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.