Chukars’ O’Hearn named PL Player of the Week

O'Hearn

Idaho Falls Chukars first baseman Ryan O’Hearn was named the Pioneer League Player of the Week after his performance last week.

The Sam Houston State product overpowered the Ogden Raptors in six games, going 14 of 25 with two home runs, four doubles, nine runs and six RBIs while hitting safely in each game. He led the league last week in average (.560), on-base percentage (.607) and slugging (.960).

At one point last week, O’Hearn had reached safely in eight straight at-bats.

O’Hearn leads the Pioneer League in batting average and slugging percentage, is second in on-base percentage and third in doubles.

The Chukars were off Monday, and return to action today with the first of four games at Billings. Idaho Falls then plays at Great Falls for three games, takes a day off for the Major League All-Star game and then starts a seven-game homestand against Billings on July 16.

Fourth inning falter costs Chukars in 8-4 loss to Raptors

Idaho Falls Chukars infielder Luis Valenzuela hits an infield fly during the game against the Ogden Raptors Saturday at Melalueca Field. Valenzuela's batting average is .295 so far this season. Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com,

The Idaho Falls Chukars saw a 3-0 lead disappear after a fourth inning marred by an error, an interference call and six runs, as the Ogden Raptors rallied for an 8-4 victory in front of 2,332 fans Saturday at Melaleuca Field.

The Chukars have not lost three in a row nor won three in a row during the first-half of the Pioneer League season, a trend that the Raptors (7-13) have had a hand in for the ongoing seven-game series between the teams.

“We didn’t pitch well and we didn’t play good defense,” Chukars manager Omar Ramirez said. “That hurt us and we lost the game. Two of the things that I always say we’ve got to do, we didn’t do.”

The Chukars (9-11) were in control early as DonAndre Clark scored off Wander Franco’s single in the bottom of the first for a 1-0 lead. Idaho Falls stretched the lead to 3-0 as Kyle Pollock doubled to score Brawlun Gomez, and Pollock came home when Pedro Gonzalez reached on fielder’s choice. The Raptors took over in the next frame.

Back-to-back singles followed by a wild pitch, a strikeout and consecutive walks resulted in Colin Hering coming home for Ogden’s first run with one out. Zach Lovvorn relieved Chukars starting pitcher Alec Mills and the Raptors continued to take over as miscues piled up.

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Timely hitting helps Chukars resume July 4th winning tradition

Idaho Falls Chukars infielder Kuis Valenzuela slides under Ogden Raptors second baseman Cristian Gomez during a steal attempt Friday at Melaleuca Field. Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com

An early first pitch accommodated the fireworks show along the Snake River following Friday’s game, but the Idaho Falls Chukars provided plenty of spark of their own against the Ogden Raptors.

The Chukars (9-10) turned a 3-0 deficit into an 8-4 win over the Raptors (6-13), thanks to timely hitting in the fourth and eighth innings before an Independence Day crowd of 3,584 at Melaleuca Field.

The win put the Chukars back in the win column for July 4, improving to 14-10 all-time on the holiday. Grand Junction took a 12-2 contest over Idaho Falls a year ago to snap a four-year July 4th win streak.

One of those timely hits came off the bat of third baseman Michael Hill, whose two-run home run soared over the right-field wall to tie the game 3-3 with one out in the bottom of the third. It was the first professional home run for the 22-year-old from Long Beach State.

“That’s awesome,” a smiling Hill said after the game. “I don’t have any memories of the Fourth except for playing baseball every year. Now I can say I hit my first professional home run on July 4th. I’ll always remember this day, for sure.”

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O’Hearn heats things up for Chukars in 5-3 win over Raptors

Idaho Falls Chukars third baseman Mike Hill catches the bounce off an infield hit during the game against the Ogden Raptors Thursday at Melaleuca Field. Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com

The Idaho Falls Chukars dumped their two-game losing streak behind the continued hot hitting of Ryan O’Hearn.

The first baseman from Sam Houston State University went 4 for 4 with a solo home run and two runs scored to spark the Chukars (8-10) to a 5-3 win over the Ogden Raptors (6-12) before 3,405 fans Thursday at Melaleuca Field.

The 20-year-old entered Friday’s game batting .383, which put him third among Pioneer League batting leaders. He now has 22 hits, 11 runs and 12 RBIs through 18 games and has home runs in back-to-back games.

“We knew we wanted to get a win tonight,” O’Hearn said.

A single to left field in the bottom of the first inning set the tone for O’Hearn’s evening. He added another single — this time on a full count — in the bottom of the fourth and was brought home by Robert Pehl’s double moments later to tie the game 1-1.

Pehl scored on Wander Franco’s double to make it 2-1 Idaho Falls after four innings. Ogden’s Justin Chigbogu jacked a two-run home run over the center-field wall to knot the game at 3-3 in the top of the sixth. Not to be outdone, O’Hearn followed with a home run of his own in the bottom of the sixth, a solo homer to the same spot as Chigbogu’s to put the Chukars ahead for good.

His fourth and final hit of the day was a two-out, bases-loaded line-drive single that bounced off pitcher Brock Stewart, ended up with third baseman Yensys Capellan and scored Toups. Pehl singled on a line drive to left field to score Desmond Henry in the next at-bat for Idaho Falls’ final run of the game.

Chukars manager Omar Ramirez said O’Hearn’s abilities were evident from the start.

“We noticed it from the first time we had batting practice,” Ramirez said. “The ball has a different sound off his bat. Me and the other coaches were like, ‘Wow. What is that?’ Hopefully he continues to do well and stay in Idaho Falls.”

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Raptors snap seven-game losing streak with 4-1 win over Chukars

The Idaho Falls Chukars couldn’t extend their winning streak to three games, and in the process helped Ogden break a streak of its own.

The slumping Raptors scored two runs in the fifth to take a lead and added two insurance runs in the seventh to pull out a 4-1 win over the Chukars in front of 2,471 fans at Lindquist field in Ogden, Utah, putting an end to their seven-game losing streak.

Things were looking good early for the Chukars, who plated a run in the fourth when Mike Hill doubled to drive in Parker Morin. But that was all the offense the Chukars could muster.

Idaho Falls starter Javier Reynoso was solid, striking out eight over the first four innings. Reynoso struck out Theo Alexander to start the fifth before Ogden finally broke through. Yensys Capellan singled to right, Kelvin Ramos followed with a single to center and Joe Meggs walked. Shane Halley replaced Reynoso and got Jaylen Harris to ground into a forceout, which scored Capellan. Halley then uncorked a wild pitch that scored Ramos, making it 2-1 Raptors.

In the seventh, Ogden scored two runs on Julian Leon’s pop single to second.

The Raptors’ bullpen, which had struggled this season, finished things off. Trevor Oaks pitched three scoreless innings with four strikeouts while Albert Vanegas got his first save by striking out two of the three hitters he faced in the ninth.

The Chukars stranded runners at third base in each of the first two innings and struck out a season-high 13 times.

The two teams wrap up their three-game series in Ogden tonight before returning to Idaho Falls to start a four-game series Thursday at Melaleuca Field.

CHUKAR CHATTER: The Royals released former Ohio State University defensive back Devon Torrence last week. … Alexis Rivera, who was in his second season with the Chukars, was promoted to Lexington. … For the fifth consecutive year, Minor League Baseball teams raise money this weekend by wearing specially designed “Stars & Stripes” caps from New Era Cap Company. A total of 113 teams will wear the specialty caps, including the Chukars, as part of fundraising and awareness initiatives for Welcome Back Veterans, an organization dedicated to addressing the ongoing needs of military personnel and their families.

Tough start dooms Chukars in 6-3 loss to Rockies

By JEFF PINKHAM
jpinkham@postregister.com

The Idaho Falls Chukars won games by the book Thursday and Friday, using solid pitching, sound defense and timely hitting to earn 6-2 and 9-0 wins over the Grand Junction Rockies.

The Chukars will want to tear up the book from Saturday’s game against the Rockies, a 6-3 defeat in front of 2,247 fans at Melaleuca Field that featured a tough outing from starter Eric Skoglund, some shoddy defense and seven runners left on base.

Skoglund, a 6-foot-7 left-hander who was Kansas City’s third-round pick in this year’s draft, couldn’t recover after allowing a home run to Renaldo Jenkins with one out in the second inning. Skoglund, who is on a strict pitch count after throwing 110 innings at the University of Central Florida this spring, got an even quicker hook than expected Saturday after following the home run with a four-pitch walk, an RBI double to the left field wall and an RBI single to right.

“It’s his second outing in professional baseball,” Idaho Falls manager Omar Ramirez said. “The first time he pitched good against the same team (two shutout innings, two hits). The second time he struggled. Hopefully, he does a better job the next time out.”

Skoglund was relieved by fellow college draftee Eric Stout, who got the final two outs in the second before giving up two runs on three hits in the third. Both are trying to transition from life on campus to the daily grind of professional baseball.

And it’s not always easy.

“It’s a process. It’s a progression,” Ramirez said. “They understand that.”

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Chukars pitch a gem, shut out Rockies 9-0

By JEFF PINKHAM
jpinkham@postregister.com

Idaho Falls Chukars pitching coach Mark Davis won’t have an easier night at the ballpark than he had Friday night.

Chukars pitchers got 14 groundball outs and didn’t allow a runner to reach second base, and Idaho Falls got its first winning streak of the season with a 9-0 victory over the Grand Junction Rockies in front of 1,841 fans at Melaleuca Field.

Davis said there was a simple explanation for the dominance of his pitchers Friday.

“They were aggressive,” said Davis, who won the Cy Young Award for the Padres in 1989.

It all started with starter Bryan Brickhouse, a 2011 third-round draft choice who is in Idaho Falls on a rehab assignment while working his way back after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2013. The 6-foot, 195-pound righthander allowed just one hit and one walk while striking out three in four innings. He induced seven groundball outs and threw just 34 pitches.

“He set the tone,” Davis said. “He had a good breaking ball, a lively fastball and he actually threw a couple changeups. He threw the ball really well.”

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Chukars bats wake up in 6-2 win over Rockies

By JEFF PINKHAM
jpinkham@postregister.com

Idaho Falls' Luis Valenzuela makes the catch and gets the out as Grand Junction's Dom Nunez tries to make it to second base during Thursday night's game at Melaleuca Field. Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com

The last thing a struggling offense wants to do is waste chances when it’s finally showing signs of life.

Unfortunately for Idaho Falls manager Omar Ramirez, that’s exactly what the Chukars did over the first three innings against the Grand Junction Rockies on Thursday night at Melaleuca Field. Idaho Falls was coming off a two-game sweep at Orem when the Chukars managed just one run and one extra base hit.

Idaho Falls scored single runs in the second and third innings Thursday but could have had much more. The Chukars eventually broke through for a 6-2 win in front of 1,904 fans to improve to 4-7 for the season.

Ramirez said the first three innings, when the Chukars had 10 hitters reach base but scored only two runs, were frustrating for a team searching for runs.

Idaho Falls Chukars' Jeckson Flores, right , and Luis Valenzuela are all smiles as they run to the dugout after turning a double play to end the inning during Thursday night's game at Melaleuca Field. Monte LaOrange/mlaorange@postregister.com

“I was worried about it a little bit the first half of the game,” Ramirez said. “But we picked it up, made adjustments and that’s what it’s all about, making adjustments.”

Idaho Falls, which entered Thursday’s game hitting .257 as a team, finally took advantage of its chances in the fourth, scoring three runs on three hits, a walk and a hit batter. Jecksson Flores plated the first run when he ripped a ball that scooted past right fielder Wilson Soriano to score Kyle Pollock. Ryan O’Hearn was hit by a pitch with two outs, then Robert Pehl smacked a two-run single to left to make it 5-1.

Ramirez said the early part of the season can be tough on newcomers to professional baseball — guys who are used to playing every day are suddenly in and out of the lineup.

“Now you’re sharing time with a guy who’s equal or better than you are,” Ramirez said. “Hopefully, they make adjustments and figure it out, and that’s really the only thing they can do.”

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Chukars held to seven hits in 4-1 loss at Orem

POST REGISTER

The Orem Owlz continued their dominance over Idaho Falls in the first week and a half of the season, limiting the Chukars to just seven hits in a 4-1 win in front of 1,760 fans in Orem, Utah, on Wednesday night.

The Owlz have taken five of the six meetings between the teams this season, outhitting the Chukars 63-39 along the way. Those hit numbers were a little closer Wednesday, with Orem holding an 8-7 edge, but the result was the same.

Orem took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first on a triple by Bo Way and a sacrifice fly to left by Ryan Seiz.

Idaho Falls answered with a run of its own in the top of the third. DonAndre Clark got things started with a one-out single to center and a steal of second. After Corey Toups flied out to left, Ryan O’Hearn grounded a single to left to score Clark.

But that was it for the Idaho Falls offense.

Orem took a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the third on back-to-back doubles by Bo Way and Zach Houchins and an RBI groundout from Tyler Palmer. The Owlz padded the lead in the seventh on an RBI sac fly from Way.

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Royals select TCU pitcher Finnegan in first round

Finnegan

KANSAS CITY, Mo.— The Kansas City Royals selected TCU left-hander Brandon Finnegan with their first-round pick in Major League Baseball’s first-year player draft Thursday night.

“I couldn’t be happier to get Brandon, a left-handed pitcher with plus stuff,” Royals director of scouting Lonnie Goldberg said. “We’re very surprised that he was there when we picked.”

Scouts are divided on whether Finnegan projects as a starter or reliever. The 5-foot-11 junior dealt with a stiff shoulder this past season, raising concerns about his durability. Finnegan led the Horned Frogs in strikeouts the last two seasons.

Finnegan’s fastball has been clocked in the upper 90s, though it tends to sit between 90 and 95 mph. He also has a curveball and slider that are both developing.

The Royals chose him with the 17th overall pick. The club also had the No. 28 pick Thursday night as compensation for losing Ervin Santana in free agency; the No. 40 pick in the competitive balance portion of the draft; and the No. 56 pick in the second round.

A 2011 graduate of Southwest High School in Fort Worth, Finnegan was selected by the Texas Rangers in the 45th round of the June Free Agent Draft that year, but opted to pitch at TCU.

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