By VICTOR FLORES
Before Saturday, Idaho Falls Chukars fans had not seen their team at Melaleuca Field during the month of August.
The Chukars rewarded their fans with a doubleheader sweep over the Helena Brewers on Saturday night. Idaho Falls pulled out a walkoff 8-7 win in extra innings in the first game, and its pitchers shut down Helena in the second game for a 6-1 win.
In the first game, Idaho Falls erased a 3-1 deficit with a run in both the third and fourth innings. The Chukars scored four runs in the fifth inning to pull ahead, and the lead looked safe behind Carter Hope.
The right-handed Hope pitched four straight scoreless innings after his shaky start and was an out away from the Chukars’ first complete game of the season. But he encountered some trouble in the top of the seventh, allowing one run on two hits. Left-hander Tripp Davis replaced Hope after the run scored.
Davis was a Pioneer League all-star with a 2.70 ERA heading into Saturday’s doubleheader, but the side-armer struggled out of the gate. A hit batter, wild pitch and back-to-back singles netted three runs and sent the game into extra innings.
Helena right-hander Jon Olczak shut the Chukars down when he entered the game with two outs in the bottom of the fifth.
Olczak struck out 10 of his first 12 batters faced, allowing one baserunner, and he got two quick outs in the bottom of the ninth. But center fielder Amalani Fukofuka struck a single to right and stole second base, setting up first baseman Josh Banuelos, who was 3 for 4 at that point.
Moments later, he was 4 for 5.
Banuelos hit a deep drive to right field that one-hopped the wall and easily scored Fukofuka for the Chukars’ fourth walkoff win of the season.
Idaho Falls right-hander Josh Staumont made his first professional start in the second game and dominated. The Kansas City Royals’ 2015 second round draft pick went three scoreless innings, allowing one hit and two walks. He struck out seven thanks to a fastball that consistently sat in the high 90s.
Reliever Cruz Guevara gave up one earned run in his three innings, and Drew Milligan pitched a scoreless seventh. The offense supplied six runs on 12 hits.
Collins went 4 for 6 with a solo home run in the first game, second baseman DJ Burt went 5 for 8 (4 for 4 with a triple and double in the second game) and right fielder Brawlun Gomez hit a 440-foot home run in the second game.
Brewer makes major announcement
Helena outfielder and cleanup hitter David Denson came out as gay, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Saturday night. Denson is the first openly gay player actively playing for a team affiliated with the MLB.
Denson joins former major leaguers Billy Bean and Glenn Burke as the only affiliated baseball players to ever come out, according to the Sentinel. Bean and Burke came out after their careers ended. Bean helped Denson reach out to the Sentinel, the newspaper reported.
Denson isn’t the first professional baseball player to come out. Sean Conroy, a pitcher for the independent Sonoma Stompers, came out in June.
Through Saturday, Denson has a .255 batting average with four home runs in 159 at-bats for the Brewers this season.
I briefly spoke with David Denson. "It's a lot to take in right now," he said. "I'm a ball player first. That's what I'm focusing on."
— Victor Flores (@VictorFlores_IF) August 16, 2015