Big eighth inning lifts Chukars over Rockies 6-2

Viloria
Viloria

If not for an odd ejection on Wednesday, Meibrys Viloria might have started the season with a six-game hitting streak.

The Idaho Falls Chukars catcher is now batting .524 after a 2 for 4 performance against Grand Junction on Friday. Viloria helped the Chukars beat the Rockies 6-2 in I.F.’s first road game of the season, and he played an inconsequential role in the Chukars’ biggest inning.

Chukars breakout in the eighth

Viloria doubled and scored in the top of the fifth inning to give I.F. a 2-1 lead, but Grand Junction scored in the bottom of the sixth to tie it up. The game looked headed for extra innings.

Then came the eighth, when all nine I.F. batters got a plate appearance. The Chukars hit four singles, but three Grand Junction errors played a bigger role in the decisive inning. I.F. plated four runs in the eighth to take a 6-2 lead.

Viloria’s hot start in context

Viloria’s .524 batting average is now second in the Pioneer League behind Orem’s Brennon Lund (.550). Viloria does, however, have a league-leading six doubles, and his 1.520 on-base-plus-slugging percentage heading into Friday’s game led the league, as well.

Other contributors

I.F.’s 1-2 hitters center fielder Tanner Stanley and shortstop Ricky Aracena each went 2 for 5 against the Rockies, and first baseman Ryan Dale went 2 for 4.

Chukars starting pitcher Igol Feliz pitched six full innings, allowing two runs (both earned) on seven hits, two walks and two strikeouts. Left-hander Cole Way pitched two scoreless innings (two hits allowed) for I.F., and fellow lefty Christian Flecha pitched a scoreless final frame (two walks allowed).

Player of the game

Grand Junction third baseman Jonathan Piron

Unlike Viloria and Rockies shortstop Taylor Snyder (2 for 4, home run), Piron did not commit an error. The third baseman went 2 for 4 with a double, a stolen base and a run scored on the night.

Up next

The Chukars (5-2) return to Sulplizio Field Saturday for game two of their four-game series against Grand Junction. First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.

Chukars prevail 11-7 in back-and-forth slugfest against Orem

Idaho Falls' Meibrys Viloria slides into third base with a triple during Thursday's game at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls’ Meibrys Viloria slides into third base with a triple during Thursday’s game at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)

The Idaho Falls Chukars and Orem Owlz refused to go quietly Thursday night.

Idaho Falls prevailed 11-7, but the score masks the tense, back-and-forth nature of the game. The win gave the Chukars a 2-2 series split and a 4-2 homestand to start the season.

Eighth-inning heroics

No lead was safe Thursday night. After a back-and-forth first five innings, the Chukars scored twice in the sixth thanks to two errors and two wild pitches. The 7-4 lead was the biggest of the night up to that point, but Orem clawed back.

The Owlz scored once in the seventh, and first baseman Nick Flair singled with one out in the eighth. That hit brought up Juan Moreno, who hadn’t notched a home run in his five-year pro career. The shortstop ended that drought with a two-run blast to left field, tying the game at 7-7.

The Chukars quickly answered. Right fielder Yeison Melo doubled with one out in the bottom of the eighth, and first baseman Colton Frabasilio drove him in with a double into the left-center field gap. Two batters later, Meibrys Viloria hit a double down the right-field line. Second baseman David Edwards, in his first pro season, came up next also looking for his first home run. Sure enough, Edwards pounded an Ariel Ovando pitch over the left-field fence. It traveled 416 feet.

I.F. hitters have now hit three home runs this season. Brandon Dulin hit one of them, and he’s now in Lexington. The Kansas City Royals promoted the first baseman to the Legends on Wednesday after he hit .313 in four games with the Chukars.

Right-hander Reid Redman, who gave up the homer to Moreno, shut down the Owlz in the ninth to end the game.

Crooked numbers

The first inning was a poor indication of how the game would go.

Orem's Jordan Zimmerman makes it safely to second base as Idaho Falls' Ricky Aracena makes a throw to home during Thursday's game at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)
Orem’s Jordan Zimmerman makes it safely to second base as Idaho Falls’ Ricky Aracena makes a throw to home during Thursday’s game at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)

After the scoreless opening frame, each team scored at least one run from the second inning to the sixth. The Chukars scored in every inning but the first and the seventh, while Orem’s only scoreless innings were the first, sixth and ninth.

The Owlz and Chukars lost leads six separate times, as well.

Piling up the hits

Before the eighth inning, the Chukars had tallied 13 hits, which would have been their second-most in a game this season. I.F., of course, demolished four more hits in the eighth to finish with 17 on the night. The Chukars haven’t strung together that many hits in one game since Aug 30 of last season at home against Grand Junction. They finished with 18 hits in their 16-7 win.

Player of the game

Chukars first baseman Colton Frabasilio

Frabasilio might beg his coaches to let him play first base for the rest of the season.

After three starts as the designated hitter, Frabasilio started at first base and put up one of the best offensive performances of the Chukars’ young season. Frabasilio went 4 for 4 with three doubles, a walk, three runs scored and two RBIs.

Melo, Viloria and Jose Sanchez delivered three hits for I.F., as well. Viloria smashed two doubles and a triple while also drawing a walk.

Up next

The Chukars (4-2) begin their first road trip of the season Friday night at 6:30 against Grand Junction. Righty Igol Feliz is scheduled to get his second start.

Chukars rally for a 5-4 win over the Owlz

Chukars pitcher Matt Portland grabs a bunted ball during the game against the Orem Owlz on Wednesday at Melaleuca Field. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)
Chukars pitcher Matt Portland grabs a bunted ball during the game against the Orem Owlz on Wednesday at Melaleuca Field. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)

The Idaho Falls Chukars fell behind early, gave up a late home run and suffered an ejection Wednesday against the Orem Owlz at Melaleuca Field.

The same three events occurred in I.F.’s7-4 loss to Oremon Wednesday, but the similarities mostly ended there.

The Chukars quickly turned a 1-0 deficit into a 4-1 lead, and they held on for a 5-4 win to end their two-game losing streak to the Owlz.

Big fifth inning

Orem scored its first run in the top of the fourth inning, but it didn’t record a hit until an inning later. That first run scored thanks to a Connor Justus walk, a sacrifice bunt and a two-base wild pitch by Chukars starter Matt Portland.

The way I.F. was hitting, it wasn’t far fetched to think the fourth-inning run would have been enough for the Owlz. But I.F.’s early listlessness disappeared in the fifth inning. The Chukars notched five of their seven hits in the frame and scored four runs.

Among the hits that inning was a single from catcher MJ Sanchez. It was the first professional hit for Sanchez, who was drafted in the 35th round of this year’s MLB draft and made his pro debut Tuesday.

Portland escapes

Portland allowed only one hit in his five innings Wednesday night, but he was far from dominant.

The left-hander began his day by walking leadoff hitter Jahmai Jones and hitting two more Owlz in the top of the first inning. Luckily for Portland, a double play negated the walk, and he induced a groundout (with the two runners he plunked on base) to end the inning.

Portland also walked Jones to lead off the third inning, but another double play erased the damage.

Portland ended up with five walks (three to lead off an inning) and the two hit-by-pitches, but he struck out four and allowed one run.

Another ejection

With two outs in the top of the third inning, Chukars starting catcher Meibrys Viloria exited the field so suddenly, it took a while for spectators to figure out what happened.

Home plate umpire Will Glienke had ejected Viloria mere seconds after Orem designated hitter Brennon Lund drew a walk. Viloria didn’t get in a heated argument with Glienke. In fact, it was hard to tell if the catcher said anything. Chukars manager Justin Gemoll had a brief conversation with Glienke after the ejection, and Sanchez came into replace Viloria.

Chukars third baseman Manny Olloque grabs a foul ground ball during the game against the Orem Owlz on Wednesday at Melaleuca Field. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)
Chukars third baseman Manny Olloque grabs a foul ground ball during the game against the Orem Owlz on Wednesday at Melaleuca Field. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)

Gemoll said Glienke did not give an explanation for the ejection, but he would explain it later.

Glienke also tossed Gemoll in Tuesday’s game for arguing about a play at first base that the umpires reversed from out to safe.

Player of the game

Chukars shortstop Angelo Castellano

The 21-year-old normally starts at second base, but he played shortstop Wednesday in place of Ricky Aracena. Castellano played solid defense all night, but his bat earned him this accolade.

Castellano went 2 for 2 with an RBI triple in the four-run fifth and a sacrifice fly in seventh. The sac fly provided a crucial insurance run for the Chukars, who went up 5-2 in the inning. Orem’s Troy Montgomery (2 for 3) hit a two-run home run in the eighth to cut I.F.’s lead to one.

Up next

The Chukars (3-2) and the Owlz (3-2) wrap up their four-game series Thursday night at Melaleuca Field. First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.

Rookie Matt Thaiss helps Owlz defeat Chukars 7-4

Idaho Falls' Manny Olloque makes the tag at third on Orem's Brennon Lund during Tuesday's game at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls’ Manny Olloque makes the tag at third on Orem’s Brennon Lund during Tuesday’s game at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)

Idaho Falls Chukars manager Justin Gemoll did not watch the game-winning home run clear the fence. Instead, he listened to Chukars broadcaster John Balginy describe it.

Orem’s Matt Thaiss hit the game-winner, a three-run moonshoot to right field in the top of the ninth inning that broke a 4-4 tie. Gemoll had been ejected three innings earlier and was relegated to the clubhouse.

The Owlz held on in the bottom of the ninth to complete a 7-4 win Tuesday night at Melaleuca Field. Orem (3-1) has won three in a row, including the first two of their four-game series against I.F. (2-2).

Thaiss as nice

Thaiss had quite the professional debut.

The 21-year-old was selected with the 16th overall pick in the MLB draft a week and a half ago and played first base Tuesday, even though he primarily played catcher as a junior at the University of Virginia. The inexperience at first base showed against the Chukars. He missed a foul pop fly, failed to corral a pickoff throw and made a wayward throw to second base on another pickoff play.

Thaiss made up for the defensive miscues with his bat.

Thaiss doubled in the first and eighth innings. With left-hander Nick Andros on the mound, I.F. chose to intentionally walk righty Jahmai Jones (a 2015 second-round pick) in the ninth inning to put runners on first and second base for Thaiss.

“That’s just reading the situation of the game and playing the matchup,” Gemoll said.

Thaiss made the Chukars pay by bombing the first pitch just left of the foul pole. Right fielder Tanner Stanley could only watch as it sailed over the fence.

Gemoll gets tossed

With two outs in the top of the sixth inning, Owlz right fielder Troy Montgomery attempted to bunt for a single. The base umpire called him out on a close play at first base, and the Chukars filed into the dugout as Orem manager Dave Stapleton argued the call. The umpires then convened and reversed the call, ruling Montgomery safe.

Gemoll came storming out of the dugout to argue with the home plate umpire.

“With a guy at first base like that, the home plate guy’s got to watch the baserunner,” Gemoll said. “When you call him out, you call him out. If he’s watching first base and the other guy’s got the call, then there’s nobody watching the baserunner. So that was my point. You can’t have your eyes in both places at the same time. Not with a runner on.”

After about 20 seconds of heated debate, the umpire ejected Gemoll. It was Gemoll’s first ejection in his managerial career, which started last season with the Chukars.

Olloque breaks through

Chukars third baseman Manny Olloque earned his first hit as a Chukar in style, lining a double down the left-field line in the first inning that scored two runs and tied the game at 2-2. He also hit a single in the eighth inning to finish 2 for 4.

Player of the game

Orem first baseman Matt Thaiss

Thaiss knows how to make an entrance.

Orem’s Troy Montgomery and I.F.’s Luke Willis each had three hits (all singles), and I.F.’s Nick Heath (1 for 4) hit his first professional home run in the bottom of the sixth inning. The solo blast tied the game at 4-4.

Up next

I.F. sends left-hander Matt Portland to the mound, and Orem starts righty Austin Robichaux on Wednesday at Melaleuca Field. First pitch is 7:15 p.m.

Scary injury landed Brandon Dulin with the Chukars

Idaho Falls' Brandon Dulin takes the throw from pitcher Alex Luna during Tuesday's game at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls’ Brandon Dulin takes the throw from pitcher Alex Luna during Tuesday’s game at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)

Brandon Dulin should not be in Idaho Falls right now.

The Idaho Falls Chukars first baseman proved last season that was he was too good for Rookie ball, and the Kansas City Royals promoted him to Single-A Lexington this spring. He continued to hit well.

But since April 12, Dulin has played just four games, all with the Chukars. The reason: a freak injury on one of the most routine plays in baseball.

Dulin, 23, started at first base for Lexington in the second half of a doubleheader against the Augusta GreenJackets on April 12 in Lexington, Ky. Dulin walked in his first plate appearance and singled in his second, raising his slash line to .364/.417/.818 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) in three games with the Legends.

After the fourth-inning single, Dulin was forced out at second base on a fielder’s choice. He slid feet-first into second base on the play, something he’d done hundreds of times before. As Dulin stood up, pain shot up his back and neck.

Dulin stayed in the game for two more innings but asked his coaches to take him out in the seventh. He was having trouble moving and even breathing.

“They were really worried about me as soon as I was like, ‘Hey, I can’t play,’ because it’s just not like me to pull myself out of the game,” Dulin said.

In the locker room after the game, Dulin fainted for a brief second. That’s when the Legends’ training staff knew something was seriously wrong, so Dulin was rushed to the hospital. In hindsight, Dulin fears what might have happened if he didn’t pass out, or if the training staff wasn’t around.

“I could’ve just went to sleep not feeling good ‘I’m just gonna sleep it off’ and it could’ve been really bad,” Dulin said.

Dulin discovered he had hemothorax, a type of internal bleeding between the chest wall and the lung. It caused his lung to collapse, and it kept him in intensive care for nine days.

Dulin’s parents, Jason and Lisa, flew from their Baker, Mont., home to Lexington after they heard about their son’s condition.The three returned to Whitaker Bank Ballpark after leaving the hospital.

“We walked in and his trainer was like, ‘I literally thought I’d never see you walk through these doors again,’ Lisa said. “‘I thought you were dying that night.’ It was pretty scary.”

Dulin rehabilitated in Kansas City (his hometown) before heading to Arizona for more rehab. The Royals then assigned him to I.F., where he finished the 2015 season. Dulin hit .286/.290/.321 in seven games for the Chukars last year after posting .280/.360/.516 line in 59 games for Burlington. He was batting .385/.429/.615 going into Tuesday’s game, and he hit home run against Ogden on Saturday.

“It wasn’t about baseball, it was his health. That’s all we were concerned about,” said Jason, who watched Saturday’s game with Lisa and other family and friends. “Seeing him out playing and hitting a home run tonight, it makes you feel good that he’s healthy and he’s able to play.”

Dulin is not sure how long he’ll remain in I.F., although his early success points to an exit sooner rather than later. He has steep path to Kansas City, but even after his scary injury, Dulin remains focused on playing in his home city.

“You keep playing as hard as you can and put yourself in position to get that call,” Dulin said. “I believe that I have a good shot.”

Owlz hand Chukars first loss of 2016 season

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The Idaho Falls Chukars dropped their first game of the 2016 season, falling 8-5 to the Orem Owlz in front of a crowd of 2,346 fans Monday night at Melaleuca Field.

The Chukars gave up four runs in the top of the first inning and never recovered, though the they made it close late.

Tough start

Idaho Falls was rarely challenged in its season-opening two-game sweep of Ogden, but that changed quickly Monday. The Owlz loaded the bases with one out (single, hit by pitch and a single by former BYU standout Brennon Lund) before Torres roped a double to left-center that made its way to the wall, scoring all three baserunners. Torres then came around on an error by first baseman Brandon Dulin to make it 4-0.

The Chukars cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the first on an RBI single from Dulin and an RBI fielder’s choice from David Edwards, but that was as close as Idaho Falls would get.

Orem scored single runs in the second, third and fourth off Idaho Falls starter Andres Machado (four innings, nine hits, six earned runs, one strikeout) and another on Nick Flair’s homer off Jason Freeman to lead off the fifth.

Big arms

Orem’s four pitchers looked like they belonged in a huddle rather than on the mound Monday.

The Owlz opened with 6-foot-5, 224-pound right-hander Crusito Mieses, who allowed two runs on seven hits while striking out four in five innings. He was followed by 6-4, 250-pound lefty Ariel Ovando, who worked a perfect sixth inning. Next up was 6-5, 240-pound righty Blake Smith, who allowed a run on a hit with one walk and one strikeout in one inning.

Ty Barkell, a 6-3, 225-pound righty, closed it out despite giving up two runs on two hits and four strikeouts in two innings.

All four Orem pitchers touched at least 90 on the radar gun.

Big hitters

Brandon Dulin and Meibrys Viloria had big nights for the Chukars in defeat, combining for five hits and two runs. Dulin, who homered Saturday, went 2 for 4 with a run to increase his season average to .385. And Viloria went 3 for 4 with two doubles and a run scored.

The Chukars finished with 10 hits.

Player of the game

Owlz third baseman Franklin Torres

The 19-year-old from Maracay, Venezuela, had a night, going 3 for 5 with a double, two runs scored and three RBIs. His three-run double in Orem’s four-run first set the tone, and he added two singles. Torres made two throwing errors, but he also made two tough plays in the field.

Up next

The Chukars and Owlz return to Melaleuca Field on Tuesday in the second game of the four-game series. First pitch is 7:15 p.m. Nate Bertness is scheduled to start for Orem while Alex Luna is set to take the mound for Idaho Falls.

Everyone contributes in Chukars’ 7-2 win over Ogden

Feliz
Feliz

The Idaho Falls Chukars continued their strong start to the 2016 season with a 7-2 win over Ogden on Saturday at Melaleuca Field.

The win netted the Chukars a two-game series sweep. I.F.’s pitching staff continued to prevent runs, and the entire lineup contributed, most notably center fielder Nick Heath.

Memorable debut

Heath’s baseball future was in question as recent as last Saturday. He didn’t know which MLB team would draft him or which round he’d be taken in.

A week later, Heath started in center field and batted eighth in the Chukars’ lineup. The 22-year-old, selected by Kansas City in the 16th round of last week’s draft, played a key role in the 7-2 win.

“Good to get the nerves out of the way,” said Heath, who arrived in Idaho Falls on Friday.

The speedy Heath narrowly avoided hitting into a double play in his first at-bat, and his right shoe fell off as he beat out the throw to first base.

Heath earned his first professional hit in his second at-bat, lining a single up the middle that hit pitcher Miguel Urena in the side (Urena appeared to be fine and remained in the game).

“The second at-bat, I was just as nervous as my first one,” Heath said. “I got on base, took a deep breath, relaxed and got after it the rest of the night.”

Heath went 2 for 4 and scored a run.

Remaining stingy

I.F. allowed 16 runs in each of its first two games last season, both at home against Grand Junction. The Chukars and Raptors combined to score 19 runs in this weekend’s two-game series, and Ogden scored only four of them.

The pitchers’ key on Friday was attacking the strike zone. Arnaldo Hernandez, Alex Luna and Reid Redman combined to throw 111 pitches in the 8-2 win. They threw 83 strikes and didn’t walk a single batter.

Chukars pitchers allowed five walks Saturday but just six hits. Starter Igol Feliz issued three bases on balls, but he escaped multiple jams thanks to his hard fastball (it topped out at 95 miles per hour), impressive off-speed pitches and good defense behind him.

Deep lineup

The Chukars compiled 24 total hits in their two wins over Ogden this weekend, and every hitter reached base at least once.

In game one, only shortstop Ricky Aracena and third baseman Manny Olloque didn’t record hits, but both walked (Aracena once, Ollqoue twice). Aracena went 2 for 4 with a walk in game two, and Olloque walked once. Of the 11 I.F. batters to get plate appearance these first two games, Olloque is the only one without a hit.

Aracena, Heath, Yeison Melo, Meibrys Viloria and Colton Frabasilio each recorded two hits on Saturday, and Tanner Stanley went 3 for 5. Stanley is now 4 for 8 with a walk.

Player of the game

Chukars first baseman Brandon Dulin

Dulin had only one hit Saturday night, but it was the loudest.

The 23-year-old came up with two outs and a runner on in the bottom of the first inning. With his parents Jason and Lisa Dulin in attendance, the left-hander crushed the first pitch toward the scoreboard in left-center field. The ball traveled over the wall at 404 feet, per the Chukars’ in-stadium stat system, to give I.F. a 2-0 lead.

It was the first and only home run hit at Melaleuca Field in this young season. Dulin now has 20 home runs in his pro career, which started in 2013.

In addition to the big fly, Dulin played solid defense all night.

Up next

The Chukars get Father’s Day off and return to Melaleuca Field on Monday to begin a four-game series against the Orem Owlz. Right-hander Andres Machado is scheduled to start on the mound for I.F.

Chukars begin their season on the right foot with an 8-2 win over Ogden

Idaho Falls Chukars first baseman Brandon Dulin narrowly misses the opportunity to tag out Gersel Pitre, of the Ogden Raptors, during the top of the second inning Friday at Melaleuca Field. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls Chukars first baseman Brandon Dulin narrowly misses the opportunity to tag out Gersel Pitre, of the Ogden Raptors, during the top of the second inning Friday at Melaleuca Field. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)

David Edwards wasn’t about to let his first professional hit turn into an out.

The Idaho Falls Chukars’ designated hitter came up in the bottom of the eighth inning with two outs and two on. Edwards laced a line drive to the right of Ogden second baseman Carlos Aquino, who slid and snagged the ball after one hop.

“I was running as hard as I could,” Edwards said. “I had to get my first hit out of the way.”

The 23-year-old beat Aquino’s throw by a step.

For Edwards, the hit was a relief. For the Chukars, it was the perfect way to cap a successful season-opening win.

I.F. handled the Raptors 8-2 on Friday night in front of 3,160 fans at Melaleuca Field. The win especially pleased the Chukars’ coaches, who watched their team start last season on the opposite foot.

“It sets a tone for us,” Chukars manager Justin Gemoll said.

The Chukars had a better offensive performance in last year’s season opener, scoring 10 runs against Grand Junction. The problem was they allowed 16 runs. They gave up the same scoring total in game two, and 11 Rockies scored in the third game. I.F. turned its season around in the second half, but the 0-3 start was an omen in a rocky first half.

Arnaldo Hernandez dashed those memories with a dominant, efficient five-inning start Friday. He allowed one earned run on three hits, no walks and five strikeouts. Of his 56 pitches, 44 were strikes.

“His fastball command was really good early, to both sides of the plate,” Gemoll said. “He was mixing in his changeup and his breaking ball very well. He was a bulldog.”

Alex Luna added two scoreless innings, and Reid Redman allowed one earned run in two frames to close it out.

Idaho Falls Chukars shortstop Ricky Aracena fumbles an infield grounder during Friday's game against the Ogden Raptors at Melaleuca Field. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls Chukars shortstop Ricky Aracena fumbles an infield grounder during Friday’s game against the Ogden Raptors at Melaleuca Field. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)

The three I.F. pitchers didn’t allow a walk, while their batters drew nine. Left fielder Luke Willis led the base-on-balls brigade by walking twice, and he hit two singles to begin his season with a perfect on-base percentage.

“There’s great chemistry between all the guys, on and off the field,” Willis said. “That might not be so common in other places, but it’s definitely here.”

First baseman Brandon Dulin added two singles and a walk in five plate appearances.

Edwards was nowhere near the top of the Chukars’ hitting leaderboard Friday, going 1 for 5 with no walks, no runs scored and no RBIs. But he’ll cherish the career-opening hit, especially considering how murky his future looked a year ago.

Edwards graduated from Loyola Marymount two springs ago but went undrafted due to a shoulder surgery following his senior season, when he hit .316 with six home runs. Some major league teams feared he tore his labrum, Edwards said, which is one of the most concerning injuries a baseball player can have.

But Edwards’ rehab went smoothly, and he remained on the Kansas City Royals’ radar. In February, Kansas City signed him.

“I knew I’d have a shot because of my success in college,” Edwards said. “I knew someone would give me a chance, and I’m glad the Royals did.”

Roster moves

The Chukars added a pair of 2016 draft picks to their roster Friday, outfielder Nick Heath and catcher MJ Sanchez.

Heath, 22, was selected in the 16th round out of Northwestern State University. Sanchez, 21, was taken in the 35th round out of Cal Baptist University.

The Chukars now have 29 players.

Reid Redman continues adjusting to life as a pitcher

Right-handed relief pitcher Reid Redman, 27, is on a rehab assignment with the Idaho Falls Chukars. He underwent Tommy John surgery in May 2015. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)
Right-handed relief pitcher Reid Redman, 27, is on a rehab assignment with the Idaho Falls Chukars. He underwent Tommy John surgery in May 2015. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)

It’s hard to blame Reid Redman for missing the warning signs.

The right-handed pitcher in the Kansas City Royals organization felt some tightness in his right forearm during 2015 spring training, but he pitched through it.

“I was pretty new to pitching, so I thought this was just what pitchers go through,” Redman told the Post Register.

The pain persisted during his first two months with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, Kansas City’s Double-A affiliate. That May, Redman decided to get his arm looked at. An MRI revealed a ulnar collateral ligament tear. He underwent Tommy John surgery the next day.

The surgery landed Redman, 27, with the Idaho Falls Chukars this summer on a rehabilitation assignment. His goal this summer is to progress as a pitcher, a position he began playing three years ago.

Redman graduated from Texas Tech in 2012 with a degree in oil and gas. In 2013, the Lubbock, Texas, native started considering a career in the oil industry.

Redman was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 23rd round of the 2012 MLB draft. He played infield at the time and had hardly pitched an inning in his career.

In 2012, the Rays assigned Redman to Rookie-level Princeton, where he spent most of his time at second base. Redman batted .265/.324/.376 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) in 253 plate appearances that summer. It wasn’t a horrendous performance, but Tampa Bay released him after 2013 spring training.

Redman packed his things and headed back to West Texas. He figured his career was over.

“I was going to get into oil and gas of some sort,” Redman said. “That’s all there really is around there.”

Before he began searching for new jobs, a scout for the Miami Marlins called Redman wondering if he could come to Palm Beach, Fla., for a tryout. Redman didn’t hesitate.

Redman arrived in Palm Beach hoping to impress the Marlins scouts at the plate and in the field.

“They said, ‘You don’t need any bats or anything, you just need your glove. We want to see if you can pitch,’ Redman said. “I was pretty confused at first. Thought they might have the wrong guy.”

A Miami scout was impressed with Redman’s arm as a infielder for Texas Tech, Redman said, and the Marlins wanted to see if that arm would translate to the pitching mound. Redman wasn’t about to turn down the opportunity. But all he threw, all he knew, were fastballs.

“I really had no idea what I was doing,” Redman said.

His velocity, movement and mechanics impressed Miami enough for them to offer him a contract. It’s paid off.

Redman posted a 1.91 ERA in 28.1 relief innings for the Batavia Muckdogs (short-season Single-A) in 2013. He played for the advanced Single-A Jupiter Hammerheads and the Double-A Jacksonville Suns the following season. His combined ERA in 61.2 innings that year was 2.04, with 68 strikeouts and 12 walks.

Redman and left-hander Brian Flynn were traded to the Royals for Aaron Crow before the 2015 season, and Redman was assigned to Northwest Arkansas. He posted a 3.63 ERA in 17.1 innings before he experienced a pitcher’s worst nightmare last May. But he considers the Tommy John rehab a blessing in disguise, a chance to improve his slider and changeup.

“His stuff is there, he’s got good velocity,” Chukars pitching coach Jeff Suppan said. “He has a good idea of how the game is played. That’s half the battle really.”

Redman does not know how long his rehab assignment will last or where he’ll be assigned after Idaho Falls. But it’s easy for him to be patient. After all, he thought his career was finished three years ago.

“I’m gonna try to do this as long as I can, and hopefully have some fun while I do it,” Redman said. “Oil and gas will be there when I get done.”

Fifth annual Chukars-Bandits game ends in a 7-7 tie

Bandits shortstop Hunter Leavitt tags out Chukars right fielder Yeison Melo on a stolen base attempt during an exhibition game Thursday at Melaleuca Field. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)
Bandits shortstop Hunter Leavitt tags out Chukars right fielder Yeison Melo on a stolen base attempt during an exhibition game Thursday at Melaleuca Field. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)

It was Brandon Bialas’ night.

The Idaho Falls Bandits pitcher and infielder celebrated his birthday Thursday, earned a scholarship, drove in the tying run and scored a late go-ahead run against the Idaho Falls Chukars at Melaleuca Field.

The run Bialas scored gave the Bandits a 7-6 lead in the top of the seventh inning. The Chukars ended up tying it in the bottom of the inning, and both teams decided to end the game at 7-7. In the exhibition game’s five-year history, it’s the first time the Bandits have not lost.

“0-4-1,” Bandits coach Joldy Watts said. “We’ll take the one.”

Before his heroics, Bialas earned the first annual Michael McGuire Carlos Watts Idaho Falls American Legion Baseball Scholarship (more on that later).

Bialas came to the plate in the seventh with two outs and Kolten Westergard at second base. In a 1-2 count, Bialas crushed a Reed Hueter pitch into the right-center field gap for a double, tying the game at 6-6. Jace Jones came up next and skied a double off the glove of Chukars center fielder Tanner Stanley, scoring Bialas for the Bandits’ first lead of the game.

This is Bialas’ third year as a Bandit. Compared to American Legion games, he said exhibition games against the Chukars feel foreign. Players face pitchers from their respective squads, and the crowds are exponentially larger (Thursday’s announced attendance was 2,860).

“It’s definitely a lot more intense, with the crowd and everything,” Bialas said. “It’s always fun to hit off your own guys. We kind of have a good time with them. But definitely more intense, and the adrenaline is flowing a lot more.”

The Chukars quickly tied the game in the bottom of the seventh thanks to singles by Jose Sanchez and Angelo Castellano. With one out, both teams left the field. Both teams agreed before the game that innings would end when the Chukars pitchers reached their pitch limits, regardless of the out total, and the game wouldn’t go past seven innings. Chukars’ pitcher Reinaldo Cepin had reached his pitch limit in the seventh, Watts said.

Andrew Gregersen is in his first season with the Bandits. He’s also a freshman who had struggled in his first 14 Legion games. Gregersen looked spry in his first at-bat, though, looping a double to left field off of Sage Trejo.

“It’s been a hard summer so far,” Gregersen said. “Hopefully that double will keep my wheels rolling.”

The Bandits understand the context of their tie. Both teams faced their own pitchers, every Bandit batted, seven Bandits pitched and the Chukars rotated several batters and pitchers. It was hardly a head-to-head matchup.

But the result was still unprecedented, and the Bandits left the field in good spirits. Especially Bialas, who topped off a dream day by devouring a cupcake.

“To have a birthday like that, couldn’t beat it,” Bialas said.

Michael McGuire Carlos Watts Idaho Falls American Legion Baseball Scholarship

The scholarship Bialas received Thursday honors the fathers of Joldy Watts and Bandits assistant coach Colben McGuire.

Carlos Watts’ kidneys failed him earlier this year, and doctors feared he also had prostate cancer. Carlos Watts, 62, is now free of cancer and recovering in his Arizona home.

Around the same time Carlos Watts had his cancer scare, Michael McGuire, 66, was diagnosed with colon and lung cancer. Michael, who is also the father of Joldy Watts’ wife Megan, is now cancer-free and was in attendance for Thursday’s game.

The scholarship Bialas received is worth $500 and is “given to a young man who excels on the field, in the classroom and in the community,” per a news release from the I.F. American Legion Baseball vice president Cliff Brady.