Category: Game recap

Chukars squander 3-0 lead in eighth inning, fall to Ogden 4-3

The Idaho Falls Chukars took a 3-0 lead over the Ogden Raptors into the eighth inning Thursday. An inning later, they walked off the field with a loss.

The Raptors scored four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to take a 4-3 lead, which they maintained for a win Thursday night at Lindquist Field in Ogden, Utah. Ogden’s two-game sweep shrunk Idaho Falls’ Pioneer League South Division second-half lead to one with 12 games to play.

Flores
Flores

I.F. got on the board first in the top of the second. First baseman Josh Banuelos led off with a single, and left fielder Roman Collins reached on an error a batter later. Designated hitter Kyle Pollock walked two batters later to bring up shortstop Jeckson Flores.

Flores might have been on the bench Thursday if Marten Gasparini was active. But Gasparini is currently in Japan representing Italy in the 2015 World Baseball Softball Confederation U-18 Baseball World Cup, which starts today and ends Sept. 6.

Flores (2 for 4) took advantage of his opportunity in the second, driving in Banuelos and Collins to give the Chukars a 2-0 lead.

That lead would hold until the seventh, when Flores hit a solo home run. Before that blast, Flores had gone nearly five minor league seasons and 974 plate appearances without hitting a home run.

Gordon
Gordon

I.F.’s pitching had silenced the Raptors up to that point. Starter Derek Gordon went five scoreless innings, giving up six hits and two walks with seven strikeouts. The right-hander is now second in the Pioneer League with 61 strikeouts (5.1 per start) on the season.

Fellow righty Alberto Rodriguez pitched two scoreless innings for I.F., as well, but he struggled in the eighth. Following a leadoff strikeout, Rodriquez gave up a solo home run to Alex Santana, a single to Matt Jones and an RBI single to Michael Medina.

Righty Brian Bayliss replaced Rodriguez to face Edwin Rios. The third baseman blasted a 439-foot two-run home run to right field, giving Ogden a 4-3 lead.

This is the third time the Chukars have blown a lead in the eighth inning or later this season. All three losses have come against the Raptors.

I.F. squandered an 8-7 lead heading into the eighth on July 3 (losing 14-10) and an 8-6 lead heading into the ninth on June 30.

Banuelos went 2 for 4 and second baseman D.J. Burt went 2 for 3 with a walk, extending his on-base streak to 44 games.

Idaho Falls (31-33 overall, 18-8 second half) returns home for a four-game series against Grand Junction (27-37, 7-19) starting tonight at 7:15. Ogden (36-28, 17-9) hosts Orem (37-27, 13-13) for a game series starting tonight, as well.

Ogden beats Chukars, creeps closer to South lead

The Idaho Falls Chukars can’t afford many bad performances the rest of the season, especially not in this two-game series at Ogden.

But on Wednesday night, they laid an egg.

I.F. lost 5-1 to the Raptors at Lindquist Field in Ogden, Utah. The Chukars now lead Ogden by two games in the Pioneer League South Division second-half standings with 13 games to play.

Banuelos
Banuelos

I.F. starting pitcher Carter Hope didn’t pitch poorly overall, but a few mistakes increased his season ERA.

After retiring the first six Raptors, Hope gave up a single to third baseman Jimy Perez to lead off the bottom of the third inning. Perez got caught in a rundown a batter later, but he dodged a tag to remain on second base. Faustino Oguisten followed with a home run to left field, giving Ogden a 2-0 lead.

Hope exited the game with one out in the sixth inning after giving up a run on a single, two doubles and a walk. The right-hander was charged with five runs after an RBI double from Oguisten, who finished a triple shy of the cycle.

Hope gave up five earned runs on eight hits, one walk and five strikeouts in 5.1 innings.

The Chukars’ offense had chances but couldn’t deliver a run until the ninth. In the top of the third, I.F. put runners on second and third with no outs but failed to score. In the sixth and seventh, the Chukars had runners on first and second with two outs, but the rallies ended there.

Chukars second base- man D.J. Burt led off the seventh with a walk, but he was picked off. Two batters later, first baseman Josh Banuelos was called out on strikes, and the buildup of frustration reached its boiling point. Banuelos yelled at home plate umpire Luis Hernandez following the strike three call, and Hernandez ejected him. This is the first time an I.F. player has been ejected this season.

Fukofuka.
Fukofuka

Catcher Kyle Pollock hit a solo home run in the top of the ninth, but that was all I.F. could muster.

Center fielder Amalani Fukofuka went 2 for 4 with a double, shortstop Jeckson Flores went 1 for 3 with a walk and Banuelos went 1 for 4. Along with Pollock, those were the only Chukars to get hits in the game.

Burt’s walk extended his on-base streak to 43 straight games.

Drew Milligan and Josh Staumont pitched 2.2 scoreless innings out of the bullpen. Staumont pitched two full innings without allowing a baserunner, and the righty struck out five of the six batters he faced.

The Chukars (31-32, 18-7) look to earn a series split against the Raptors (35-28, 16-9) tonight at 6:30.

Chukars capitalize on Grand Junction mistakes in 9-5 win

Second baseman D.J. Burt of the Idaho Falls Chukars fields the throw to second base in time to tag Sam Hilliard of the Grand Junction Rockies out as Hilliard tries to steal second during the bottom of the third inning of Tuesday's game at Suplizo Field in Grand Junction.  (Gretel Daugherty / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)
Second baseman D.J. Burt of the Idaho Falls Chukars fields the throw to second base in time to tag Sam Hilliard of the Grand Junction Rockies out as Hilliard tries to steal second during the bottom of the third inning of Tuesday’s game at Suplizo Field in Grand Junction. (Gretel Daugherty / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)

Monday’s game had an odd result for the Idaho Falls Chukars. It was a blowout loss.

Idaho Falls had lost five second half games going into Monday’s 10-2 loss to the Grand Junction Rockies, and its largest defeat was by five runs.

The Chukars rebounded on Tuesday with a 9-5 win over the Rockies at Suplizio Field in Grand Junction, Colo. The win, fueled by several Grand Junctions mistakes, gave I.F. a 3-1 series win.

The Chukars fell behind 3-0 after two innings with Todd Eaton on the mound. But Eaton settled down after that, and his offense caught fire in the top of the fifth.

Second baseman D.J. Burt led off the inning with an infield single, extending his hitting streak to 11 games and his on-base streak to 42. Right fielder Amalani Fukofuka singled the next at-bat, but he reached third base and Burt scored on an error by Rockies center fielder Wes Rogers.

Chukars first baseman Josh Banuelos reached on an error the next at-bat, scoring Fukofuka. Left fielder Roman Collins subsequently walked, and catcher Nick Dini reached on an error, scoring Banuelos and Collins.

The Chukars rounded out the scoring on a single by designated hitter Kyle Pollock, a double by third baseman Ryan Dale and a single by center fielder Cody Jones.

In total, I.F. scored seven runs on five hits and four errors in the fifth, taking an 8-3 lead.

Starting pitcher Todd Eaton of the Idaho Falls Chukars throws to a Grand Junction Rockies batter during the bottom of the second inning of Tuesday's game at Suplizio Field in Grand Junction. (Gretel Daugherty / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)
Starting pitcher Todd Eaton of the Idaho Falls Chukars throws to a Grand Junction Rockies batter during the bottom of the second inning of Tuesday’s game at Suplizio Field in Grand Junction. (Gretel Daugherty / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)

The fifth inning proved to be the difference for the Chukars behind Eaton, who retired the last nine batters he faced. The right-hander went 5.1 innings, allowing three runs (all earned) on four hits, three walks, a home run and two strikeouts.

The Chukars drew 10 walks, tied for the second most in a game this season. Collins led the patient charge, walking in all five of his plate appearances. No I.F. batter has walked more in a game this season. The Pioneer League record for walks in a game is six.

Banuelos and Dini each went 2 for 4 with a walk. Dale went 1 for 4 with a double and a walk.

The Chukars (31-31, 18-6 second half) start one of their biggest series of the year tonight at Ogden, Utah, for a two-game series against the Raptors (34-28, 15-9), who trail I.F. by three games in the Pioneer League South Division. Tonight’s series opener starts at 6:30 p.m. Carter Hope gets the start for the Chukars.

Gasparini named to Team Italy

Chukars shortstop Marten Gasparini was not in Tuesday’s lineup. That’s because he had been selected to play for his home country Italy in the 2015 World Baseball Softball Confederation U-18 Baseball World Cup, the Chukars announced around gametime.

The World Cup runs from Aug. 28 to Sept. 6 in Osaka, Japan, with 15 teams participating, including the United States (ranked No. 2). Gasparini, 18, departed for Japan immediately, according to the Chukars, so he could arrive in time for No. 11 Italy’s opening game against No. 3 Cuba on Friday.

Gasparini might return to I.F. if Italy’s World Cup run is short, and if the Chukars make the playoffs and go deep, Chukars director of broadcasting Alex Cohen said.

Gasparini is hitting .262/.339/.419 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) in 225 plate appearances for I.F. this season. He leads the Pioneer League with 79 strikeouts and 35 fielding errors.

Grand Junction Rockies ruffle red-hot Chukars

One day after the Idaho Falls Chukars finally made their way back to .500, they fell flat in Grand Junction, Colo.

 Idaho Falls Chukars second baseman D.J.Burt jumps to make the catch as Grand Junction Rockies baserunner Wes Rogers steals second base in the second inning during Monday nights game from Suplizio Field in Grand Junction, Colo. (Christopher Tomlinson / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)
Idaho Falls Chukars second baseman D.J.Burt jumps to make the catch as Grand Junction Rockies baserunner Wes Rogers steals second base in the second inning during Monday nights game from Suplizio Field in Grand Junction, Colo. (Christopher Tomlinson / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)

The Idaho Falls Chukars started the season 3-3, but improved to 30-30 with an 11-7 victory over the Rockies on Sunday in Grand Junction, Colo.

The record dipped back below .500 with a 10-2 loss to the Rockies on Monday. Combined with Orem’s win over Ogden, the Chukars maintained their three-game lead over the Raptors in the Pioneer League South Division second-half standings.

The Chukars trailed throughout Monday’s game, falling behind 1-0 after one inning and 2-0 after two before I.F. scored a single run in the third on back-to-back two-out singles by Ryan Dale and DJ Burt and an RBI single from Roman Collins.

But the last-place Rockies answered with four runs in the bottom of the third, powered by a two-run double from Jonathan Piron and a two-run single by Bobby Stahel.

I.F. got another run in the fourth on a solo homer from Josh Banuelos, his fourth of the year. But the Rockies scored three more in the bottom of the fourth, another in the fifth and got five shutout innings from four relievers to send the Chukars to only their second loss in the past 10 games.

Burt and Banuelos each had two hits for the Chukars (30-31, 17-6), who wrap up their four-game series in Grand Junction at 7:05 tonight.

 

Chukars dominate Grand Junction 11-7, return to .500

Idaho Falls Chukars shortstop Jeckson Flores tags out Grand Junction Rockies base runner Sam Hilliard, who tried to steal second base in a Sunday afternoon game at Suplizio Filed in Grand Junction, Colo. (Christopher Tomlinson / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)
Idaho Falls Chukars shortstop Jeckson Flores tags out Grand Junction Rockies base runner Sam Hilliard, who tried to steal second base in a Sunday afternoon game at Suplizio Filed in Grand Junction, Colo. (Christopher Tomlinson / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)

The Idaho Falls Chukars started the season 3-3. Fifty-four games later, they returned to .500.

The Chukars dominated the Grand Junction Rockies 11-7 Sunday at Suplizio Filed in Grand Junction, Colo. The win not only got the Chukars back to .500 on the season, it improved their second half record to 17-5 to maintain their three-game lead over the Ogden Raptors.

Idaho Falls got started with a six-run third inning. Third baseman Logan Nottebrok led the inning off with a solo home run. Shortstop Jeckson Flores singled to left field and center fielder Cody Jones bunted for a single that Rockies manager Anthony Sanders disagreed with. He was subsequently ejected for the first time in his managerial career.

Idaho Falls Chukars first baseman Josh Banuelos watches his three-run home run in flight during Idaho Falls’ six-run third inning in a Sunday afternoon game against the Grand Junction Rockies at Suplizio Filed in Grand Junction, Colo. (Christopher Tomlinson / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)
Idaho Falls Chukars first baseman Josh Banuelos watches his three-run home run in flight during Idaho Falls’ six-run third inning in a Sunday afternoon game against the Grand Junction Rockies at Suplizio Filed in Grand Junction, Colo. (Christopher Tomlinson / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)

Second baseman D.J. Burt came up next and doubled, scoring Flores. Two batters later, Josh Banuelos hit a three-run home run (his third of the season) to center field. Idaho Falls scored its final run in the inning after a double from left fielder Roman Collins and a single from catcher Kyle Pollock.

The Chukars took a 6-2 lead into the sixth inning, when they scored three more runs. Nottebrok hit his second home run of the night (and third of the year), a two-run shot two batters into the inning. Burt later scored on a wild pitch.

Jones, Burt, Banuelos, Nottebrok and Flores had three hits apiece. Banuelos was a triple shy of the cycle. Collins also went 2 for 5. The Chukars racked up 18 hits as a team.

Bryan Brickhouse made a rehab start for Idaho Falls, giving up two runs (both earned) on two hits, two walks and two strikeouts in three innings. Brickhouse is making his third stint with the Chukars. He made one start for them in 2012 and pitched 27.2 innings for them last season. Brickhouse pitched 6.1 innings in the Arizona League this season before being promoted to Idaho Falls.

The Chukars (30-30) play Grand Junction (25-35, 5-17 second half) again Monday night at 7:05.

Chukars take opener versus Rockies 6-4

Idaho Falls Chukars left fielder Roman Collins, No. 25, slides into second base safe on an infield out in the second inning as Grand Junction second baseman #2, Jonathon Pinon is late with the tag in a Saturday night game from Suplizio Filed in Grand Junction,CO. (Christopher Tomlinson / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)
Idaho Falls Chukars left fielder Roman Collins, No. 25, slides into second base safe on an infield out in the second inning as Grand Junction second baseman #2, Jonathon Pinon is late with the tag in a Saturday night game from Suplizio Filed in Grand Junction,CO. (Christopher Tomlinson / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)

The second half continues to get better for the Idaho Falls Chukars.

Idaho Falls got another strong start from Derek Gordon, two three-run innings and balance from the lineup in a 6-4 win over the Grand Junction Rockies at Sam Suplizio Field in Grand Junction, Colo., on Saturday night.

The Chukars improved to 29-30 overall and 16-5 in the second half. They lead the Pioneer League South Division second-half standings by three games over the Ogden Raptors and by five over the first-half champion Orem Owlz.

Outside of allowing two solo home runs to Jonathan Piron, Gordon was nearly untouchable. He allowed the solo shots in the second and fourth innings, but just two other hits and a walk while striking out four in 5.2 innings.

Cruz Guevara got the final out of the sixth, and hard-throwing Josh Staumont allowed two runs over the final three innings but closed it out.

The Chukars wiped out a 1-0 deficit in the third when Jeckson Flores walked and scored on DJ Burt’s one-out double to center. Amalani Fukofuka followed with a triple to right, giving I.F. a 2-1 lead. Fukofuka followed Burt home when the cutoff throw from shortstop Brendan Rogers sailed wide of third to make it 3-1.

Idaho Falls added three more runs in the sixth. Roman Collins led off with a single and Nick Dini followed with a single. After Brawlun Gomez and Ryan Dale Struck out, Flores reached on an error that scored Collins and Dini. Cody Jones then singled in Flores from third.

Jones, Burt, Fukofuka and Collins had three hits each for the Chukars, who outhit the Rockies 11-6.

The Chukars and Rockies (25-34 overall, 5-16 second half) play the second game of their four-game series at 4:05 p.m. today.

Red-hot Chukars pull out another win, 5-4 over Billings

By JEFF PINKHAM
jpinkham@postregister.com

It was a game the Idaho Falls Chukars had no business winning. It was a game they would have no doubt lost in the first half of the Pioneer League season.

But this is the second half, and this is a very different Idaho Falls Chukars team.

The Chukars rallied from two late-inning deficits to force extra innings, escaped a mini-jam in the top of the 10th and then beat the Billings Mustangs 5-4 on Brawlun Gomez’s bases-loaded single in the bottom of the 10th in front of 3,195 fans Thursday at Melaleuca Field.

“We just try to fight until the end,” said Idaho Falls right fielder Amalani Fukofuka, who had an RBI single in the eighth and scored the winning run in the 10th. “We always try to play with confidence no matter what’s going on.”

That confidence at the plate was put to the test Thursday.

The Chukars were scuffling against Billings starter Jacob Constante, who allowed just two singles and two walks over the first five innings while striking out six. He was replaced by Austin Orwilier, who was even better. The 6-foot-2 left-hander, a 14th-round draft pick from Rice University this year, allowed a single to Roman Collins in the seventh but nothing else, striking out four of the seven hitters he faced.

Idaho Falls starter Carter Hope was just as good over the first six innings, allowing three hits and no runs while striking out five. But Hope ran out of gas in the seventh, allowing a two-out triple to Jonathan Martijn and a two-run homer to Dalton Carter. The Mustangs pushed across another run when Hector Vargas reached on a Gasparini error, moved to second on a single, to third on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Brantley Bell.

That’s when the Chukars found a little of their second-half magic.

Facing a 3-0 deficit and nothing to build on, Cody Jones singled with one out in the bottom of the seventh. The Chukars then caught a break when Jeckson Flores hit a perfect double-play ball to short. But the ball went through Vargas’ legs to extend the inning. Fukofuka made them pay with an RBI double to right, putting runners on second and third. Josh Banuelos followed with an RBI single to left, and Fukofuka followed Flores home when left fielder Kevin Garcia bobbled the ball.

Billings grabbed the lead back in the top of the ninth on a single from Zach Shields, a sac bunt and another error from Gasparini — his 35th of the season.

But Gasparini’s teammates bailed him out in the bottom of the ninth, getting a leadoff single from Kyle Pollock, a two-strike sac bunt from Ryan Dale and a game-tying single from Jones.

“We win as a team, we lose as a team,” Fukofuka said.

The bottom of the 10th started with a bunt single from Fukofuka, who moved to third on Banuelos’ groundout to third. Billings intentionally walked Collins and Gasparini to load the bases, and Gomez followed with the game-winning hit.

Alberto Rodriguez pitched the final two innings, allowing a bloop double in the 10th before working out of the jam.

Fukofuka finished 3 for 5 with two runs scored and an RBI. Collins went 2 for 3 with two walks and Jones was 2 for 5 with a run scored and an RBI.

The Chukars (28-30 overall, 15-5 second half) went 6-1 on their homestand against Helena and Billings and remained three games ahead of Ogden and four ahead of Orem in the South Division second-half standings. Idaho Falls is off tonight before opening a four-game series at last-place Grand Junction at 7:05 p.m. Saturday.

Another night, another rally for Chukars

Gasparini
Gasparini

By JEFF PINKHAM
jpinkham@postregister.com

The comebacks keep on coming for the Idaho Falls Chukars.

Idaho Falls blew an early 5-0 lead, but another triple from Marten Gasparini, a gutty start from Todd Eaton and an in-and-out-of trouble finish from Drew Milligan led to an 8-6 win over the Billings Mustangs in front of 2,920 fans Wednesday at Melaleuca Field.

It was a typical second-half game for the Chukars, who have won close game after close game over the past three weeks. Idaho Falls improved to 14-5 in the second half, with four wins in extra innings, two by walk-off and seven by one run. In 12 of 19 second-half games, I.F.’s games have been decided by two runs or fewer.

“We’ve seen this since extended spring training,” Idaho Falls manager Justin Gemoll said. “This group fights.”

Gemoll needed that fight from his team after the Chukars blew a 5-0 lead in the fifth inning. It didn’t take long for I.F. to show that fight. After Billings tied the game in the top of the fifth, Joshua Banuelos and Brawlun Gomez hit back-to-back two-out singles and Gasparini followed with his Pioneer League-leading 10th triple to make it 7-5. Gasparini, an 18-year-old from Italy, is one triple away from the league record of 11, held by three players.

Gasparini finished 2 for 2 with three RBIs and his league-leading 24th stolen base.

“The kid can run,” Gemoll said. “And we try to maximize that ability every chance we get.”

The night started well for the Chukars, who got an overpowering 1-2-3 inning from Eaton, and then put the first four men on base in the bottom of the first while taking a 4-0 lead. Josh Banuelos had the big hit, a two-run single to right that led to a third run when Amalani Fukofuka scored on a throwing error.

The Chukars pushed the lead to 5-0 with a single run in the third when Fukofuka led off with a triple and scored on Gasparini’s single to right.

The good feelings ended in the fourth when Billings scored three runs on three hits, all doubles by Shane Mardirosian, Mitch Piatnik and Reydel Medina. The final run scored on Tyler Stephenson’s groundout.

Eaton hurt himself in the fifth when he allowed a leadoff double to Ed Charlton and then tried to do too much on Hector Vargas’ sac bunt. Instead of taking the easy out, Eaton fielded the ball and tried to get Charlton at third. The ball sailed to the fence, allowing Charlton to score and Vargas to reach second. A double by Mitch Trees tied the second.

Despite the struggles, Eaton came out for the sixth and pitched a 1-2-3 inning.

“His stuff was good and we trusted him,” Gemoll said. “The only ball they hit hard was (Charlton’s) double in the sixth.”

Eaton (6.1 innings, five runs, four earned, one walk, four strikeouts) got one out in the seventh before leaving with two men on. Milligan struck out the final two batters of the seventh, worked a scoreless eighth and pitched out of a two-on, none-out jam in the ninth to seal the victory.

These are good times for the Chukars, who hold a three-game lead over Ogden and four-game lead over Orem.

“We want to develop a winning team and a winning culture for Kansas City,” Gemoll said. “Our main goal is to develop players, but if we can win along the way, it’s even better.”

Cody Jones (2 for 5, run, RBI) and Banuelos (2 for 5, 2 runs, 2 RBIs) also had solid nights for Idaho Falls (27-30 overall), which wraps up a seven-game homestand with a final game against Billings at 7:15 p.m. tonight. The Chukars are off Friday before hitting the road Saturday to begin a four-game set at Grand Junction.

Middle infielders can’t lift Chukars in 3-1 loss

Idaho Falls' Chukars' catcher Nick Dini makes the tag on Billings' Mustangs' Kevin Franklin during Tuesday's game at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls’ Chukars’ catcher Nick Dini makes the tag on Billings’ Mustangs’ Kevin Franklin during Tuesday’s game at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)

By VICTOR FLORES
vflores@postregister.com

No position player receives a brighter spotlight than a middle infielder, and the Idaho Falls Chukars showed why Tuesday night.

Shortstop Marten Gasparini and second baseman D.J. Burt provided the only offensive sparks for Idaho Falls in a 3-1 loss to the Billings Mustangs at Melaleuca Field. The middle infielders also stole the show on defense, but not every play was golden.

“They’re young kids,” Chukars manager Justin Gemoll said. “It’s been fun to watch them develop.”

In the bottom of the first, Burt drew a one-out walk, reached third on an error and scored on a sacrifice fly by left fielder Roman Collins. That run tied the game at 1-1, but it was all the Chukars could muster against righty Tanner Rainey and two relievers.

Burt continued his hot streak, going 1 for 2 with two walks. The 19-year-old has now reached base in 37 straight games in which he’s had a plate appearance. His batting average has risen from .100 to .263 in that span, and he’s now tied for second in the Pioneer League with 30 walks.

“I’ve been aggressive on the fastball,” Burt said. “Trying not to miss it as much. When times get rough, I try to bunt every now and then.”

Burt’s lone hit on Tuesday was a bunt single.

Burt did, however, commit a fielding error in the ninth inning that nearly led to a run. Gasparini prevented Billings from scoring on a lunging grab and an accurate throw home to gun down shortstop Blake Trahan.

Billings' Shane Mardirosian dives safely back to first base barely avoiding the tag by Idaho Falls' Logan Nottebrok during Tuesday's game at Melaleuca Field.
Billings’ Shane Mardirosian dives safely back to first base barely avoiding the tag by Idaho Falls’ Logan Nottebrok during Tuesday’s game at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)

Like Burt, Gasparini has experienced a similar offensive renaissance. Since the second half began on July 27, the 18-year-old Gasparini has improved his batting average from .205 to .264. On Tuesday, the Italy native went 2 for 3 with a walk and three stolen bases, increasing his Pioneer League lead with 23 swipes.

Gasparini said a talk with position coach Ramon Castro and some work in the batting cages have led to the improvement. But another key factor was a visit from his family in late June.

“They gave me a lot of positive energy,” Gasparini said. “When your family’s here watching you, you understand that at the end, they’re always going to be there for you.”

But Gasparini has still struggled in the field. After five errors Monday, he committed another one Tuesday. He now leads the league with 33 errors.

Gemoll said Gasparini’s athleticism leads to more errors, since he’s able to reach ground balls or line drives other players would miss. He and Gasparini said it’s a matter of time before the errors subside.

“I’m still trying to figure something out on the defensive part just how to be more consistent, how to be in a more solid position every pitch,” Gasparini said. “It’s not easy to do — nine-inning games, 140 pitches — to be focused on every single one of them. But I’ve been working on it, and hopefully it’s going to keep on improving.”

Gasparini and Burt were responsible for two of the Chukars’ three errors, but they also recorded three of the Chukars’ four hits. The rest of the offense couldn’t figure out Rainey (no earned runs in 5.2 innings) or the bullpen, whose only baserunner allowed came on a passed ball.

Todd Eaton takes the hill for Idaho Falls (26-30, 13-5 second half) against Billings (26-29, 9-9) tonight at 7:15.

Fukofuka gets throwback walk-up song, game-winning hit in 9-8 Chukars victory

Fukofuka.
Fukofuka.

By MARLOWE HEREFORD
mhereford@postregister.com

Idaho Falls Chukars outfielder Amalani Fukofuka entered Monday’s opening game of a four-game homestand against the Billings Mustangs looking for a new walk-up song.

He not only left with a throwback to walk up to, but the game-winning hit to conclude a rollercoaster 9-8 victory before 3,144 fans at Melaleuca Field.

Before his third at-bat, the opening verse to “Say My Name” by Destiny’s Child blared through the Melaleuca speakers. He got a single in that at-bat, followed by a single and the game-winning RBI double in his final two appearances to finish the night 3-for-5.

The outfielder said he not only enjoyed the song chosen by the guys working in the booth, but called it fitting for his name which has drawn much attention throughout the league this season.

“I started laughing when it started playing,” Fukofuka said. “I actually told one of the guys who worked here that I didn’t like my old walk-up song and I told them to just pick whatever. I’ll stick with it.”

The song seemed to do the trick, as the win put the Chukars at 13-4 in the second half of the season. It also maintained I.F.’s lead in the Pioneer League South Division second-half standings to three games over the Ogden Raptors and Orem Owlz, who are both tied for second at 10-7.

It was also the latest in a recent string of rallies for the Chukars. Idaho Falls saw its 3-2 lead through two innings disappear as the Mustangs bats heated up and Chukars errors (five, all by shortstop Marten Gasparini) started taking a toll. Consecutive walks and a wild pitch by I.F. relief pitcher Brandon Thomas resulted in Ed Charlton coming home to put Billings up 7-3 entering the seventh inning stretch.

Idaho Falls responded with runs by D.J. Burt and Fukofuka in the bottom of the seventh and four runs in the bottom of the eighth, which saw five consecutive Chukars go to bat before the first out.

“They didn’t panic,” Chukars manager Justin Gemoll said. “They were trying to have good at-bats. Everyone’s been doing a good job of competing all year.”

Catcher Kyle Pollock went 2 for 4 with a two-run, 406-foot homer in the bottom of the second and Cody Jones went 3 for 5 with a double and two runs scored. Thomas earned the win, giving up three runs on four hits while walking four and strking out one in four innings.

Idaho Falls (26-29) faces Billings (25-29) for game two tonight at 7:15 p.m.

SUNDAY’S GAME: The Chukars got a strong start from Derek Gordon and completed a three-game series sweep with a 6-5 win over Helena on Sunday at Melaleuca Field.

Gordon had a no-hitter through 5.2 innings before a Gasparini error extended the inning. Malik Collymore broke up the no-hitter with a two-run home run. Helena added two more runs in the sixth to tie the game.

The Chukars took a 5-4 lead in the seventh when Cody Jones tripled and DJ Burt walked. Both runners came home on a botched pickoff play.

Helena got a run in the eighth, but Brian Bayliss pitched a scoreless ninth to secure the win.

Burt went 2 for 3 with three runs scored, Luis Lara was 3 for 4 and Joshua Banuelos was 2 for 4 with a run to lead the Chukars.