The Idaho Falls Chukars’ locker room was nearly silent after Saturday’s game. The few players who spoke whispered, and smiles were absent. Anyone at the game understood why.
The Chukars surrendered an early six-run lead and fell 7-6 to the Great Falls Voyagers on Saturday night at Melaleuca Field. I.F.’s offense disappeared and the defense made crucial mistakes in the team’s fifth straight loss.
Chukars jump ahead early
The Chukars had scored four runs in the three games prior to Saturday’s. They overcame that margin with two swings.
The first came from third baseman Manny Olloque, who launched a 390-foot, three-run home run to left field in the bottom of the first inning. The blast put I.F. ahead 3-0.
Yeison Melo made the second swing, which also delivered a three-run homer. His traveled a few feet to the right of the foul pole in left field and landed 444 feet away from home plate. It put the Chukars up 6-0 through three innings.
On their most recent road trip, the Chukars scored six or more runs in one of their seven games. That was their only win of the trip, an 8-6 victory over the Voyagers.
I.F. nursed a 6-4 lead heading into the seventh inning. Great Falls’ first two hitters of the inning reached base, and they moved to second and third on a Brady Conlan sacrifice bunt. The next hitter, Jameson Fisher, laced a double down the right field line to tie the game at 6-6.
Two innings later, Conlan hit a two-out double and reached third base on an errant throw by left fielder Rudy Martin. With the infield in, Fisher hit a tricky one-hopper to Ricky Aracena. The shortstop couldn’t handle it, and Conlan touched home plate to put the Voyagers up 7-6.
Errors up there
Aracena’s boot in the ninth inning wasn’t ruled an error, but it encapsulated another error-filled game for I.F.
The Chukars committed four errors in the game. Great Falls scored runs after three of them.
The most blatant examples of I.F.’s defensive struggles happened in the top of the fifth inning. Ahead 6-0 with two outs, Olloque whiffed on a simple ground ball that put Joel Booker on first. Booker advanced to third on a wild pitch during the next at-bat, and he scored on a Max Dutto single. Dutto moved up to third during the next at-bat on a wayward pickoff attempt from pitcher Arnaldo Hernandez. Two batters later, Conlan drove in Dutto and Aaron Schnurbusch (who walked) with a double.
The Chukars lead the Pioneer League with 116 errors (2.3 per game) this season. The next closest team in the league is Orem, which has committed 84 errors (1.7 per game).
Players of the game
The Voyagers’ bullpen
Relievers Brandon Magallones, Richard McWilliams and Kevin Escorcia shut down the Chukars for the final five innings. Together, they allowed one hit and one walk while striking out seven.
Great Falls’ bullpen also allowed one hit over four scoreless innings Friday.
The Chukars (26-25 overall, 4-9 second half) and Voyagers (29-21, 8-4) return to Melaleuca Field Sunday at 4 p.m. I.F.’s Igol Feliz (5.80 ERA) takes on fellow righty Jake Elliott (3.33).