By VICTOR FLORES
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Marten Gasparini fouled a ball off of his right ankle. He grimaced and limped, but he stepped back into the batter’s box.
Two pitches later, the Idaho Falls Chukars’ shortstop hit another ball off of his right ankle. This time, he fell to the ground.
“It couldn’t have been more accurate the second time it hit,” Gasparini said.
But Gasparini limped back into the box. On the next pitch, he lined a single to center field.
“The adrenaline kept me going,” Gasparini said.
The Italian switch-hitter followed up a 2 for 4 performance on Tuesday against the Orem Owlz with a 3 for 4, two-triple performance against Orem on Wednesday. He was a key cog in the Chukars’ 11-7 win Wednesday at Melaleuca Field.
“We wanted this game really bad,” Gasparini said. “My effort today was just one of many.”
Gasparini told the Post Register after Tuesday’s game that he was hard on himself in the first half. He was overthinking. The results showed: a team-low .276 on-base percentage, Pioneer League-highs in errors (17) and strikeouts (56).
Thanks to some advice and counseling from his coaches, Gasparini — the Kansas City Royals’ 17th best prospect, according to MLB Pipeline — believes he’s in a better head space, and the early results (two games into the second half) have shown.
“He’s a great kid, he’s a hard worker, he’s always asking questions and trying to get better,” Chukars’ manager Justin Gemoll said. “Now you’re seeing the results on the field.”
Gasparini’s first triple came in the bottom of the fourth. It drove in two runs and gave the Chukars a 3-2 lead in what would be a five-run inning. Gasparini drove in another run with his second triple in the Chukars’ four-run fifth inning, when they took a 9-3 lead.
Gasparini did have two errors in the game, however.
Chukars’ left-handed pitcher Hunter Haynes made his first start in 20 days, and it began like his first five.
Haynes gave up two runs in the top of the first, albeit one earned run due to a Gasparini error. Haynes gave up four or five earned runs in each of his previous five starts, where his ERA was 11.50. He moved to the bullpen for three appearances, where his ERA was 4.50 (Gemoll said Haynes’ move to the bullpen was not performance-based, but due to rest and Idaho Falls’ new pitchers).
Haynes settled down after the first, pitching three straight scoreless innings on two hits and a walk. He struck out a batter in his four innings, and his ERA fell from 9.35 to 8.40.
“I was just more relaxed,” Haynes said. “When I’m relaxed, I can trust what I’m able to do and locate better. Early in the year, I put too pressure on myself early. After a couple outings in the bullpen, it made it a little easier to come back and start a game because I didn’t have to get popped so early.”
The Chukars compiled 15 hits and every hitter reached base, with five having multi-hit games. Those five were second baseman D.J. Burt (2 for 5, three runs), right fielder Amalani Fukofuka (2 for 5), Roman Collins (2 for 5), designated hitter Brawlun Gomez (2 for 4) and third baseman Jeckson Flores (2 for 4, double).
The Chukars (14-26) host the Ogden Raptors (20-20) for a two-game series starting tonight at 7:15 p.m.