Chukars claw back but lose heartbreaker to Osprey

Missoula catcher Andy Yerzy tags out Manny Olloque for the second out of the ninth inning Saturday at Melaleuca Field. The play preserved Missoula’s 12-11 lead, and the Osprey closed the game out a batter later. (Courtesy of Steve Thayer)
Missoula catcher Andy Yerzy tags out Manny Olloque for the second out of the ninth inning Saturday at Melaleuca Field. The play preserved Missoula’s 12-11 lead, and the Osprey closed the game out a batter later. (Courtesy of Steve Thayer)

With one throw, Meibrys Viloria went from hero to afterthought.

The new hero was Missoula Osprey center fielder Billy Endris, who made a game-saving throw in the ninth inning. Missoula prevailed 12-11 over the Idaho Falls Chukars thanks in large part to Endris’ throw, but it was hardly the only momentous play of Saturday’s game at Melaleuca Field.

Billy’s got a gun

Manny Olloque led off the bottom of the ninth inning with an infield single and moved to second on a Yeison Melo bunt. Viloria, the Pioneer League’s best hitter this season, came up next and smacked a single up the middle. Chukars manager Justin Gemoll waved Olloque home.

Endris scooped up the sharp single, gathered and fired a perfect one-hopper to catcher Andy Yerzy. The play was close, but Yerzy clearly tagged Olloque before the Chukars third baseman touched home plate.

Missoula exhaled an at-bat later when David Edwards flew out to left field to end the game.

Chukars refuse to die

As thrilling as Endris’ throw was, Missoula’s pitching staff is kicking itself for letting the game come down to that play.

The Osprey took a 5-2 lead through four innings, an 8-4 lead in the top of the sixth and an 11-7 lead in the middle of the eighth. They were frankly outplaying the Chukars in every area, but I.F. kept lingering due to its explosive bats. In the bottom of the eighth, the Chukars pounced.

I.F. was down 11-8 with two outs and runners on the corners when Rudy Martin stepped to the plate. In an 0-1 count, the left-handed Martin drove a fastball the opposite way. It carried all the way to the video board, 381 feet away, for a game-tying home run. It was Martin’s first home run this season and his second in his two-year minor league career.

Wild night

Chukars reliever Jason Freeman threw three wild pitches Saturday night, and one too many.

In the top of the ninth, Freeman allowed a leadoff double to Eudy Ramos, who reached third base with two outs. With Logan Soole batting, Freeman threw a wild pitch that allowed Ramos to score easily.

The run turned out to be the game-winner.

Player of the game

Osprey first baseman Tanner Hill

In a game full of home runs, Hill is an easy choice for this award. The 6-foot-2, 250-pounder hit two home runs, the first of his 15 game-old professional career. He added a double and a single to finish 4 for 4.

Up next

The Chukars (16-12) and Osprey (12-16) reconvene at Melaleuca Field on Sunday at 4 p.m. Igol Feliz is scheduled to get the start against fellow righty Connor Grey.

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