Chukars build division lead to two games with 8-5 win

The Idaho Falls Chukars got one step closer to a playoff berth Thursday night.

The Chukars cruised past the Owlz 8-5 at Orem, Utah, giving them their first winning record of the season. I.F. now has a two-game lead in the Pioneer League South Division for the second half, thanks to Ogden’s 16-8 loss to Grand Junction. Five games remain.

I.F. fell behind 1-0 after the first inning, but it took control in the top of the second on a two-out, two-run home run from left fielder Roman Collins.

The Chukars never trailed again. In the top of the fourth, second baseman D.J. Burt cleared the bases with a two-out triple, extending the lead to 5-1. Burt’s extended his on-base streak to 51 games with the hit.

The lead grew to 8-1 the next inning on an RBI double from catcher Nick Dini, an RBI groundout from Collins and an RBI single from Carlos Diaz.

The third baseman Diaz was one of I.F.’s two additions before the game. He and left-handed pitcher Nicholas Andros were promoted from the Arizona League Royals. Shortstop Gabriel Noriega ended his rehab assignment with the Chukars on Thursday, as well, and was promoted to Triple-A Omaha.

Bryan Brickhouse pitched three solid innings for the Chukars, giving up one run (earned) on one hit, one walk and three strikeouts.

Dini and designated hitter Brandon Dulin each went 3 for 5. Collins and first baseman Josh Banuelos each went 2 for 5.

Ogden’s elimination number shrunk to four with the loss and I.F.’s win. That means the Chukars can clinch the second half division title with two wins and two Raptor losses.

The Chukars also own the first playoff tiebreaker due to their 9-7 record against Ogden this season, so their divisional lead is really three games.

I.F. (36-35, 23-10 second half) wraps up its two-game series with Orem (38-33, 14-19) tonight at 7:15.

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