Another night, another Chukars comeback

Idaho Falls third baseman Manny Olloque dives to make a tag during Saturday’s game against Grand Junction at Melaleuca Field. (Courtesy of Steve Thayer)
Idaho Falls third baseman Manny Olloque dives to make a tag during Saturday’s game against Grand Junction at Melaleuca Field. (Courtesy of Steve Thayer)

An Idaho Falls Chukars rally is like a motorcycle accident. It’s not if one will happen, it’s when.

The Chukars displayed that inevitability in their first two games against Grand Junction. Saturday was the most glaring example of them all.

I.F. scored four runs in the eighth inning to overcome another late deficit and beat the Rockies 7-5 at Melaleuca Field.

“We’d much rather have them score a bunch of runs early,” Chukars manager Justin Gemoll said. “But with these guys, it’s just, be patient. That’s the big lesson. Be patient, and just watch them compete.”

Another late rally

Saturday marked the seventh time this season I.F. came back from a deficit in the sixth inning or later. Nothing early in the game pointed to another comeback, other than the Chukars’ habit of relentlessness.

The Rockies took a 4-1 lead in the fifth inning, and that held until the sixth. I.F. chipped away, but Grand Junction still led 5-3 going into the bottom of the eighth.

The lineup that produced three hits through six innings piled up six in the eighth alone. Meibrys Viloria kicked off the scoring with an RBI double, which extended his hitting streak to 17 games. Angelo Castellano then drove in Viloria and David Edwards to give the Chukars a 6-5 lead.

Edwards and Manny Olloque both singled with one out to spark the rally.

“You go, ‘OK, we’re a little flat,’ and then all of the sudden …” Gemoll said. “It takes one hit to get them going, and it has for the past month or so.”

Dudek breaks through 

Rockies left fielder Tyler Bugner made a diving catch in the bottom of the seventh to rob Joe Dudek of his first professional hit. At the time, it felt like cruel fortune. In hindsight, Dudek was happy to wait.

The Chukars’ first baseman came up an inning later with Castellano on second. He lined a single to Bugner that scored Castellano and gave I.F. a 7-5 lead.

It was Dudek’s first hit in eight at-bats.

“I didn’t want to doubt myself,” Dudek said. “It’s my second day here. I feel like I’m seeing it well. Just trying to put good swings on it. I’m getting more comfortable as the at-bats go on.”

Lovelady’s dominant debut 

Richard Lovelady’s first appearance as a Chukar came in a high-leverage situation, and he couldn’t have been more commanding.

The left-hander entered the game in the top of the ninth, right after I.F.’s furious eighth inning rally.

“There’s always nerves,” Lovelady said. “I didn’t try to do too much the first time out. Just go out there and pound the zone.”

Lovelady’s results: a three-pitch strikeout and two four-pitch strikeouts. His high-80s, low-90s fastball whizzed by Grand Junction’s bats, and only two of his 11 pitches were balls.

“I wish I could tell you it was planned, that I knew we were going to score four runs and he’d come in and get the save,” Gemoll said. “It worked out in our favor. He did a great job.”

Player of the game 

Rockies starting pitcher Ty Culbreth

The Chukars won, but no single player’s performance stood out from the rest. Culbreth, on the other hand, pitched five pristine innings. The left-hander allowed one unearned run on two hits and no walks. He also struck out seven.

Up next 

The Chukars (24-17, 2-1 second half) will try to take the series over Grand Junction (17-24, 1-2) on Sunday at 4 p.m. It’s the final game before the all-star break.


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