Author: Post Register

Chukars announce their 2017 coaching staff

Gemoll
Gemoll

A new hitting coach will sit in the Idaho Falls Chukars dugout this summer.

Damon Hollins will replace Andre David as the Chukars’ hitting instructor for the 2017 season, the Chukars announced Friday. Manager Justin Gemoll and pitching coach Jeff Suppan will return to Idaho Falls for their third straight seasons, and Justin Kemp will serve as the Chukars’ head athletic trainer for the second straight year.

This is not Hollins’ first stint as the Chukars’ hitting coach. He held the same position in 2013 and 2014. Hollins spent the previous two seasons as the hitting coach for the Single-A Lexington Legends. 2017 will be Hollins’ eighth year in the Kansas City Royals’ organization.

David was named the hitting coach for the Burlington Royals, Kansas City’s other Rookie-level affiliate, according to the (Burlington, N.C.) Times-News. Former Chukars manager Omar Ramirez will become Burlington’s manager this upcoming season, as well. Ramirez, who managed the Legends the last two years, spent three seasons in Idaho Falls. He and Hollins won a Pioneer League title in 2013.

The Chukars did not name a bench coach on Friday. Ramon Castro has occupied that role the previous two seasons.

Chukars beat Orem 10-6 in the second-to-last game of 2016

Chukars catcher Mark Sanchez (15) tries to slide by Owlz infielder Franklin Torres (6) during  Wednesday's game at Melaleuca Field. (Taylor Carpenter / tcarpenter@postregister.com)
Chukars catcher Mark Sanchez (15) tries to slide by Owlz infielder Franklin Torres (6) during Wednesday’s game at Melaleuca Field. (Taylor Carpenter / tcarpenter@postregister.com)

The Idaho Falls Chukars overcame some shaky pitching and three errors from the defense to pull out a 10-6 win over the Orem Owlz in front of 1,321 fans Wednesday at Melaleuca Field.

Idaho Falls overcame the sloppy play with an offensive performance that brought back memories from the first half of the Pioneer League season, when Chukars bashed their way to 22 wins. Idaho Falls finished with five extra-base hits and 15 hits Wednesday.

Four times two

The Chukars were muddling through the first four innings, trailing 4-2 before coming alive with four runs in the fifth. Nick Heath started the surge with a walk and a stolen base, and he moved to third on a throwing error.

Ricky Aracena then struck out, but reached first on a wild pitch. Manny Olloque followed with a two-run double to left and moved to third on the the throw. After Yeison Melo struck out, Nick Dini doubled in Olloque. And with two outs, MJ Sanchez drove in Dini with a single to right.

Idaho Falls added another four-spot in the seventh, the first coming home on another Sanchez RBI single. Jordan Ebert tripled to score Sanchez and Olloque, and then came home on a throwing error.

Orem cut the deficit to four with a run in the eighth and had the bases loaded in the ninth before Drew Milligan got a ground ball to end the threat.

Olloque was 3 for 5 with a double, two runs and two RBIs while Ebert was 2 for 4 with a double, a triple, a run and two RBIs.

Jason Freeman earned the win in relief, allowing two runs (one earned) on two hits with one walk and five strikeouts.

Player of the game

Idaho Falls catcher MJ Sanchez

It’s been a tough year for Sanchez, a 2015 35th-round draft pick who has been stuck behind league MVP Meibrys Viloria at catcher. Sanchez has played in just 21 games and had 70 at-bats, and Wednesday’s game was his best. The Corono, Calif., native went 4 for 4 with a double, two runs and two RBIs.

Up next

Idaho Falls (39-36 overall, 17-20 second half) wraps up the 2016 season with a final home game against Orem. There will be a fireworks display following the game.

Meibrys Viloria named Pioneer League MVP

Viloria
Viloria

Idaho Falls Chukars catcher Meibrys Viloria, who batted over .400 for most of the season, won the Pioneer League’s 2016 Ralph Nelles Award as the league’s most valuable player.

Viloria, a 19-year-old catcher from Cartagena, Colombia, through Monday led the Pioneer League in batting average (.381), doubles (28) and RBIs (54). And one season after not having an extra-base hit for the Burlington Royals, Viloria is second in the league with 37 extra-base hits. He is also second with 53 runs and third in on-base percentage (.442) and slugging (.619).

The international free agent owns the Pioneer League’s longest hitting streak of 2016 at 20 games from July 7 to Aug. 7.

“It’s a great credit to him and the year he’s had,” Idaho Falls manager Justin Gemoll said in a news release. “He does a lot of good things blocking balls, controlling the running game and leading the pitching staff, and offensively he’s had a great approach and been consistent all year long. He’s one of those kids who comes ready to play and wants to play every day. His energy is infectious for our team and he got after it all season long.”

Viloria is the third Chukar to win the award since Idaho Falls became affiliated with the Royals. Clint Robinson, currently with the Washington Nationals, won the award in 2007, while Ryan O’Hearn, now at Double-A Northwest Arkansas, was honored in 2014.

Viloria, Olloque honored

Idaho Falls teammates Meibrys Viloria and Manny Olloque were named to the 2016 Pioneer League end of season All-Star team, the league announced late Monday. The award is voted on by the league’s managers and honors the best players at each position.

Viloria, who was named the league MVP Tuesday, leads the league in batting average, doubles and RBIs through Monday.

Olloque, in his third minor league season, was hitting .319 through Monday with 15 doubles, seven homers, 49 RBIs and 50 runs scored.

Tuesday’s game

CHUKARS 6, OWLZ 5: At Orem, Utah, Idaho Falls built a 5-1 lead and then held on late to beat Orem the day after it was eliminated from the Pioneer League playoffs.

Idaho Falls starter Alex Luna was solid again, allowing two runs on seven hits with one walk and four strikeouts over six innings. The 6-foot-5, 205-pound right-hander improved to 5-1 and saw his ERA drop to 3.90.

The Chukars scored single runs in the first and third innings and plated two in the fourth to go up 4-1. I.F.’s lead went to 6-2 after single runs in the sixth and seventh. Orem, which rallied in the eighth, ninth and 10th innings Monday to win, scored three times in the eighth to cut the lead to one. But Christian Flecha worked a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth to close it out.

Idaho Falls shortstop Ricky Aracena had one of his best offensive games of the season, going 3 for 3 with two walks, a double and three RBIs. He also stole a base and was error-free in the field. Rudy Martin was 2 for 4 with two runs scored and Luke Willis was 2 for 4 with a run and an RBI.

The Chukars (38-36 overall, 16-21 second half) return to Melaleuca Field for the final two games of the season. Idaho Falls and Orem will play Wednesday and Thursday, with first pitch scheduled for 7:15 p.m. both nights.

Chukars split doubleheader with Raptors

Viloria
Viloria

A day that started out so well ended with the Idaho Falls Chukars one loss closer to elimination.

Idaho Falls opened Saturday with a tidy 3-2 win over the Ogden Raptors in the first game of a doubleheader at Lindquist Field. The Chukars got some more good news later in the night when Pioneer League South Division leader Grand Junction fell to Orem.

But the good news didn’t last as Idaho Falls’ bats went silent in a 7-1 loss in the nightcap that pushed the Chukars 4.5 games behind the Rockies with just five games to play. Any combination of I.F. losses and Grand Junction wins equaling two will end the Chukars’ playoff hopes.

In Saturday’s opener, Igol Feliz extended the Chukars’ run of strong starts with an impressive six-inning performance. Feliz (3-3, 5.08 ERA) allowed just five hits and didn’t walk a batter while striking out five. Richard Lovelady pitched around two walks in the seventh to earn his fifth save.

And the offense did just enough, getting a run in the second on Joe Dudek’s RBI double to right, and two more in the seventh on RBI singles from Nick Dini and Meibrys Viloria.

The momentum didn’t carry over into Game 2. Ogden grabbed a 2-0 lead in the second and led 7-0 after four. That was more than enough for starting pitcher Sven Schuller, who allowed just two hits while striking out three in five shutout innings.

Andres Machado, who has been one of I.F.’s best pitchers this season, allowed six runs (three earned) on seven hits while striking out five in three innings.

Idaho Falls didn’t score until the seventh and managed just five hits.

Player of the game

Idaho Falls catcher Meibrys Viloria

Viloria was a bright spot Saturday, going a combined 3 for 7 with a run scored and two RBIs. He also hit his 28th double, leaving him two shy of tying the Pioneer League single-season record.

Up next

The Chukars and Raptors finish their four-game at 4 p.m. today in Ogden. Jace Vines (1-6, 6.04) is scheduled to start for Idaho Falls. The Chukars then play two games in Orem before closing the regular season with two more against Orem at Melaleuca Field on Wednesday and Thursday.

Raptors rally past the Chukars 3-2

Hernandez
Hernandez

Idaho Falls’ slim chances at making the Pioneer League playoffs took a big hit Friday with a 3-2 loss to the Ogden Raptors in Utah.

The loss, combined with Grand Junction’s 15-inning win over Orem, pushes the Chukars five games behind the Rockies in the South Division second-half standings with just eight games to play. Idaho Falls can be eliminated with any combination of Chukars losses and Grand Junction wins that adds up to three.

Good start, bad finish

Idaho Falls got another good performance from a starting pitcher, but couldn’t make it equal a win. Arnaldo Hernandez was strong in his six innings, allowing two earned runs on three hits with two walks and nine strikeouts. But the game was tied when he left the game, and Ogden got to the I.F. bullpen when it counted.

DJ Peters did the damage, smacking a solo homer off Christian Flecha in the bottom of the eighth. Ogden relievers Adalberto Pena and Vinny Santarsiero did the rest, allowing just one hit and two walks while striking out five over the final three innings to secure the win.

Idaho Falls finished with just five hits, two of them coming from Joe Dudek. Angelo Castellano added a solo homer in the third inning, his second of the season.

Player of the game

Ogden right fielder DJ Peters

On a night of limited offense, Peters was the hero. He stepped to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the eighth in a tie game and belted a no-doubter over the wall in left-center field. That run proved to be the difference.

Up next

The Chukars and Raptors play a doubleheader today after Thursday’s game was rained out. Idaho Falls will start Andres Machado (2-3, 3.72) starting Game 1 at 3:05 p.m. and Igol Feliz (2-3, 5.54 ERA) taking the hill in Game 2 to follow.

Chukars washed out in Ogden

chukars-logo-125x125

The Idaho Falls Chukars’ chase for a playoff spot was put on hold by rain in Ogden, Utah, on Thursday night.

Idaho Falls won three of four against Ogden this week at Melaleuca Field to cut their deficit on first-place Grand Junction to 3.5 games and three of the second-place Raptors. But rain washed out Thursday’s game, and combined with Grand Junction’s 8-0 win over Orem the Chukars’ deficit is four heading into today’s single game. Idaho Falls has eight games remaining.

Ogden and I.F. will play a doubleheader Saturday (beginning at 1:30 p.m.) and then finish their four-game series Sunday before Idaho Falls heads to Orem for two games against the first-half champion Owlz. Idaho Falls plays its final two regular-season games at home Wednesday and Thursday against Orem.

Any combination of six Idaho Falls losses and Grand Junction wins will eliminate the Chukars from the playoff hunt.

Bats come alive in Chukars’ 18-7 win

Castellano
Castellano

The Idaho Falls Chukars took out a month’s worth of frustration Monday night at Melaleuca Field.

The Chukars, winners of just eight games in August entering Monday, used an eight-run seventh inning and 21 hits overall to crush the Ogden Raptors 18-7 in front of 1,424 fans. The win, combined with Grand Junction’s 12-inning loss to Orem, left Idaho Falls three games back in the Pioneer League South Division second-half standings with 10 games left in the regular season.

Who needs defense?

Idaho Falls kicked the ball around early Monday, committing four errors and pushing their season total to a league-high 151. Those miscues, along with 15 Ogden hits, led to plenty of runs, but they weren’t enough to overcome the Chukars’ relentless offense.

Idaho Falls matched its season high for runs and fell two hits short of its season-best total of 23. All nine Chukars batters had a hit, with all but Manny Olloque and Ryan Dale getting at least two knocks.

Even with all that offense this was a close game entering the seventh. Idaho Falls briefly lost its lead in the top of the fourth, but scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth and single runs in the fifth and sixth to go ahead 9-7. Then the Chukars went crazy in the seventh, riding 10 hits and two errors to score eight runs and put the game away.

Idaho Falls reliever Jason Freeman was an overlooked hero Monday. The right-hander entered with two outs in the fifth and worked the next three innings, allowing four hits but no runs while striking out six.

Meibrys Viloria was one of many offensive heroes, going 3 for 5 with two doubles, two runs and four RBIs. Viloria needs just four doubles to tie the Pioneer League single-season record. Angelo Castellano and Nick Heath each had two runs and three RBIs.

Player of the game

Chukars second baseman Angelo Castellano

Castellano entered the game on a day off, and he looked plenty rested. The right-handed hitter went 4 for 4 with a triple, two runs and three RBIs to push his season average to .284.

Up next

The Chukars and Raptors play the third game of their four-game series today, with Matt Portland (4-3, 5.57 ERA) scheduled to start for Idaho Falls.

Sunday’s game

CHUKARS 2, RAPTORS 1: Idaho Falls got a dominating start from Andres Machado and a game-winning hit from Yeison Melo in the bottom of the eighth to earn a win over Ogden in front of 1,352 fans at Melaleuca Field.

Machado was overpowering from the start, striking out six of the first nine batters he faced, finishing with nine over six shutout innings. He allowed just a harmless single in the fourth.

Melo gave the Chukars a 1-0 lead in the fourth with a solo homer, his fifth of the season. But the Raptors tied the game in the top of the eighth with a solo homer from Brock Carpenter.

Idaho Falls quickly regained the lead, getting a leadoff walk from Manny Olloque and a fielder’s choice from Meibrys Viloria. Joe Dudek followed with a groundout, pushing Viloria to second. Melo then singled to deep short and Viloria raced home with the go-ahead run.

Melo finished 3 for 4. Richard Lovelady got the final three outs to earn his third save.

Chukars’ groundskeeper cultivates baseball passion

Melaleuca Field grounds keeper Ryan Coleman, finishes spray painting the batters box for a recent Chukars game against the Great Falls Voyagers. (Bill Schaefer for the Post Register / prphoto@postregister.com)
Melaleuca Field grounds keeper Ryan Coleman, finishes spray painting the batters box for a recent Chukars game against the Great Falls Voyagers. (Bill Schaefer for the Post Register / prphoto@postregister.com)

By KEVIN TREVELLYAN
ktrevellyan@postregister.com

Baseball fans take their seats by the hundreds during any given summer evening at Melaleuca Field to watch the Idaho Falls Chukars play.

The announcer lists batters’ names as they step up to home plate. Foul-tipped balls arc in the warm air into the parking lot while players stand watching the game with their arms hanging over the dugout railing.

Elsewhere, usually behind home plate and anonymous to fans watching baseballs skid across the closely trimmed outfield grass, Ryan Coleman sits in the grandstand — likely one of the sport’s youngest professional head groundskeepers.

For Coleman, 24, game days usually run from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.; he’s there long after fans go home and pitchers have begun strapping ice packs to their arms.

Idaho Falls Chukars head groundskeeper Ryan Coleman pulls a “nail drag” across the home plate area at Melaleuca Field with his intern, Bryan Duffy. The nail drag levels out the ground and allows the groundskeepers to smooth it with rakes. (Kevin Trevellyan / ktrevellyan@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls Chukars head groundskeeper Ryan Coleman pulls a “nail drag” across the home plate area at Melaleuca Field with his intern, Bryan Duffy. The nail drag levels out the ground and allows the groundskeepers to smooth it with rakes. (Kevin Trevellyan / ktrevellyan@postregister.com)

The field requires rehab of its own. Gouges taken out of the infield dirt after a runner slides spike-first into second base need filling; the pitcher’s mound has to be smoothed over.

Maintaining every aspect of the field, from home plate to the dirt warning track, takes immense attention to detail — and an even bigger affinity for the game itself.

“The field, she’s kind of tricky. And if you’re not constantly thinking of ways to improve it, or make it safer and better for the players, I think you’re just going to fall behind,” Coleman said. “We have long days and short nights. You have to love baseball to do it.”

This is Coleman’s second year managing the Chukars’ grounds, and like the players laboring for a chance at the bigs, he too has an eye on advancement within baseball.

Coleman played infield at Feather River College in California, and Concordia University in Portland, Ore. In the summers between he managed fields for Oregon-based Athletic Field Design.

“He showed interest and passion. Usually when I hire someone they’re just there to get money; they don’t want to get into the industry,” said Coleman’s mentor, Athletic Field Design owner Mike Hebrard. “I think he’d do anything he could to keep playing, but this is the next best thing.”

Hebrard recommended Coleman for the Chukars job after hearing about it from an old college baseball teammate.

“He had no girlfriend, no dog — he was perfect, because it’s a lot of hours,” Hebrard said. “You have to throw the clock out the window. There’s no clock in baseball, and there’s no clock in groundskeeping.”

Coleman, post-playing days, enjoys talking to Chukars’ coaches or golfing with some of the players, “just being around baseball really.”

He developed a perfectionist’s eye working on Little League Softball World Series fields with Hebrard.

Idaho Falls Chukars head groundskeeper Ryan Coleman waters the field in preparation for a Chukars’ game against the Great Falls Voyagers. He and intern Bryan Duffy, left, often work 15-hour days during homestands, fighting a losing battle to bandage the field after the beating it takes each game. (Bill Schaefer for the Post Register / prphoto@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls Chukars head groundskeeper Ryan Coleman waters the field in preparation for a Chukars’ game against the Great Falls Voyagers. He and intern Bryan Duffy, left, often work 15-hour days during homestands, fighting a losing battle to bandage the field after the beating it takes each game. (Bill Schaefer for the Post Register / prphoto@postregister.com)

“We’re on ESPN, so that field has to look perfect every time,” Coleman said. “That was one thing my boss always harped on. I know we’re not on TV here in Idaho Falls, but I still try to take what I learned from him and teach it to my guys now.”

Coleman works with intern Bryan Duffy. It’s just them when the Chukars are away; Coleman has a few more interns working for him before home games.

“When he got here he didn’t have a significant amount of experience, but he’s done an exceptional job, especially for the lack of help I provide him — a lot of Minor League ballparks have entire grounds crews,” said Chukars General Manager Kevin Greene. “It might seem thankless at times because you’re out there by yourself busting it, but you get a couple years experience and you work your way up just like a player might.”

Eastern Idaho presents unique maintenance challenges compared to the damp Pacific Northwest where Coleman grew up; he’s contradicting nature’s course every time he pours a soil additive into the outfield at Melaleuca.

“We have real poor soil here for growing grass,” said Brad Clayton, Falls Fertilizer consultant. “Especially when there’s a baseball game there almost every day in warmer months between high school and the pros.”

Coleman works with Clayton to figure out which materials the field needs — which fertilizers and nitrogen supplements will strike the proper pH balance to allow Idaho Falls’ clay soil to accept grass roots.

“It’s always hot and always windy; that’s the toughest part,” Coleman said. “You have to keep the infield dirt moist when it’s 90 degrees outside and winds are blowing 20 mph; it sucks the water right out of the ground.”
Coleman expects to work for the Chukars at least through next season, but he’s keeping his eye on the possibility of another job higher up the professional baseball hierarchy, possibly for an A or AA team.

“If I can make a field look perfect in Idaho Falls with the little resources I have, when I have more supplies at another job I can make that field even better,” Coleman said. “The attention to detail is the biggest thing to me.”

Coleman’s age and lack of formal field management education is unusual in his field.

“A majority of our members — 72 percent — has either a degree or certificate in some sort of turf grass management, most of them have studied agronomy or turf grass science,” said Kim Heck, Chief Executive Officer of the Sports Turf Managers Association. “And at 24, he would definitely be one of the youngest heads groundskeepers in Minor League Baseball.”

Though he doesn’t have a degree, Coleman’s education is ongoing, whether its leafing through the newest issue of SportsTurf Magazine, or picking the brain of the Kansas City Royals’ head groundskeeper.

Idaho Falls Chukars head groundskeeper Ryan Coleman rakes the dirt around home plate before a recent Chukars’ home game against the Great Falls Voyagers. Nine innings of batters tapping their toes and stomping into the dirt as they swing the bat makes a mess of Coleman’s delicate patching. (Bill Schaefer for the Post Register / prphoto@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls Chukars head groundskeeper Ryan Coleman rakes the dirt around home plate before a recent Chukars’ home game against the Great Falls Voyagers. Nine innings of batters tapping their toes and stomping into the dirt as they swing the bat makes a mess of Coleman’s delicate patching. (Bill Schaefer for the Post Register / prphoto@postregister.com)

Wednesday afternoon while the Chukars were in Grand Junction, Colo., Coleman worked on the field with Duffy.

Away stretches give groundskeepers time to properly fix the spots they had to bandage during the previous home stretch.

Sprinklers sprayed water throughout the field while Coleman and Duffy worked on a gash near third base.

“Did they win last night?” Duffy said.

“They lost, Luna threw seven good innings then they gave it up to a lefty,” Coleman said, shoveling clay and soil onto the infield.

Afterward they dragged a rectangular wooden frame full of downward-facing nails across the home plate area, leveling out a hump where the umpire stands.

Little holes pockmarked the ground where batters dug their feet into the earth. A record of innate player tics common from Little League to Major League Baseball can be found all over the field.

“It kills Bryan and I to see it sometimes,” Coleman says with a smile. “Most of the batters are righties, and the hole next to home plate gets gnarly.”

They wet the hole and packed it with fresh clay; just like you would in a pottery class, Coleman said, as he scored lines in the clay and added another layer. He pounded the repair with a heavy, flat-bottomed tool, and squatted to run his hands across the material. The only record of his work was the wet spot left on the smooth ground.

During games, Coleman’s available in case there’s an emergency. Though he usually takes a seat behind home plate, he’ll meander around the grandstand. Knowing that they’re unaware of his presence, Coleman enjoys hearing people talk about how the field looks.

After playing baseball since childhood, making a career of the sport hasn’t hampered his enjoyment of it.

“It makes me love baseball more, knowing what goes into it. My uncle manages a golf course, and the last thing he wants to do after work is play nine holes. As long as that doesn’t happen to me, I’m stoked,” Coleman said. “I get to watch baseball during my break, what’s better than that?”

Chukars move closer in the playoff race with an 8-6 win over Orem

Castellano
Castellano

The Idaho Falls Chukars rallied late and then had to hold on to beat Orem 8-6 on Friday night at Melaleuca Field, moving them a game closer to Grand Junction in the Pioneer League South Division second-half standings.

Pressure’s on

The Chukars were sitting 5.5 games behind Grand Junction in the second-half standings when Friday night began. But I.F.’s win, combined with Grand Junction’s loss to Ogden, cut the margin to 4.5.

But it wasn’t easy.

Idaho Falls led 2-1 after two innings and 4-1 after four before the Owlz tied the game with two runs in the fifth and one in the sixth. But the Chukars pulled ahead with a three-run seventh. Meibrys Viloria got things starter with a walk, and after Joe Dudek flied out, Yeison Melo reached on an infield error. Angelo Castellano followed with a two-run triple to right field. Ryan Dale singled two batters later to score Castellano.

Orem scored single runs in the eighth and ninth, but Richard Lovelady got the final four outs to secure the win.

Dudek went 2 for 3 with two doubles, a run and an RBI while Nick Heath was 2 for 5 with a run scored. Starter Arnaldo Hernandez pitched well, allowing three runs on six hits with three walks and three strikeouts in five innings.

Player of the game

Idaho Falls shortstop Angelo Castellano

Castellano had a big game from the sixth spot in the order, going 2 for 4 with a triple, two runs and two RBIs. He pushed his season average to .275 and increased his RBI total to 39.

Up next

The Chukars and Owlz play the final game of their quick two-game set at 7:15 tonight. Igol Feliz (2-2, 5.93 ERA) is scheduled to start for Idaho Falls.

Dudek, pitching come through in the Chukars’ 3-2 win over Orem

Viloria
Viloria

The Idaho Falls Chukars headed into Wednesday with a 1-11 record in one-run games on the road. That mark improved Wednesday night at Orem.

The Chukars prevailed 3-2 over the Owlz thanks to strong pitching and some two-out thunder from their lineup. Ogden’s extra-inning win over Grand Junction put I.F. 4.5 games out of first place in the Pioneer League South division second-half standings.

The Dudek abides

The Chukars got on the board in the top of the first inning after the first two batters were retired. Manny Olloque delivered a two-out single, and Meibrys Viloria drove him home with a double.

The sixth inning began equally mundane, with Nick Heath and Olloque providing two quick outs. Then Viloria stepped up and singled in front of Joe Dudek. On a 1-1 count, the first baseman drove a Greg Belton pitch over the wall in left-center field.

Dudek’s home run proved to be the difference, giving I.F. a 3-1 lead.

Portland stays sharp

Matt Portland is still issuing walks, but he’s managed to suppress the hits and runs over his last three starts, including Wednesday’s.

The left-hander went six innings against the Owlz. He allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits and two walks, and he struck out five.

Portland has allowed one earned run in each of his last three outings, which all lasted five or more innings. The opposing lineups in those three games averaged 3.7 hits and three walks against him. Portland also struck out five batters per game in that span.

Player of the game

Chukars catcher Meibrys Viloria

Dudek wouldn’t have hit the big fly if Viloria didn’t single in front of him. Plus, Viloria doubled in the first run. Overall, the catcher went 3 for 4, upping his batting average to a league-best .398.

Edwards named player of the week

Chukars infielder David Edwards was named the Pioneer League player of the week for his performance from Aug. 15 to Aug. 21.

Edwards went 9 for 18 with two doubles, two home runs (both on Sunday) and three stolen bases over the course of five games. He now leads the team with eight homers on the season.

Edwards joined Manny Olloque and Yeison Melo as Chukars with 2016 player of week honors. Andres Machado also earned a pitcher of the week honor, and Meibrys Viloria was July’s player of the month.

Up next

The Chukars (31-30 overall, 9-14 second half) and Owlz (32-29, 10-13) conclude their two game-series on Thursday at 7 p.m. Lefty Reinaldo Cepin will start for I.F.