2.85 ERA. He’s second in WHIP (1.23) and opponents batting average (.236) while adding 64 strikeouts.

Kyle Pollock was named honorable mention at catcher while Omar Ramirez was an honorable mention selection as Manager of the Year (won by Grand Junction’s Anthony Sanders).

Chukars eliminated from 2014 Pioneer League playoffs


Idaho Falls did its part to stay alive in the Pioneer League playoff chase Saturday night. Unfortunately, the Ogden Raptors didn’t play along.

Idaho Falls knocked 11 hits, stole five bases and got dominating relief pitching to beat Orem 5-1 in front of 2,698 fans at Melaleuca Field. But down in Ogden, Utah, the Raptors cruised to a 9-7 win over Grand Junction and eliminated the Chukars from the South Division second-half playoff face.

The Chukars played a complete game Saturday.

Brawlun Gomez led the offense, going 3 for 4 with a run scored, two RBIs and a stolen base. Corey Toups went 2 for 4 with a run scored and an RBI and DonAndre Clark was 2 for 4 with a run scored and two stolen bases.

Eric Stout and Matthew Strahm shut the door over the final five innings. Stout earned the win, tossing three scoreless, hitless innings. Strahm followed with two scoreless innings.

The Chukars (35-36, 15-18) finish the regular season with five games against Ogden, the first three in Utah beginning today with the final two at Melaleuca Field beginning Wednesday.

Late homer not enough in 4-3 loss to Owlz


Even a top performer for the Idaho Falls Chukars was kicking himself Thursday after the team’s 4-3 loss to the Orem Owlz at Melaleuca Field.

Third baseman Mike Hill pulled the Chukars within a run after his two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning. However, his blast might have tied the game if not for his error in the top half of the inning.

With two outs and nobody on in the eighth, Orem’s Raul Linares hit a fairly routine ground ball to Hill, who bobbled it, allowing Linares to reach first. The next batter, Andrew Daniel, blasted a Mariel Checo pitch to right center field for a double, scoring Linares for a 4-1 lead.

Hill said he thought about his error immediately after his home run narrowly cleared the right-field fence.

“It was bittersweet,” Hill said.

Such was the night for Idaho Falls (34-35, 14-17 in second half), which now sits four-and-a-half games behind first-place Ogden in the South Division second-half playoff chase with seven games to play.

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Chukars flip script in 3-1 win over Owlz


Idaho Falls Chukars right fielder Brandon Thomasson catches a deep fly ball during the game against the Orem Owlz Wednesday at Melaleuca Field. Pat Sutphin /

A night after the Idaho Falls Chukars lost to the Orem Owlz thanks to an untimely error, the Owlz returned the favor.

An error-filled third inning netted Idaho Falls a 3-0 lead, and the Chukars held on for a 3-1 victory Wednesday night at Melaleuca Field.

“They gave it away,” Chukars manager Omar Ramirez said. “But I’ll take a win this time of year with the way we’ve been playing.”

The win puts the Chukars three and a half games behind Ogden, the second-half leader of the Pioneer League South Division, with eight games to play. Idaho Falls is 34-34 on the season and 14-16 in the second half.

Idaho Falls’ offense mustered only four hits, and zero came with runners in scoring position. But the Chukars didn’t need great hitting Wednesday night.

In the bottom of the third, Jecksson Flores hit a one-out single (the only hit of the inning) but was forced out on a fielder’s choice. Corey Toups and Ryan O’Hearn then drew walks, setting up a bases-loaded opportunity for Robert Pehl. In a 1-1 count, starting pitcher Michael Bolaski threw a wild pitch, allowing Brandon Downes to score from third. Later in the at-bat, Pehl hit a soft chopper to Bolaski’s right. Bolaski tracked the ball down quickly and fired an off-balance, on-target throw to first baseman Ryan Seiz — who dropped it. The error allowed Toups and O’Hearn to score, putting the Chukars up 3-0.

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Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star game to debut in 2015



The best of the Pioneer League will take on the best of the Northwest League in an all-star game starting in 2015, the leagues announced Tuesday.

The first PBL-NWL All-Star game will be hosted by the Spokane Indians and will be played at Avista Stadium on Aug. 4, 2015.

“The Northwest League and Pioneer League are two prominent short-season leagues in Minor League Baseball,” Pat O’Connor, president and CEO of Minor League Baseball, said in a news release. “To combine the two and showcase the talented individuals from 14 Major League farm systems is a win for everyone, especially the fans.”

The release didn’t specify how the teams would be chosen.

The Pioneer League is made up of teams from Idaho Falls, Ogden (Utah), Orem (Utah), Grand Junction (Colo.), Missoula (Mont.), Billings (Mont.), Helena (Mont.) and Great Falls (Mont.).

The Northwest League has teams in Boise, Spokane, Everett (Wash.), Tri-City (Wash.), Eugene (Ore.), Hillsboro (Ore.) and Salem-Keizer (Ore.).

Owlz complete four-game sweep of Chukars


The bats have gone silent at the wrong time for the Idaho Falls Chukars.

Idaho Falls managed just four hits, all of them singles, as the Orem Owlz completed a four-game sweep with a 2-1 victory Tuesday night at Brent Brown Ballpark.

The loss dropped the Chukars to 33-34 overall and 13-16 in the second half. Pioneer League South Division leader Grand Junction won by forfeit over Ogden, and Idaho Falls now trails the Rockies by five games with nine to play.

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Chukars drop doubleheader in Orem, fall to four games behind Rockies


It was a tough Monday in Orem, Utah, for the Idaho Falls Chukars.

Idaho Falls saw its pitching fall apart in the opener and its offense do the same in the nightcap as the Chukars dropped both ends of a doubleheader to the Owlz at Brent Brown Ballpark, falling 9-7 and 4-0.

It was the third straight loss to Orem for the Chukars, and combined with Grand Junction’s win over Ogden pushed Idaho Falls four games behind the Pioneer League South Division leading Rockies with 10 games remaining in the regular season.

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Chukars-Owlz postponed due to rain; Royals extend Player Development Contract


The Idaho Falls Chukars just can’t escape the rain.

The Chukars, who battled wet weather on each day of its four-game homestand last week, had another game wiped out by the elements Saturday in Orem, Utah.

The Orem area got hit hard by rain Friday, and the field at Brent Brown Ballpark was still unplayable Saturday afternoon, forcing the postponement of Saturday night’s game at around 4 p.m.

The Chukars and Owlz will play their scheduled game at 4 p.m. today, then make up Saturday’s game as part of a doubleheader beginning at 5:30 p.m. Monday. Both of those games will be seven-inning affairs.

This is the seventh postponed game for the Chukars this season after having no rainouts a year ago.

Idaho Falls trails South Division leader Grand Junction by three games with 14 games remaining. The Chukars and Owlz wrap up their four-game series Tuesday, and before the teams head to Melaleuca Field to begin a four-game series Wednesday.

Also Saturday, the Kansas City Royals extended their Player Development Contract with the Idaho Falls Chukars through the 2016 season. The Chukars have been affiliated with the Royals since 2004.

“We are excited to extend our contracts with Burlington, Idaho Falls, Lexington (through 2018) and Wilmington for an additional two years,” Royals Director of Player Development Scott Sharp said in a news release. “We feel these cities and facilities are some of the best in all of minor league baseball and provide us a great advantage in developing the Royals of the future.”

Soggy sweep: Chukars end series with 13-1, 2-1 wins over Rockies


The Grand Junction Rockies had their way at the plate in the first game of Thursday’s doubleheader, but the Idaho Falls Chukars took over to sweep Friday’s doubleheader.

In a game resumed from Thursday, the Chukars (33-30, 13-12) pounded out 11 hits and held the Rockies (39-24, 16-9) off the scoreboard for five innings en route to a 13-1, seven-inning drubbing in Friday’s opener. I.F. then held on for a 2-1 win in the nightcap.

Chukars manager Omar Ramirez was not only glad for the wins, which moved the Chukars within three games of the Pioneer League South Division leading Rockies, but to get two games played after dealing with rain delays the three previous days.

“Finally, we got to play,” Ramirez said. “We’re still in the playoff hunt.”

The Chukars added to a 7-0 lead from Thursday’s rain suspended contest with timely hits and by taking advantage of two errors and a wild pitch by Grand Junction in the last three innings. Ryan O’Hearn’s one-out three-run homer soared over the right field wall in the bottom of the fourth extend Idaho Falls’ lead to 10-0. He had five RBIs in a 3-for-5 day.

“He has been the guy for us,” Ramirez said. “He’s the best hitter in the lineup.”

Grand Junction’s lone run came on Forrest Wall’s solo homer in the sixth. Corey Toups’ RBI double brought home Luis Valenzuela, a wild pitch by Rockies pitcher Alec Kenilvort allowed Brandon Downes to score and a sac fly by O’Hearn drove in Toups for the Chukars’ final runs in the bottom of the sixth. Idaho Falls ended the game with a 4-6-3 double play in the seventh.

Matt Strahm earned the win, giving up one run on two hits while striking out three and walking none in three innings for his first win of the year. He said the 7-0 lead gave him confidence upon taking the mound.

“Just staying ahead, trusting my defense,” Strahm said. “Just let your defense work.”

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