Errors and poor pitching led to the Idaho Falls Chukars’ late-inning collapse on Friday. So how did they respond? By committing zero errors and shutting down the Helena Brewers’ lineup.
I.F.’s lineup was its usual self, as well. All of those ingredients added up to a 9-2 win over Helena on Saturday night at Kindrick Legion Field. The victory kept the Chukars tied with Orem for first place in the Pioneer League South standings.
In one inning, I.F.’s lineup turned a pitchers’ dual into a comfortable lead. One inning later, the game became a laugher.
The Chukars and Brewers were tied at 1-1 heading into the fifth. Ryan Dale reached on an error to start the inning, sparking a four-run rally.
Dale led off the sixth with a walk, which sparked another four-run inning.
Catcher MJ Sanchez, shortstop Ricky Aracena and right fielder Yeison Melo recorded a hit in both the fifth and sixth. Sanchez provided the only extra-base hit — a double — in the two frames, and he finished the game 3 for 4.
The Chukars surrendered a 6-1 lead the night before. 9-1 proved too much for Helena to overcome, thanks in large part to their starting pitcher.
Chukars right-hander Arnaldo Hernandez has a quick pickoff move to first base that has sniped baserunners all season. Hernandez picked off another one Saturday, upping his season total to four.
The way he was pitching Saturday, Helena couldn’t afford to lose baserunners. Hernandez went 5.2 innings, allowing one earned run on seven hits, two walks and seven strikeouts. It was tied for his longest start of the season.
The Ogden Raptors are four games back of the Chukars and Owlz, but their chances of catching either team in the first half ended Saturday with a loss. The South division has two teams vying for the first half title, and four games remain.
I.F. (20-14) wraps up its four-game series at Helena (13-21) on Sunday and travels to Missoula (13-21) for three games starting Monday.
Orem, meanwhile, wraps up its four-game home series with Great Falls (18-16) on Sunday. The Owlz (20-14) then host Billings (21-13) for a three-game set starting Monday.
Billings and Great Falls are the only teams still breathing in the North division, but the Mustangs can clinch the first half title on Sunday with a win and a Voyagers loss.
Player of the game
Chukars starting pitcher Arnaldo Hernandez
Five I.F. batters recorded at least two hits, but Hernandez kept the Chukars in the game and clamped down after his lineups two big innings.
First pitch between the Chukars and Brewers Sunday is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. Igol Feliz gets the start for I.F. against fellow righty Karsen Lindell.