Category: Around the Pioneer League

Chukars’ notebook: Olloque, fast start for Chukars

Chukars’ Nick Hutchins heads to third on a ground hit as the Chukars take on the Ogden Raptors during opening day at Melaleuca Field on Friday, June 15, 2018. John Roark/


You better get to Melalueca Field quick: some of the Chukars’ best are moving up rather quickly.

After Manny Olloque blasted two home runs against Ogden, he was recently bumped up to Lexington.

At Chukars media day earlier in the month, he mentioned the difficulty of moving up and down and around the country for minor league ball.

“You definitely have to have to have faith that’s for sure,” Olloque said on June 13. “You just gotta trust the process and can’t look to far ahead of that. Just play everyday and try not to worry too much about the other little things. … I got caught up with it this year, you know, but I’ve been staying strong with it and just having fun.”

Despite playing in triple-A Omaha for nine games earlier in the year, Olloque came back down to the rookie-A level, bring some experience and early season offense to Melaleuca Field. Chukars manager Omar Ramirez said Olloque wasn’t going to be held up in triple-A for too long — he was called up as an emergency call, per Ramirez — but it was clear from Chukars’ opening day that Olloque wouldn’t be in Idaho Falls for too long either.

He batted .474 in 19 at-bats, knocking in nine RBIs, two home runs, a triple and two doubles. One of his two home runs was a grand slam.

Chukars’ J.C. Cloney pitches in the third inning as the Chukars take on the Ogden Raptors during opening day at Melaleuca Field on Friday, June 15, 2018. John Roark/

“I’ve learned to humble myself,” Olloque said. “I know this game isn’t going to last forever, and I know there’s more to (life) than baseball. Just having a closer relationship with God lets me stuff in different perspective. Just try to be not too high, not too low, just even keel.”

“Manny is a good hitter,” said Ramirez after the Chukars’ opening day win. “Manny has always been a good hitter and he’s going to be a good help for the team.”

Even with Olloque gone, though, the Chukars still have a plethora of solid contact hitters. They’re batting .332 through eight games — the highest in the Pioneer League — as of June 23.

Kansas City Royals’ third-round pick Kyle Isbel has been sharp his first few games with the rookie-A affiliate. He’s batting .500. Offerman Collado, Julio Gonzalez, Nick Hutchins and Andres Martin should be steady hands at the plate this summer.

Collado and Gonzalez, in their second stints in Idaho Falls, are batting .368 and .364, respectively. Hutchins has batted .321 in a team-high 28 at-bats. He is tied for first in doubles (3) alongside Isbel and first baseman Reed Rohlman.

While only suiting up for three games thus far, Martin’s small sample size is promising. He’s gone 5 for 11 and knocked in two RBIs. He’s truck out once and walked once.

In terms of pitching, the Chukars’ have vastly improved from a year ago. A year ago, the Chukars were one of the worst — if not, the worst — pitching club in the Pioneer League. Now, they’re among the top.

Of course, minor league teams change rapidly and it’s early in the season, but the Chukars currently rank one of the better rotations and bullpens in the league.

The team’s ERA is 4.43 (second-best in the Pioneer) with their WHIP at 1.35 (tied for second best).

JC Cloney (2-0) is molding into a reliable ace, giving up just 10 hits and three earned runs in 13 innings pitched. He’s struck out 16 and has a WHIP of 0.77. Domingo Pena (1-0) looked sharp in his one appearance thus far. He holds a 1.80 ERA with a 0.80 WHIP.

Again, it’s early. But the Chukars have solid pieces to be excited about if you follow the Royals’ farming system.

“I think it will be a strong group of pitchers and I think that they’re going to be learning just like everybody else will be learning,” Chukars’ pitching coach Jeff Suppan said prior to the season starting.


Pioneer League North

Helena Brewers (MIL) 4-2

Missoula Osprey (ARI) 3-2

Great Falls Voyagers (CWS) 3-4

Billings Mustangs (CIN) 2-4

Pioneer League South

Idaho Falls Chukars (KC) 6-2

Grand Junction Rockies (COL) 4-4

Ogden Raptors (LAD) 3-5

Orem Owlz (LAA) 3-5

Increasing stock

Kyle Isbel. Since joining the Chukars on June 18, Isbel has proved to be a reliable at-bat for Idaho Falls. In the past five games, the third-round pick has batted 10 for 20 (.500) with seven RBIs, three doubles and seven runs. He’s struck oout twice.

Decreasing stock

Jose Caraballo. Since June 15, Caraballo went 6 for 27 (.222) at the plate including a four-game stretch where the 21-year-old went 0 for 14. His slump could be ending shortly, though, as he’s registered back-t0-back two-hit games at Grand Junction.

Recent transactions (from June 18 to June 23)

– Right-handed pitcher Joe Ramirez assigned to Idaho Falls from DSL Royals2.

– Left-handed pitcher Marcelo Martinez assigned to Idaho Falls from DSL Royals2.

– Catcher Jesus Atencio assigned to Idaho Falls from Burlington Royals.

– Catcher Nathan Easton assigned to Idaho Falls.

– Right-handed pitcher Dillon Drabble assigned to Idaho Falls from Burlington Royals.

– Shortstop Kyle Krasser assigned to Idaho Falls.

– Right-handed pitcher Jon Heasley assigned to Idaho Fals.

– Right-handed pitcher Tyler Gray assigned to Idaho Falls

– Right-handed pitcher Jonathan Bowlan assistned to Idaho Falls Chukars.

– Centerfielder Isaiah Smith assigned to Idaho Falls from AZL Royals.


The Chukars play at Orem until Monday before hosting Grand Junction for a four-game homestand starting Tuesday. First pitch is 7:15 p.m. at Melaleuca Field.

Five Chukars’ players participate in annual All-Star game Tuesday

By Luke O’Roark | Post Register | @Lukeoroark

Some Chukars are enjoying a nice, three-days off from baseball.

Others are having a little fun in Hillsboro, Ore.

Chukars outfiielderAmalani Fukofuka (8) poses for a portrait during the 2017 Chukars Media Day on Saturday afternoon. The Chukars opening game is this Monday at Grand Junction Rockies.
Taylor Carpenter /, 6/17/2017, Lens 30, ISO 200, FStop {fstop}, Shutter 1/250, Aperature {aperature},

Five Chukars participated in this year’s annual Pioneer League All-Star game Tuesday, which pitted the best players from the Pioneer League against the Class A Short Season Northwest League, at Ron Tonkin Field.

The game began at 8 p.m. (MT), as the Northwest League led the Pioneer League 5-4 prior to the Post Register’s deadline Tuesday.

The Pioneer League took an early 4-0 lead after Dallas Carroll singled to left field to score I.F.’s Robby Rinn and Grand Junction’s Ryan Vilade.

After a Shael Mendoza’s single-RBI to right field, Chukars’ right fielder Amalani Fukofuka scored Mendoza (Grand Junction) with a shot to center field to extend the Pioneer League’s lead.

Fukofuka finished the night 1 for 2 with an RBI and a strikeout at the plate. He also had two stolen bases. Darrell Miller Jr. (who is batting .453//500/.616 in 20 games this season) finished the night 0 for 2.

Rinn — the Pioneer League’s RBI leader (38) — was 1 for 3 at the plate by the Post Register’s deadline. He also had one run.

Most of the Northwest League’s damage came against Chukars pitcer, Holden Capps. Capps allowed four earned runs on four hits in 0.2 innings pitched Tuesday night. He finished with a 54.00 ERA.

The Chukars’ Janser Lara, though, looked a bit sharper on the mound. He allowed just one hit in one inning pitched. He did have a wild pitch.

The Pioneer League had six hits and no errors by the bottom of the seventh. The Northwest League had seven hits and no errors.

The Chukars’ regular season continues Thursday at Great Falls’ Centene Stadium. First pitch is at 7 p.m.

Chukars notebook: Chukars may face problem with pitcher shortage

By Luke O’Roark | | @Lukeoroark
Editors note: Every Sunday, Luke O’Roark will break down the Chukars, the Pioneer League, and give some insight on what’s going on inside the Kansas City affiliate.

The Idaho Falls bullpen was a bit rattled.
Chukars pitchers had just given up 18 hits to Grand Junction at home and surrendered five home runs in a 14-3 loss which saw fans leave after the seventh frame.

Andres Sotillet pitches against Grand Junction. The Chukars lost 14-3. (Photo by Taylor Carpenter)

After 10-straight games, the Chukars had used up almost all 13 pitches on their roster. And they still had 12 more games before their first day off on July 11.
One pitcher, Michael Silva, was seen practicing his fastball late the night before their 14-3 thrashing.
The shortage of pitchers on this year’s Chukars roster could be a concern — at least in the first half of the season.
“We don’t really worry about that stuff,” Chukars manager Justin Gemoll said. “That’s out of our control. We just work the guys that we got here.”
To add on to the shortage, all 13 pitchers are right handed.
And there’s not much they can do about it.
“I was shocked, too,” Silva said when he saw the Chukars didn’t have any southpaws. “It is what it is, honestly. We just have to make due with what we got and what we got is pretty good.”
Because of the MLB’s minor league system, the Chukars don’t decide the makeup of their roster. They simply have to work with the players given from the Kansas City Royals’ front office.
So, if a Chukars player is doing well, they might not be wearing the maroon and grey for too long.
And while the system has given Chukars a chance to move up (Jonathan McCray was recently moved up to Triple-A), it puts Idaho Falls in a bind. The Chukars have the fewest pitchers available on any given night. Orem and Grand Junction have the most in the Pioneer League with 22. Other teams range anywhere from 16 (Missoula) to 19 (Billings).
And this shortage has affected it statistically: Idaho Falls has the second-worst team ERA in the Pioneer League (7.36) but has pitched the third-most innings (99), as of Friday.
“We have faith and trust in all the right-handed pitchers we have,” Silva said. “Because it’s all we have.”
This isn’t anything new for Chukars pitching coach Jeff Suppan, who’s in his third year in Idaho Falls.
Suppan said last year he had to work with the opposite — mostly left handed pitchers. The 17-year MLB veteran added that the purpose of the minors is trying to get pitchers to work on certain pitches, not worrying about aligning certain pitchers against certain batters like one might see at higher levels.
“It is a part of the minors” Suppan said. “I coach who’s here and try to get each guy better.”
Robby Rinn, one of the Chukars’ best hitters this season (he leads the league with 19 RBIs), said he’s noticed how Idaho Falls only has righties in the bullpen.
But he said it hasn’t affected his at-bats during practice or games.
“We’ve been facing a lot of righty’s, actually, except for Orem, but other than that we’ve been heavy righty the whole entire season so far,” Rinn said.
Jake Wakamatsu echoed a similar sentiment for the Chukars’ short bullpen. It’s just a component of the minors Idaho Falls will have to live with.
“That’s tough, too,” Wakamatsu said. “Hopefully we’ll get some guys coming up to help the bullpen.”

Recent Chukars Acquisitions (as of June 30)

• Emmanuel Estevez was recently acquired by the Royals-Arizona League affiliate. Estevez’s departure shrinks the Chukars’ bullpen to 12.

• Jonathan McCray was assigned to triple-A (Omaha Storm Chasers) on June 28 and then returned two days later. He has batted .361 in eight games with Idaho Falls.

• The Chukars acquired the Royals’ 16th round pick in this year’s draft: catcher Chris Hudgins.

Around the Pioneer League (as of June 30)

• Orem and Billings are tied for first in the Pioneer League. The Owls (7-4) have beaten the Chukars twice (10-6 on June 23; 9-3 on June 14) and lost to them once (9-7 on Thursday) this season. Great Falls, Ogden and Idaho Falls are all tied for second in league standings at (6-5).

• The Chukars are tied for second in the South Division behind the Owlz. Both teams feature some of the best offenses in the league (Owlz are batting .342; Chukars’ team batting average is a .309).

• In the North Division, Billings tops the standings at 7-4. The Mustangs have gone 6-4 in the previous 10 games.

• Ogden’s Cristian Santana has the league’s highest batting average (.537) in 41 at-bats this season. Chukars first baseman Robby Rinn, who’s from Rhode Island, leads the league with 17 RBIs.

• Billings has the two best pitchers in the league: Tyler Mondile and Moises Nova. Mondile has a 0.90 ERA in 10 innings pitched. Nova has a 0.96 ERA in 9 and ⅓ innings pitched.

Helena Brewers to relocate to Colorado Springs in 2019

By Luke O’Roark | Post Register
Changes are coming to the Pioneer League soon.
Helena Brewers owner, Elmore Sports Group, announced the team would be relocating to Colorado Springs for the 2019 season Wednesday morning in a press release.
The Brewers will still be a member of the Pioneer League — an eight-team league which includes the Idaho Falls Chukars — according to the press release. The relocation will also see Colorado Springs Sky Sox (triple-A) move to San Antonio and the San Antonio Missions (double-A) move to Amarillo, Texas. All three teams are owned by Elmore Sports Group.
The three teams’ relocations await approval by the Pioneer Baseball League, the Texas League, the Pacific Coast League, the President of Minor League Baseball and the review of Baseball Office of the Commissioner, according to the press release.
“My years in Helena have been some of my fondest in professional baseball,” Brewers owner DG Elmore said the press release. “From the day we moved the club to Helena in 2002, I have enjoyed the people and community and I am sad to move the team at the end of the 2018 season. I am glad there will be two more seasons in Helena and I will cherish them.”
Changes could be looming for the Chukars, too.
With two Colorado teams in the Pioneer’s south division, the Chukars could switch to the north division (which includes Missoula Osprey, Billings Mustangs and Great Falls Voyagers) by 2019.
Idaho Falls is also owned by the Elmore Sports Group and Brewers’ general manager Paul Fetz was a part of the Idaho Falls (then the Padres) organization in 1999.
Idaho Falls has been an affiliate for Kansas City since 2004. The organization has been Idaho Falls-based since 1977.

Meibrys Viloria named Pioneer League MVP


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.

Ogden hosts stressful, successful all-star game

The players line up for the Canadian National Anthem prior to Tuesday’s Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star Game in Ogden, Utah. (Victor Flores /
The players line up for the Canadian National Anthem prior to Tuesday’s Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star Game in Ogden, Utah. (Victor Flores /

Many things occupied Dave Baggott’s mind Tuesday afternoon, but one overruled the rest.

“The game’s about to start pretty soon, but I’m more excited about going to bed without turning the alarm on,” Baggott said with a laugh.

The Ogden Raptors’ president was referencing Tuesday’s Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star Game at Lindquist Field in Ogden, Utah. Baggott and his staff prepared for this game for the better part of a year, and the workload reached exhausting levels Monday and Tuesday.

Ogden was responsible for all of the festivities’ expenses, and the club will collect all of the revenue, Baggott said. The Raptors might not net a profit, but Baggott was proud of the event even before the game began.

“It’s not hard work, it’s just three times the work because normally you’re dealing with one team and one fan base,” Baggott said. “This is a culmination of a year’s worth of work, and we’ll see what the payoff is.”

Ogden announced it would host the 2016 all-star game during last year’s inaugural game in Spokane, Wash. Minor League Baseball officially approved it near the end of the 2015 season, allowing Baggott and company to move forward with the event schedule, ticket packages, TV deals, etc.

The festivities started Monday evening. Players and executives arrived sporadically throughout the day. The players talked to the media at 4:15 p.m., then left for dinner at Needles Lodge at Snowbasin Ski Resort. The players, executives, media and others involved rode gondolas up to the resort.

“I’m not real big on heights, so I’m glad it was the gondolas they were using and not the T-bars,” Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner said. “I talked with a few young men (about the gondola ride) and said, ‘You ever seen anything like that?’ And they said, ‘Never.’ And they may never again.”

Tuesday’s festivities began with a fan fest at 3:30 p.m. Vendors lined the street outside of Lindquist Field, and fans received autographs from the all-stars. Then fans entered the stadium.

General admission tickets cost $18 while bleacher and grass area seats were $12, up from $12 and $6, respectively, for Raptors games. Each ticket served as a voucher that would get fans into four Raptors games for free (a $48 value). Baggott also sold 10-ticket packs that would give fans season tickets for the 2017 season. He said about 20 people

Idaho Falls catcher Meibrys Viloria connects for a single during Tuesday’s Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star game in Ogden, Utah. (Courtesy of Steve Thayer)
Idaho Falls catcher Meibrys Viloria connects for a single during Tuesday’s Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star game in Ogden, Utah. (Courtesy of Steve Thayer)

purchased such packages.

“The expense to put on the all-star game is probably five times greater than putting on a normal game,” Baggott said. “So there’s a lot on the line.”

The all-star game was preceded by a home run derby. Idaho Falls Chukars’ catcher Meibrys Viloria participated in the derby, which was won by Salem-Keizer’s Gio Brusa. The main attraction started at 7:15 p.m., and the Northwest League won 11-5. The announced attendance was 5,339. The game wasn’t broadcast live, but it will air on Root Sports (Rocky Mountain region) at 2 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Sunday.

Next year’s game will be played in Hillsboro, Ore. (home of the Hillsboro Hops), pending MiLB approval.

“We’ll do a postmortem and a debrief,” O’Conner said. “We’ll check with all of the Major League affiliates that participated, and we’ll move forward and ask for an extension.”

Baggott said two things constituted a successful event: a significant profit and minimal mistakes. He wouldn’t know about the first category until after the game, but everything leading up to the game went smoothly, and nothing went noticeably awry during the game. He was also happy to give Ogden exposure, regardless of money.

A successful end to the night, however, had different standards to Baggott.

“We’ll have a little postgame party upstairs at the BBQ for an hour after the game,” Baggott said. “And then I want everybody to get out of my ballpark and go home because I want to go to sleep (laughs).”

Northwest League pounds Pioneer League 11-5


OGDEN, Utah Last year’s inaugural Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star Game concluded in walkoff fashion. The Northwest League won again this year, but the score was not nearly as close.

The Northwest League followed up last year’s 6-5 win in Spokane, Wash. with an 11-5 victory Tuesday at Lindquist Field in Ogden. All four Idaho Falls Chukars who represented the Pioneer League played, but they had quiet performances.

The Pioneer League answered the Northwest’s three-run top of the third inning with a four-run bottom half. Ogden’s DJ Peters tied it at 3-3 with a 445-foot two-run home run to left-center field.

The home team’s lead was short-lived. The Northwest League hit for the cycle in the top of the fourth and scored seven runsto take a commanding 10-4 lead. Home run derby champion Gio Brusa of Salem-Keizer capped the inning with a two-runblast to right field.


The Northwest League finished with 19 hits in the game, and the Pioneer League had seven.

Third baseman Xavier Turner of the Spokane Indians won the game’s Most Valuable Player award. He went 3 for 3 with a solo home run.

Peters’ home run was his only hit in three at-bats, but it was enough to earn him the Pioneer League’s Top Star honor.

I.F.’s Meibrys Viloria was the Pioneer League’s starting catcher, and fellow Chukar Manny Olloque started at third base. Viloria finished 1 for 3 with a single, and Olloque went 0 for 2 with a strikeout and a deep flyout to right.

I.F.’s Yeison Melo replaced Peters in right field in the top of the sixth. He went 0 for 2 with a lineout to left and a game-ending groundout to second.

Chukars reliever Brian Bayliss pitched the sixth inning. The right-hander allowed one earned run on three hits while striking out one.

Five Chukars selected to Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star Game


Five Idaho Falls Chukars will represent the Pioneer League in next week’s Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star Game.

The five Chukars are reliever Brian Bayliss, starting pitcher Alex Luna, right fielder Yeison Melo, third baseman Manny Olloque and catcher Meibrys Viloria. Infielder David Edwards was also named the first alternate for the Pioneer League team. He will join his teammates if any current position player pulls out of the game.

Bayliss was not named to the initial all-star roster, but a spot opened up due to a Luna injury. Luna strained his oblique in Tuesday’s game at Missoula, according to Chukars broadcaster and director of media relations Andrew Haynes.

Viloria and Olloque will start for the Pioneer League, and Melo will come off the bench.

Going into Wednesday, Viloria led the league in batting average (.455), on-base percentage (.504), slugging percentage (.804), doubles (15), RBIs (36) and total bases (90). He and Melo were tied for first in hits with 51, and


Olloque was third with 50.

Viloria’s 1.308 OPS was tops in all of Minor League Baseball, according to

Olloque was hitting .355 with a .891 OPS through Tuesday, and Melo hit .345 with an .859 OPS.

Luna leads all Pioneer League starters with a 2.48 ERA (minimum 0.8 innings pitched per start). He’s also struck out 42 and walked seven in 40 innings pitched.

Through Tuesday, Bayliss had a 2.51 ERA, 10 strikeouts and five walks in 14.1 innings pitched.

First baseman Josh Banuelos, outfielder Amalani Fukofuka and reliever Tripp Davis represented I.F. in last season’s inaugural all-star game, which was played in Spokane, Wash. This year’s game will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 2 around 7 p.m. in Ogden, Utah.

Here are the full rosters (asterisk = starter):

Pioneer League
RHP Brian Bayliss, Idaho Falls
LHP Nate Bertness, Orem
SS Jasrado Chisholm, Missoula
3B Brady Conlan, Great Falls
RHP Colton Cross, Helena
RHP Jordan Desguin*, Helena
RHP Jake Elliott, Great Falls
LHP Roberth Fernandez, Ogden
RHP Connor Grey, Missoula
SS Jose Gomez*, Grand Junction
OF Mitchell Hansen* (DH), Ogden
1B Ibandel Isabel, Ogden
RHP Dean Jackson, Missoula
C Ryan January, Missoula
OF Jahmai Jones*, Orem
RHP Andrew Jordan, Billings
RHP Alex Luna, Idaho Falls
RHP Aron McRee, Great Falls
RF Yeison Melo, Idaho Falls
RHP Kenny Oakley, Grand Junction
3B Manny Olloque*, Idaho Falls
OF DJ Peters*, Ogden
2B Jonathan Piron*, Grand Junction
RHP Tony Santillan, Billings
OF Aaron Schnurbusch*, Great Falls
CF Jose Siri, Billings
2B Hector Vargas, Billings
C Meibrys Viloria*, Idaho Falls
RHP Nash Walters, Helena
INF Colton Welker, Grand Junction

Northwest League
SS Chris Baker, Tri-City
INF Cavan Biggio*, Vancouver
1B Jacob Bosiokovic*, Boise
OF Gio Brusa, Salem-Keizer
RHP Jesus Castillo, Eugene
RHP Jared Cheek, Eugene
RHP Tommy Eveld, Hillsboro
RHP Tyler Ferguson, Spokane
RHP Julian Fernandez, Boise
OF Eric Filia*, Everett
RF Ashford Fullmer, Salem-Keizer
OF Robert Garcia*, Eugene
SS Garrett Hampson*, Boise
C Javier Hernandez, Vancouver
OF Kyle Lewis, Everett
RHP Diomar Lopez, Tri-City
RHP Tyler Mark, Hillsboro
RHP Javier Medina, Boise
RHP Brandon Miller, Everett
RHP Patrick Murphy, Vancouver
RHP Liay Newsom, Everett
LHP Jose Paulino, Eugene
OF Chris Pieters* (DH), Eugene
RHP Emmanuel Ramirez, Tri-City
C John Riley, Salem-Keizer
OF Chad Smith, Spokane
C Seth Spivey*, Spokane
3B Xavier Tuner*, Spokane
SS Donnie Walton, Everett
RHP Jake Winston, Hillsboro

Missoula takes Pioneer League title with 8-1 win over Chukars

The Idaho Falls Chukars took the field for 82 games this season, the maximum any Pioneer League team can play. In many years, that would equate to a championship.

They fell one win short.

The Chukars fell to the Missoula Osprey 8-1 in Wednesday night’s winner-take-all championship series game in front of 1,178 fans at Ogren-Allegiance Park in Missoula, Mont. Missoula captured its fourth Pioneer League championship, and its second over Idaho Falls. The Osprey beat the Chukars in 2006, as well.

“Who wanted it more than these guys? Nobody did, nobody did,” Osprey manager Joe Mather told The Missoulian, shortly before taking an icewater bath and unveiling a banner. “This is the best team I’ve ever been a part of. I’m so proud of these guys. It was a team effort the entire way.”

Missoula has now won Pioneer League titles in 1999, 2006, 2012 and 2015.

The Chukars were vying for their second league title. The first came in 2013.

On Wednesday, I.F. took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth and had a chance to score more. But they left the bases loaded. In the bottom half of the inning, Missoula scored three runs, and it never relinquished the lead.

The Osprey scored one in the fifth and four in the sixth to build an insurmountable lead.

Some of the lights went out at Ogren-Allegiance Park right before the ninth inning started, forcing a 20-minute delay, according to The Missoulian, the Chukars and the Osprey. Third baseman Jose Martinez led the inning off with a single, but the Chukars couldn’t get anything else going, and the Osprey celebrated their title.

Counting playoffs, I.F. finished 2015 with a 41-41 record. After the Chukars’ 13-25 first half, getting to the playoffs felt almost unfathomable. But they flipped their first half record in the second half and held off Ogden for the second half division title. I.F.’s 25-13 second half record is its best half since becoming a Royals affiliate in 2004.

The Chukars took the Pioneer League South championship series over Orem in dramatic fashion. They had a chance to sweep in Game 2, but they gave up four runs in the final two innings. Game 3 went to extra innings, and I.F. prevailed 4-3 in 10.

I.F. gave up a team-high 17 runs in an eight-run loss to Missoula in Game 1 of the championship series at Melaleuca Field, but the Chukars bounced back with a 5-3 win at Missoula on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the Chukars hoped to end the season with a 42-40 record and their second championship trophy in three years. Instead, 41-41 and a magical season that fell just short.

Note: With a double and a walk Wednesday night, Chukars second baseman D.J. Burt finished the season with a 60-game on-base streak. That’s the best in affiliated baseball this season, according to the Chukars.

Bill Speltz of The Missoulian contributed to this report

Chukars sweep doubleheader versus Helena; Denson makes history


Before Saturday, Idaho Falls Chukars fans had not seen their team at Melaleuca Field during the month of August.

The Chukars rewarded their fans with a doubleheader sweep over the Helena Brewers on Saturday night. Idaho Falls pulled out a walkoff 8-7 win in extra innings in the first game, and its pitchers shut down Helena in the second game for a 6-1 win.

In the first game, Idaho Falls erased a 3-1 deficit with a run in both the third and fourth innings. The Chukars scored four runs in the fifth inning to pull ahead, and the lead looked safe behind Carter Hope.

The right-handed Hope pitched four straight scoreless innings after his shaky start and was an out away from the Chukars’ first complete game of the season. But he encountered some trouble in the top of the seventh, allowing one run on two hits. Left-hander Tripp Davis replaced Hope after the run scored.

Davis was a Pioneer League all-star with a 2.70 ERA heading into Saturday’s doubleheader, but the side-armer struggled out of the gate. A hit batter, wild pitch and back-to-back singles netted three runs and sent the game into extra innings.

Helena right-hander Jon Olczak shut the Chukars down when he entered the game with two outs in the bottom of the fifth.


Olczak struck out 10 of his first 12 batters faced, allowing one baserunner, and he got two quick outs in the bottom of the ninth. But center fielder Amalani Fukofuka struck a single to right and stole second base, setting up first baseman Josh Banuelos, who was 3 for 4 at that point.

Moments later, he was 4 for 5.

Banuelos hit a deep drive to right field that one-hopped the wall and easily scored Fukofuka for the Chukars’ fourth walkoff win of the season.

Idaho Falls right-hander Josh Staumont made his first professional start in the second game and dominated. The Kansas City Royals’ 2015 second round draft pick went three scoreless innings, allowing one hit and two walks. He struck out seven thanks to a fastball that consistently sat in the high 90s.

Reliever Cruz Guevara gave up one earned run in his three innings, and Drew Milligan pitched a scoreless seventh. The offense supplied six runs on 12 hits.

Collins went 4 for 6 with a solo home run in the first game, second baseman DJ Burt went 5 for 8 (4 for 4 with a triple and double in the second game) and right fielder Brawlun Gomez hit a 440-foot home run in the second game.

Brewer makes major announcement

Helena outfielder and cleanup hitter David Denson came out as gay, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Saturday night. Denson is the first openly gay player actively playing for a team affiliated with the MLB.

Denson joins former major leaguers Billy Bean and Glenn Burke as the only affiliated baseball players to ever come out, according to the Sentinel. Bean and Burke came out after their careers ended. Bean helped Denson reach out to the Sentinel, the newspaper reported.

Denson isn’t the first professional baseball player to come out. Sean Conroy, a pitcher for the independent Sonoma Stompers, came out in June.

Through Saturday, Denson has a .255 batting average with four home runs in 159 at-bats for the Brewers this season.