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.
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.
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.