Chukars knock off Osprey 11-2, extend home streak to three

By PAUL LAMBERT
prsports@postregister.com

Mike Hill of the Idaho Falls Chukars slides into third base after hitting a two-run triple down the first-base line during Friday’s game against the Missoula Osprey at Melaleuca Field. Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com

The Idaho Falls Chukars celebrated the 50th game of the 2014 season with another solid win Friday, dispatching the Missoula Osprey 11-2 at Melaleuca Field.

The win gives Idaho Falls three straight wins, taking some of the sting out of a tough 1-3 road trip to Grand Junction.

“We are pitching better, our defense is OK, and our timely hitting has been big the last three game,” Idaho Falls manager Omar Ramirez said. “We ask the pitchers to keep the game close because we can score some runs, and you saw that tonight.”

Idaho Falls sent 11 batters to the plate in a six-run third, putting the hammer to Arizona Diamondbacks 2014 first-round pick Touki Toussaint.

Toussaint, a righty whose fastball gets as hot as 98, gave up seven earned runs in his Pioneer League debut before leaving with two outs in the third.

Staked to a 7-1 lead to start the fourth, Idaho Falls catcher Kyle Pollock started calling for fastballs.

And when Pollock wants heat, Pollock gets heat.

“When you’ve got a big lead like that you can attack more with the fastball,” he said. “Tonight they were helping us out, hitting pop-ups and swinging through pitches.”

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No drama necessary in 8-4 Chukars win

By MARLOWE HEREFORD
mhereford@postregister.com

The ninth inning was still an adventure for the Idaho Falls Chukars. But this time, the Chukars didn’t need a walk-off to win for the first time in four games.

Building on a solid performance by starting pitcher Brooks Pounders, Idaho Falls surged to a 6-0 lead through four innings and held off a two-out rally in the bottom of the ninth Thursday to take an 8-4 win over the Helena Brewers before 2,123 fans at Melaleuca Field.

The Chukars (25-24, 5-6) took the series 3-1 over the Brewers (18-32, 5-7) to end a week of extra-inning games, late rallies, rainouts and rain delays.

“It’s been a crazy last couple of days,” said left fielder Robert Pehl, who went 3 for 4 with a double and two RBIs to lead the Chukars. “To come out and get runs and jump on them feels really good.”

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Chukars drop first game 4-3, force extra innings in game 2 v. Brewers

By JEFF PINKHAM
jpinkham@postregister.com

Idaho Falls Chukars short stop Corey Toups tags out Helena Brewers center fielder Edgardo Rivera during the first game of a doubleheader Wednesday at Melaleuca Field. Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com

The Idaho Falls didn’t make mistakes in the opener of a doubleheader against the Helena Brewers on Wednesday night at Melaleuca Field.

Just one too many.

Second baseman Luis Valenzuela made a bad decision on a double steal that led to Helena’s final run, and the Brewers held on for a 4-3, seven-inning win in a game that was rained out Tuesday and pushed back an hour by more rain Wednesday.

Because of the later start, Wednesday’s second game was not finished at Post Register deadline.

The Chukars trailed throughout, but were down just 2-1 entering the sixth. After Austin Fairchild struck out the leadoff man, Tucker Neuhaus singled to left and Jack Cleary doubled down the line in right to chase Fairchild and make it 3-1.

Eric Williams followed with a line single to center, but Cleary had to stop at third. With a 1-2 count, reliever Emilio Ogando stuck out Luis Aviles as Williams took off for second. Kyle Pollock’s throw appeared to be there in plenty of time to get Williams, but Valenzuela stepped up to take the throw and try to cut down Cleary, who was on his way home.

Cleary beat the throw, making it 4-1.

The Chukars scored on Brandon Downes’ solo homer to center in the sixth and on Mike Hill’s RBI groundout in the ninth, but couldn’t complete the rally.

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Brewers-Chukars rained out, will play doubleheader Wednesday

Tuesday’s constant rain canceled the Idaho Falls Chukars game against the Helena Brewers scheduled for Melaleuca Field. The teams will play a doubleheader beginning at 5 p.m. today at Melaleuca Field. Each game will be seven innings and will be the second and third contests in the Chukars’ (23-23, 3-5) four-game homestand against the Brewers (17-30, 4-5). At 5:35 p.m. Tuesday, the Chukars official Twitter account (@ifchukars) posted that fans who purchased tickets to the rained-out game could have them exchanged for vouchers to a later home game. Tuesday’s rainout was the second this season. The last time the Chukars had two games rained out in a season was 2009. Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com

Chukars walkoff winners in 10 innings over Brewers

By PAUL LAMBERT
prsports@postergister.com

Idaho Falls Chukars short stop Corey Toups hits a foul ball during Monday's game against the Helena Brewers at Melaleuca Field. Toups has a batting average of .314. Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com

Visit the Melaleuca Field batters box and receive an all-expenses paid trip to first base.

Such was the failed on-field promotion presented by the visiting Brewers on Monday night at Melaleuca Field.

The Helena pitching staff issued a season-high 12 walks Monday and the Chukars took them up on their free-pass offer with an 8-7, 10th-inning win.

Idaho Falls gave up its third-consecutive five-run lead at home before Luis Valenzuela won it in walk-off fashion with a single down the first-base line in the bottom of the 10th.

Mike Hill trotted home from third on Valenzuela’s hit, and Valenzeuela was mobbed by his teammates between first and second base.

Idaho Falls got to Helena pitcher David Carver with patience, getting five walks from the Brewers starter over the first three innings. Two of those walks came back around to score.

Carver, who was just promoted from the Arizona League Brewers, had issued only three walks over 19 innings entering Monday’s game.

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Chukars snap losing streak with errorless 12-1 win over Rockies

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Idaho Falls left fielder Robert Pehl trots around the bases after hitting a solo home run in the top of the seventh inning during Saturday’s game against the Grand Junction Rockies. Gretel Daugherty / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

The Idaho Falls Chukars managed to put a positive finish on a frustrating week.

Idaho Falls got a dominating start from Mike Jeffreys, grabbed their first lead since Wednesday and homered for the first time in 73 innings en route to a 12-1 win over the Grand Junction Rockies in front of 2,739 fans at Sam Suplizio Field.

The Chukars (22-23, 2-5 second half) had lost three straight, six of their past seven and nine of the past 12 entering the game, and were scuffling along with just three hits while holding a 2-1 lead entering the seventh.

That quickly changed when Robert Pehl belted the team’s first home run in seven games, a line shot to left leading off the inning. Wander Franco followed with his third homer of the year to make it 4-1.

That was just the beginning.

Idaho Falls sent 14 men to the plate, hit for the cycle and scored eight runs off three Rockies pitchers to build a 10-1 lead. It was the Chukars highest-scoring inning of the season.

Jeffreys had his best outing of the season by far. The 6-foot-4, 190-pound right-hander allowed one earned run (a solo homer to Dom Nunez in the fourth) on three hits and a walk while striking out seven in six innings. The performance dropped Jeffreys’ ERA from 8.28 to 6.97.

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Chukars’ losing streak extends to three with 7-4 loss to Rockies

POST REGISTER

It’s getting late early for the Idaho Falls Chukars.

Grand Junction scored in each of the first four innings before pulling way late for a 7-4 win over Idaho Falls in front of 2,543 fans at Sam Suplizio Field, sending the Chukars to their fifth loss in the first six games of the Pioneer League’s second half. It was the sixth loss in the past seven games for I.F. while Grand Junction has won nine of its past 11.

Idaho Falls pitcher Jake Newberry struggled for the third straight start, giving up four runs (three earned in five innings. Newberry, a 37th-round pick in 2012, allowed just seven earned runs in his first five outings but has given up (18) in the past three.

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Second half slump continues in 8-5 loss to Rockies

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Idaho Falls starting pitcher Eric Skoglund delivers a pitch during the second inning of Thursday’s game against the Grand Junction Rockies. Gretel Daugherty / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

A slow start to the second half is quickly turning into a slump for the Idaho Falls Chukars.

Idaho Falls was quiet at the plate and made four errors on top of it while falling to the Grand Junction Rockies 8-5 in front of 1,855 fans at Sam Suplizio Field.

The Chukars bats were quiet for the second straight night in Grand Junction. A night after managing just eight hits in a 7-2 loss, I.F. managed 11 hits — four of them coming in the final inning when they were down 8-2.

Rockies starter Kyle Freeland, the eighth overall pick in this year’s draft, was dominant over his five innings. The left-hander allowed just three hits and one walk while striking out five without giving up a run to earn his first professional win. One of the hits he allowed came to Kyle Pollock, his former catcher at the University Evansville. Pollock singled in the fourth.

Idaho Falls put together a mini rally in the top of the ninth, getting triples from Brawlun Gomez and Jecksson Flores, an RBI single from Luis Valenzuela and an RBI groundout from Corey Toups to score three runs.

It wasn’t nearly enough.

Brandon Downes had four hits in five at-bats to lead the Chukars while Pollock and Gomez both finished 2 for 4.

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Rockies break open tight game, beat Chukars 7-2

Idaho Falls baserunner Brandon Thomasson slides into third base ahead of the tag of Grand Junction’s Luis Jean on his second-inning triple during Wednesday’s game in Grand Junction, Colo. Gretel Daugherty / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

POST REGISTER

At Grand Junction, Colo., Tuesday night’s 16-inning, five-and-a-half-hour marathon and a 500-mile bus ride to Grand Junction, Colo., proved too much for the Idaho Falls Chukars to overcome on Wednesday night.

Grand Junction broke open a one-run game with four late runs and beat the weary Chukars 7-2 in front of 1,820 fans at Suplizio Field.

Idaho Falls scored single runs in the second and fifth innings while Grand Junction had single runs in the second, third and fifth. The Rockies scored twice in the seventh without a ball leaving the infield, the got a two-run home run from Luis Jean in the eighth.

That was more than enough for a trio of Rockies pitchers.

Carlos Polanco worked seven full innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits while walking two and striking out four. Craig Schlitter loaded the bases in the eighth but worked out of the jam, and Alec Crawford struck out two in a scoreless ninth to close it out.

The Chukars wasted a strong starter from Zach Lovvorn. The right-hander from Oxford, Ala., allowed three runs, one earned on five hits and two walks while striking out three in six innings. Lovvorn took the loss and fell to 2-3.

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UPDATED, 7/30: Thomasson’s RBI 2B sends I.F. to 9-8, 16-inning win after a night of brawls

Chukars outfielder Brandon Downes hits the ball deep into left field to bring two runners home and tie the score 2-2 during the fourth inning of the game against the Ogden Raptors Tuesday at Melaleuca Field. Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com

By PAUL LAMBERT
prsports@postregister.com

When Brandon Thomasson finally ended it with a double in the bottom of the 16th inning, Idaho Falls Chukars manager Omar Ramirez was sitting in the clubhouse.

His Chukars had just beaten Ogden 9-8 in a heated, marathon game.

A game that featured 32 hits, three fights, 11 ejections and two 7th-inning stretches — all before coming to a merciful end when Chukars catcher Pedro Gonzalez slid home ahead of the tag.

And Ramirez? He missed it after being ejected in the top of the 10th following a bench-clearing brawl that included Ramirez and Ogden manager Jack McDowell.

The victory roar went up from the home crowd at 12:47 a.m. early Wednesday morning after 5 hours, 29 minutes of play.

And Ramirez? He was sitting in his office watching ESPN with a bruise on his left cheek and a plate of chicken on his desk.

He didn’t even know how the game ended. Some media guy had to tell him.

As a professional manager, Ramirez certainly had access to the MiLB live broadcast. He just couldn’t bear to watch it on a little TV while locked behind the cinder block walls of his office.

“I didn’t watch,” he said. “Being in the dugout I can handle things. But when I can’t handle things, I get nervous. I don’t even know how we won the game.”

Part of what Ramirez didn’t watch was Ogden breaking an 8-7 tie in the top of the eighth, only to have Idaho Falls come back with a run of its own in the bottom of the frame.

That game-tying run came after a Thomasson double, a balk on a failed intentional walk attempt and an infield single by Corey Toups.

Gonzalez doubled to left center to start the 16th, and Thomasson doubled to the opposite gap beyond a spirited dive by Ogden center fielder Devan Arehart.

Thomasson’s hit rolled to the wall, but Gonzalez had a late start and barely made it home before the relay throw.

“He threw me a couple curveballs before that, then he threw me a fastball and left it out over the plate,” Thomasson said. “I got the bat head out and just drove it to right center.”

The Chukars players exploded out of the dugout, mobbing both Gonzalez and Thomasson on the infield. For his efforts, Thomasson got a Gatorade bath in the left eye and ear, as well as an ice bath down the back of his No. 35 pinstripe jersey.

“It’s a great win, and these guys have heart and they showed it again tonight,” Ramirez said.

Idaho Falls gave up a 7-2 lead to Ogden for the second straight night when the Raptors posted five runs in the eighth on three walks, a hit batsman and two hits.

Unlike Monday’s 10-7 loss to the Raptors where two late errors led to three critical runs, the Chukars played an astounding 16 innings of errorless Rookie League baseball on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning.

“We talked about it last night when we struggled defensively, and tonight we took care of business with the baseball,” Ramirez said.

The two teams won’t meet again until the end of the season when they play five straight to close the Pioneer League’s second half.

Considering the hoots, caterwauling and general mayhem in the post-game locker room, Thomasson believes Tuesday’s win is the type of game that could turn around the second half of the season for the 1-2 Chukars.

And Ramirez? He’s similarly encouraged.

“This was unbelievable,” he said. “There were fights and all that, and thank God we won this game. … Hopefully from here on good things happen.”

FIGHT NIGHT RECAP

Three 10th-inning fights broke out in the Idaho Falls win, adding extra drama to an extra-inning thriller.

The confrontation began when Ogden designated hitter Justin Chigbogu took exception to something said by Idaho Falls catcher Pedro Gonzalez following Chigbogu’s three-pitch strikeout in the top of the 10th.

After reaching the third-base on-deck circle, Chigbogu flipped his bat and started aggressively shouting and walking toward Gonzalez.

At that point, home plate umpire Jordan Johnson got between the two, the benches and bullpens cleared, and more than 60 grown men began pushing and shoving midway between home plate and the pitching mound.

The much-taller McDowell was bumping and pointing in Ramirez’s face, and Ramirez was bumping and barking right back – finally shouting an audible, two-word curse.

McDowell threw the first punch, and that sent the entire throng from pushing to punching.

“It was just baseball,” Ramirez said. “They thought we were throwing at their hitters and all that, which we didn’t. Jack got mad or whatever … and you saw what happened.”

The teams separated once, and after some additional barking, snowballed on the infield again 90 seconds later.

A third fracas erupted as McDowell and Ramirez reached the clubhouse after both were ejected.

McDowell was waiting for Ramirez and the bulldogging began anew. Again both dugouts and bullpens made a mad dash to the clubhouse area.

“He thought I sucker punched him or whatever … but that’s in the past,” Ramirez said.

After separating the teams a third time, Johnson had tossed McDowell, Chigbogu, Ogden catcher Julian Leon, Ogden pitching coach Greg Sabat and Ogden outfielders Colin Hering and Theo Alexander.

Ramirez was also thrown out, along with pitcher Brooks Pounders and Brawlun Gomez. Idaho Falls bench coach Julio Bruno was ejected in an unrelated incident in the 15th.

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