By JEFF PINKHAM
The two guys who pitched the Idaho Falls Chukars to the 2013 Pioneer League championship started the year by nearly pitching themselves out of baseball.
The turnaround of left-hander Jonathan Dziedzic and righty Jake Junis helps explain more than anything how the Chukars clinched their seventh league championship with a 6-0 win over the Helena Brewers on Tuesday night at Kindrick Legion Field in Helena, Mont.
Dziedzic, a 6-foot, 165-pounder from Humble, Texas, got the Chukars off to a good start against Helena, dominating the Brewers on Saturday, pitching six shutout innings (two hits, one walk, eight strikeouts) as the Chukars held on for a 2-1 win at Melaleuca Field.
Junis, a 6-3, 210-pounder from Rock Falls, Ill., put the finishing touches on the championship series Tuesday, blanking the Brewers over five innings of three-hit ball while striking out eight in a 6-0 win.
Those performances under pressure would have been hard to predict back in June, when Pioneer League teams were battering the duo for 16 earned runs on 26 hits over 16 innings when the Chukars got off to a 4-12 start.
“The difference between the early-season pitching and the pitching over the last month is huge,” Idaho Falls general manager Kevin Greene said. “We were 4-12 with good offense, but we didn’t have the pitching. The guys were so solid all through the second half.”