Chukars squander seven-run lead, prevail 9-8 in extras

For the second straight night, the Idaho Falls Chukars squandered a lead and went into extra innings.

For the second straight night, the Chukars prevailed in the 10th inning.

And for the eighth straight game, Idaho Falls earned a victory.

The Chukars surrendered an 8-1 lead to the Helena Brewers, but Ryan Dale hit a solo home run in the 10th to extend Idaho Falls’ winning streak Saturday at Kindrick Legion Field.

Dale
Dale

“It’s a good feeling knowing you’re helping the team out,” Dale said via Chukars’ director of broadcasting Alex Cohen. “It’s fun. It’s awesome to keep winning. Hopefully we’ll make the playoffs.”

The Chukars scored five runs in the top of the first inning, the second time they’ve done that this series. Idaho Falls scored five in the first inning of Thursday’s series opener.

On Saturday, second baseman DJ Burt hit a leadoff triple, and he scored the next at-bat on a double by left fielder Roman Collins. Two batters later, first baseman Josh Banuelos (2 for 4, walk) drove Collins in with a single. Banuelos scored two batters later on a sacrifice fly from shortstop Marten Gasparini (1 for 4).

Brawlun Gomez came up next and crushed a two-run home run to center field. Gomez (1 for 5) now leads the Chukars with eight home runs this season.

The Chukars extended their lead to 8-1 in the fourth on a two-RBI double from Collins (2 for 5).

Idaho Falls starting pitcher Carter Hope had been cruising to that point, but he gave up three runs in the fourth and one in the fifth. Hope pitched five full innings, giving up five earned runs on seven hits, two walks and two strikeouts.

Helena, like last night down 6-3, crept back.

They scored a run in the seventh, eighth and ninth inning to tie the game 8-8 and send the game into extra innings.

But they nearly walked off.

Helena tied the game with no outs on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to center field. Amalani Fukofuka’s throw skirted away, allowing the runners to advance to second and third. Helena loaded the bases again on an intentional walk, bringing up Jose Cuas. The third baseman attempted a suicide squeeze bunt, but he lined it into the glove of Banuelos, who threw to third base for an inning-ending double play.

Dale, who was in a 4 for 34 slump heading into Saturday, came up second in the 10th. The third baseman drilled a Jon Olczak pitch to the opposite field. It cleared the wall for his second home run of the season and a 9-8 lead for Idaho Falls.

“I was pretty nervous, but I got up there and tried to look for an elevated fastball,” Dale said. “I got what I wanted and put a good swing on it.”

Dale said it’s the first time he’s hit a game-winning home run.

Alberto Rodriguez, who blew a save in the ninth inning, pitched a scoreless bottom of the 10th to secure the eighth straight victory.

Dale and Burt each went 2 for 5, with Burt hitting two triples. Dini went 3 for 5, and catcher Luis Lara went 2 for 4 in his first game as a Chukar.

Idaho Falls (21-26, 8-1 second half) looks to sweep Helena (18-27, 2-7) today at 1:05 p.m.

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