Wild night: Chukars inch closer to first place with an 11-10 win over Ogden

Idaho Falls Chukars second baseman Jordan Ebert rounds third base in the first inning of the game aganist the Ogden Raptors on Tuesday night at Melaleuca Field. (Taylor Carpenter / tcarpenter@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls Chukars second baseman Jordan Ebert rounds third base in the first inning of the game aganist the Ogden Raptors on Tuesday night at Melaleuca Field. (Taylor Carpenter / tcarpenter@postregister.com)

The Idaho Falls Chukars and Ogden Raptors began Tuesday’s game in almost comedic fashion, peppering the first inning with errors and poorly located pitches.

The first inning ended with 11 unearned runs, a fitting start to a three-and-a-half-hour game (I.F.’s 18-7 win on Monday also lasted that long). The Chukars waded through the mess and prevailed 11-10 at Melaleuca Field. I.F. has now taken the first three games of the four-game series, and sits 2.5 games behind Grand Junction for first place in the Pioneer League South Division. Nine games remain.

Wild first inning

The the first inning began with an error from shortstop Ricky Aracena. The inning ended 45 minutes later.

The intervening minutes were filled with three additional errors, eight hits and 11 runs.

Ogden scored the first five of those runs thanks in large part to Aracena’s boot on a sharp ground ball. In fact, four of the Raptors’ runs came with two outs, and none of the runs against starter Matt Portland were earned.

Idaho Falls Chukars pitcher Matt Portland pitches during the first inning of the game aganist the Ogden Raptors on Tuesday night at Melaleuca Field. (Taylor Carpenter / tcarpenter@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls Chukars pitcher Matt Portland pitches during the first inning of the game against the Ogden Raptors on Tuesday night at Melaleuca Field. (Taylor Carpenter / tcarpenter@postregister.com)

But just because Portland’s ERA went down doesn’t mean he pitched well. The left-hander fell behind seven of the eight batters he faced, and 20 of his 41 pitches were balls. Aracena’s error and a couple of bloop singles turned a rough inning into a short outing. Portland was relieved by Nick Andros with two outs in the top of the first.

Portland’s final batter was Jordan Paroubeck, who hit a bloop double that resulted in a collision between second baseman Jordan Ebert and right fielder Nick Heath. Ebert was fine, but Heath was shaken up and left the game.

The Raptors helped the Chukars get back into the game in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Meibrys Viloria and Yeison Melo each reached on fielding errors by Ogden’s middle infield. Joe Dudek and Angelo Castellano followed with RBI hits, and Dudek scored on a wild pitch to cut the deficit to 5-4.

With two outs, Ebert doubled to drive in Castellano. Rudy Martin drove in Ebert with a single up the middle, and he nearly scored after center fielder DJ Peters allowed the ball to roll past him. Martin ended up on third base, where he was stranded to end the inning. The Chukars led 6-5.

Ogden finished the game with six errors.

Back-and-forth they go

The Raptors responded to the turbulent first with three runs in the second, and they increased the lead to 10-6 lead in the fifth. The Chukars scored two in the bottom half and had a good chance to tie it. But they couldn’t plate runners on second and third with no outs.

The Chukars promptly tied it up in the sixth inning, but they again left something on the table. With two outs and runners on first and second, Martin singled up the middle. Manny Olloque had an easy path home, but Ebert complicated matters by trying to reach third. Peters’ throw beat Ebert to the base, and the umpire ruled that he was tagged out before Olloque touched home plate. So the score remained 10-10.

Luckily for the Chukars, the lineup stayed hot in the seventh. Luke Willis singled and reached second on an error to open the inning. Aracena bunted him over, and Viloria drove him in with a sacrifice fly to left field.

Cole Way pitched 3.1 scoreless innings out of the bullpen, and Richard Lovelady earned his fourth save with a scoreless ninth.

Player of the game

Chukars first baseman Joe Dudek

Dudek’s hot streak continued on Tuesday, when he went 3 for 5 with a double and a solo home run. Dudek is now 10 for 19 (.526) with three home runs and three doubles in his last six games.

Up next

The Chukars (35-32 overall, 13-16 second half) will try to sweep the Raptors (32-35, 15-14) at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday. Righty Alex Luna (2.62 ERA) will make his first start for I.F. since he strained his oblique on July 26 (he’s made two relief appearances in the last week).

Bats come alive in Chukars’ 18-7 win

Castellano
Castellano

The Idaho Falls Chukars took out a month’s worth of frustration Monday night at Melaleuca Field.

The Chukars, winners of just eight games in August entering Monday, used an eight-run seventh inning and 21 hits overall to crush the Ogden Raptors 18-7 in front of 1,424 fans. The win, combined with Grand Junction’s 12-inning loss to Orem, left Idaho Falls three games back in the Pioneer League South Division second-half standings with 10 games left in the regular season.

Who needs defense?

Idaho Falls kicked the ball around early Monday, committing four errors and pushing their season total to a league-high 151. Those miscues, along with 15 Ogden hits, led to plenty of runs, but they weren’t enough to overcome the Chukars’ relentless offense.

Idaho Falls matched its season high for runs and fell two hits short of its season-best total of 23. All nine Chukars batters had a hit, with all but Manny Olloque and Ryan Dale getting at least two knocks.

Even with all that offense this was a close game entering the seventh. Idaho Falls briefly lost its lead in the top of the fourth, but scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth and single runs in the fifth and sixth to go ahead 9-7. Then the Chukars went crazy in the seventh, riding 10 hits and two errors to score eight runs and put the game away.

Idaho Falls reliever Jason Freeman was an overlooked hero Monday. The right-hander entered with two outs in the fifth and worked the next three innings, allowing four hits but no runs while striking out six.

Meibrys Viloria was one of many offensive heroes, going 3 for 5 with two doubles, two runs and four RBIs. Viloria needs just four doubles to tie the Pioneer League single-season record. Angelo Castellano and Nick Heath each had two runs and three RBIs.

Player of the game

Chukars second baseman Angelo Castellano

Castellano entered the game on a day off, and he looked plenty rested. The right-handed hitter went 4 for 4 with a triple, two runs and three RBIs to push his season average to .284.

Up next

The Chukars and Raptors play the third game of their four-game series today, with Matt Portland (4-3, 5.57 ERA) scheduled to start for Idaho Falls.

Sunday’s game

CHUKARS 2, RAPTORS 1: Idaho Falls got a dominating start from Andres Machado and a game-winning hit from Yeison Melo in the bottom of the eighth to earn a win over Ogden in front of 1,352 fans at Melaleuca Field.

Machado was overpowering from the start, striking out six of the first nine batters he faced, finishing with nine over six shutout innings. He allowed just a harmless single in the fourth.

Melo gave the Chukars a 1-0 lead in the fourth with a solo homer, his fifth of the season. But the Raptors tied the game in the top of the eighth with a solo homer from Brock Carpenter.

Idaho Falls quickly regained the lead, getting a leadoff walk from Manny Olloque and a fielder’s choice from Meibrys Viloria. Joe Dudek followed with a groundout, pushing Viloria to second. Melo then singled to deep short and Viloria raced home with the go-ahead run.

Melo finished 3 for 4. Richard Lovelady got the final three outs to earn his third save.

Chukars crumble in an 11-5 loss to Orem

Idaho Falls Chukars bat boy Derik Johnson congratulates Joe Dudek after Dudek’s two-run home run in the bottom of the fourth inning against the Orem Owlz Saturday at Melaleuca Field. (Courtesy of Steve Thayer)
Idaho Falls Chukars bat boy Derik Johnson congratulates Joe Dudek after Dudek’s two-run home run in the bottom of the fourth inning against the Orem Owlz Saturday at Melaleuca Field. (Courtesy of Steve Thayer)

The Idaho Falls Chukars went 7-12 on the road in the first half, yet they almost won the Pioneer League South Division title. league-best 15-4 home record kept them in the hunt.

The road struggles have worsened in the second half (3-10), and I.F. has plummeted down to average at home.

I.F. fell to the Orem Owlz 11-5 on Saturday night at Melaleuca Field. The Chukars are now 7-6 at home in the second half, and the division crown continues to stiff-arm them. They’re dwelling at the bottom of the South standings, five games back of the Ogden Raptors. Twelve games remain.

So close, yet so far

Saturday’s game went back-and-forth for eight innings. Even the Owlz’ three-run rally top of the seventh, which gave them 6-2 lead, was answered. The Chukars scored twice in the bottom half.

Orem’s lead was cut to one when Luke Willis hit a one-out RBI triple in the bottom of the eighth. But Rudy Martin and Nick Heath each struck out, providing omens for the next inning.

Cole Way came in to pitch the top of the ninth, and he lasted a long time in terms of minutes, not outs. Way faced eight batters and recorded one out. He allowed four hits and walked three, leading to five runs (all earned) and an 11-5 for Orem.

“We’ve been fighting,” Chukars first baseman Joe Dudek said. “We just seem to have that one inning that kinda kills us.”

It was a rough night for the entire Chukars bullpen. Starter Igol Feliz allowed three runs (one earned) in six innings. The righty was replaced by lefty Christian Flecha, who allowed three runs (two earned) in the first of his two innings. Overall, the relievers allowed seven hits and four walks while striking out two.

Dudek thrives as I.F. dives

I.F.’s subpar second half has coincided with a Joe Dudek hot streak.

Dudek went 0 for 3 on Aug. 13 against Great Falls, dropping his batting average to .207 and his OPS to .672. The first baseman has gone 16 for 36 (.444) since, including a 1 for 2 showing on Saturday in which he drew three walks and hit two-run home run.

His batting average is now .319, and his OPS is around 1.000.

“I feel comfortable in the box. That’s really all there is,” Dudek said. “Seeing pitches pretty well, putting good swings on it and good things have happened.”

Player of the game

Owlz left fielder Zach Gibbons

Orem first baseman Nick Flair and Jose Rojas each produced three hits, but Gibbons reached base more times. Gibbons went 2 for 3 with two walks, and he stole two bases.

Edwards gets promoted

Chukars infielder David Edwards was promoted to Single-A Lexington on Saturday. The Kansas City Royals did not send player to the Chukars as of Saturday night.

Edwards appeared in 51 games for the Chukars, and he was positioned all over the field. The 23-year-old played 22 games at first base, 16 at second and six at third, according to Baseball-Reference (he was I.F.’s designated hitter in his other seven games).

Edwards hit .284 with a .346 on-base percentage and a .490 slugging percentage in 218 plate appearances. His eight home runs lead the Chukars, as well.

Up next

The Chukars (32-31 overall, 10-16 second half) welcome the Ogden Raptors (32-32, 15-11) for a crucial four-game series starting Sunday. I.F.’s Andres Machado (4.17 ERA) takes on fellow righty William Soto (5.31). First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m.

Chukars’ groundskeeper cultivates baseball passion

Melaleuca Field grounds keeper Ryan Coleman, finishes spray painting the batters box for a recent Chukars game against the Great Falls Voyagers. (Bill Schaefer for the Post Register / prphoto@postregister.com)
Melaleuca Field grounds keeper Ryan Coleman, finishes spray painting the batters box for a recent Chukars game against the Great Falls Voyagers. (Bill Schaefer for the Post Register / prphoto@postregister.com)

By KEVIN TREVELLYAN
ktrevellyan@postregister.com

Baseball fans take their seats by the hundreds during any given summer evening at Melaleuca Field to watch the Idaho Falls Chukars play.

The announcer lists batters’ names as they step up to home plate. Foul-tipped balls arc in the warm air into the parking lot while players stand watching the game with their arms hanging over the dugout railing.

Elsewhere, usually behind home plate and anonymous to fans watching baseballs skid across the closely trimmed outfield grass, Ryan Coleman sits in the grandstand — likely one of the sport’s youngest professional head groundskeepers.

For Coleman, 24, game days usually run from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.; he’s there long after fans go home and pitchers have begun strapping ice packs to their arms.

Idaho Falls Chukars head groundskeeper Ryan Coleman pulls a “nail drag” across the home plate area at Melaleuca Field with his intern, Bryan Duffy. The nail drag levels out the ground and allows the groundskeepers to smooth it with rakes. (Kevin Trevellyan / ktrevellyan@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls Chukars head groundskeeper Ryan Coleman pulls a “nail drag” across the home plate area at Melaleuca Field with his intern, Bryan Duffy. The nail drag levels out the ground and allows the groundskeepers to smooth it with rakes. (Kevin Trevellyan / ktrevellyan@postregister.com)

The field requires rehab of its own. Gouges taken out of the infield dirt after a runner slides spike-first into second base need filling; the pitcher’s mound has to be smoothed over.

Maintaining every aspect of the field, from home plate to the dirt warning track, takes immense attention to detail — and an even bigger affinity for the game itself.

“The field, she’s kind of tricky. And if you’re not constantly thinking of ways to improve it, or make it safer and better for the players, I think you’re just going to fall behind,” Coleman said. “We have long days and short nights. You have to love baseball to do it.”

This is Coleman’s second year managing the Chukars’ grounds, and like the players laboring for a chance at the bigs, he too has an eye on advancement within baseball.

Coleman played infield at Feather River College in California, and Concordia University in Portland, Ore. In the summers between he managed fields for Oregon-based Athletic Field Design.

“He showed interest and passion. Usually when I hire someone they’re just there to get money; they don’t want to get into the industry,” said Coleman’s mentor, Athletic Field Design owner Mike Hebrard. “I think he’d do anything he could to keep playing, but this is the next best thing.”

Hebrard recommended Coleman for the Chukars job after hearing about it from an old college baseball teammate.

“He had no girlfriend, no dog — he was perfect, because it’s a lot of hours,” Hebrard said. “You have to throw the clock out the window. There’s no clock in baseball, and there’s no clock in groundskeeping.”

Coleman, post-playing days, enjoys talking to Chukars’ coaches or golfing with some of the players, “just being around baseball really.”

He developed a perfectionist’s eye working on Little League Softball World Series fields with Hebrard.

Idaho Falls Chukars head groundskeeper Ryan Coleman waters the field in preparation for a Chukars’ game against the Great Falls Voyagers. He and intern Bryan Duffy, left, often work 15-hour days during homestands, fighting a losing battle to bandage the field after the beating it takes each game. (Bill Schaefer for the Post Register / prphoto@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls Chukars head groundskeeper Ryan Coleman waters the field in preparation for a Chukars’ game against the Great Falls Voyagers. He and intern Bryan Duffy, left, often work 15-hour days during homestands, fighting a losing battle to bandage the field after the beating it takes each game. (Bill Schaefer for the Post Register / prphoto@postregister.com)

“We’re on ESPN, so that field has to look perfect every time,” Coleman said. “That was one thing my boss always harped on. I know we’re not on TV here in Idaho Falls, but I still try to take what I learned from him and teach it to my guys now.”

Coleman works with intern Bryan Duffy. It’s just them when the Chukars are away; Coleman has a few more interns working for him before home games.

“When he got here he didn’t have a significant amount of experience, but he’s done an exceptional job, especially for the lack of help I provide him — a lot of Minor League ballparks have entire grounds crews,” said Chukars General Manager Kevin Greene. “It might seem thankless at times because you’re out there by yourself busting it, but you get a couple years experience and you work your way up just like a player might.”

Eastern Idaho presents unique maintenance challenges compared to the damp Pacific Northwest where Coleman grew up; he’s contradicting nature’s course every time he pours a soil additive into the outfield at Melaleuca.

“We have real poor soil here for growing grass,” said Brad Clayton, Falls Fertilizer consultant. “Especially when there’s a baseball game there almost every day in warmer months between high school and the pros.”

Coleman works with Clayton to figure out which materials the field needs — which fertilizers and nitrogen supplements will strike the proper pH balance to allow Idaho Falls’ clay soil to accept grass roots.

“It’s always hot and always windy; that’s the toughest part,” Coleman said. “You have to keep the infield dirt moist when it’s 90 degrees outside and winds are blowing 20 mph; it sucks the water right out of the ground.”
Coleman expects to work for the Chukars at least through next season, but he’s keeping his eye on the possibility of another job higher up the professional baseball hierarchy, possibly for an A or AA team.

“If I can make a field look perfect in Idaho Falls with the little resources I have, when I have more supplies at another job I can make that field even better,” Coleman said. “The attention to detail is the biggest thing to me.”

Coleman’s age and lack of formal field management education is unusual in his field.

“A majority of our members — 72 percent — has either a degree or certificate in some sort of turf grass management, most of them have studied agronomy or turf grass science,” said Kim Heck, Chief Executive Officer of the Sports Turf Managers Association. “And at 24, he would definitely be one of the youngest heads groundskeepers in Minor League Baseball.”

Though he doesn’t have a degree, Coleman’s education is ongoing, whether its leafing through the newest issue of SportsTurf Magazine, or picking the brain of the Kansas City Royals’ head groundskeeper.

Idaho Falls Chukars head groundskeeper Ryan Coleman rakes the dirt around home plate before a recent Chukars’ home game against the Great Falls Voyagers. Nine innings of batters tapping their toes and stomping into the dirt as they swing the bat makes a mess of Coleman’s delicate patching. (Bill Schaefer for the Post Register / prphoto@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls Chukars head groundskeeper Ryan Coleman rakes the dirt around home plate before a recent Chukars’ home game against the Great Falls Voyagers. Nine innings of batters tapping their toes and stomping into the dirt as they swing the bat makes a mess of Coleman’s delicate patching. (Bill Schaefer for the Post Register / prphoto@postregister.com)

Wednesday afternoon while the Chukars were in Grand Junction, Colo., Coleman worked on the field with Duffy.

Away stretches give groundskeepers time to properly fix the spots they had to bandage during the previous home stretch.

Sprinklers sprayed water throughout the field while Coleman and Duffy worked on a gash near third base.

“Did they win last night?” Duffy said.

“They lost, Luna threw seven good innings then they gave it up to a lefty,” Coleman said, shoveling clay and soil onto the infield.

Afterward they dragged a rectangular wooden frame full of downward-facing nails across the home plate area, leveling out a hump where the umpire stands.

Little holes pockmarked the ground where batters dug their feet into the earth. A record of innate player tics common from Little League to Major League Baseball can be found all over the field.

“It kills Bryan and I to see it sometimes,” Coleman says with a smile. “Most of the batters are righties, and the hole next to home plate gets gnarly.”

They wet the hole and packed it with fresh clay; just like you would in a pottery class, Coleman said, as he scored lines in the clay and added another layer. He pounded the repair with a heavy, flat-bottomed tool, and squatted to run his hands across the material. The only record of his work was the wet spot left on the smooth ground.

During games, Coleman’s available in case there’s an emergency. Though he usually takes a seat behind home plate, he’ll meander around the grandstand. Knowing that they’re unaware of his presence, Coleman enjoys hearing people talk about how the field looks.

After playing baseball since childhood, making a career of the sport hasn’t hampered his enjoyment of it.

“It makes me love baseball more, knowing what goes into it. My uncle manages a golf course, and the last thing he wants to do after work is play nine holes. As long as that doesn’t happen to me, I’m stoked,” Coleman said. “I get to watch baseball during my break, what’s better than that?”

Chukars move closer in the playoff race with an 8-6 win over Orem

Castellano
Castellano

The Idaho Falls Chukars rallied late and then had to hold on to beat Orem 8-6 on Friday night at Melaleuca Field, moving them a game closer to Grand Junction in the Pioneer League South Division second-half standings.

Pressure’s on

The Chukars were sitting 5.5 games behind Grand Junction in the second-half standings when Friday night began. But I.F.’s win, combined with Grand Junction’s loss to Ogden, cut the margin to 4.5.

But it wasn’t easy.

Idaho Falls led 2-1 after two innings and 4-1 after four before the Owlz tied the game with two runs in the fifth and one in the sixth. But the Chukars pulled ahead with a three-run seventh. Meibrys Viloria got things starter with a walk, and after Joe Dudek flied out, Yeison Melo reached on an infield error. Angelo Castellano followed with a two-run triple to right field. Ryan Dale singled two batters later to score Castellano.

Orem scored single runs in the eighth and ninth, but Richard Lovelady got the final four outs to secure the win.

Dudek went 2 for 3 with two doubles, a run and an RBI while Nick Heath was 2 for 5 with a run scored. Starter Arnaldo Hernandez pitched well, allowing three runs on six hits with three walks and three strikeouts in five innings.

Player of the game

Idaho Falls shortstop Angelo Castellano

Castellano had a big game from the sixth spot in the order, going 2 for 4 with a triple, two runs and two RBIs. He pushed his season average to .275 and increased his RBI total to 39.

Up next

The Chukars and Owlz play the final game of their quick two-game set at 7:15 tonight. Igol Feliz (2-2, 5.93 ERA) is scheduled to start for Idaho Falls.

Chukars end their road trip with an 8-0 loss to Orem

Cepin
Cepin

The sliver of progress the Idaho Falls Chukars made on Wednesday was negated on Thursday.

Orem cruised past the Chukars 8-0 Thursday to split the two-games series in Utah. Pioneer League South Division leader Grand Junction, meanwhile, pounded Ogden 12-3. So I.F. gave back the game it gained Thursday, and it sits 5.5 games out of first place with 14 games to play.

The Chukars have now been shut out two times this season.

Open and shut

The 8-0 score exaggerated the distance between I.F. and Orem on Thursday. The Owlz led 3-0 going into the eighth inning, when they scored five runs to put it away. And their pitching staff was hardly untouchable.

The Chukars tallied eight hits, three walks and one hit-by-pitch on the night. They couldn’t, however, string the baserunners together or hit one over the outfielders’ heads.

All eight hits were singles, and only three runners reached scoring position. I.F.’s hitters went 0 for 3 with runners in scoring position, dropping them to 3 for 24 (.125) in those situations the last four games. The Chukars also left nine runners on base Thursday.

First baseman Joe Dudek was one of the few bright spots, going 2 for 2 with two walks. Dudek, who hit the decisive homer Wednesday, is batting .297 with a .916 OPS in 64 at-bats with the Chukars.

Another solid start wasted

In the 12 games before Thursday’s, only one of I.F.’s pitchers (Igol Feliz on Sunday) had allowed more than three runs in a start. Reinaldo Cepin extended that streak to 13 with five serviceable innings against the Owlz. The left-hander allowed three earned runs, seven hits and two walks while striking out two.

But Cepin had no chance to avoid the loss. The lineup never seriously threatened to close the gap, and the bullpen struggled. Nick Andros relieved Cepin and allowed four earned runs in two innings. Enmanuel Camacho allowed one earned run in his inning of work.

Player of the game

Owlz right fielder John Schukneckt

Schukneckt entered Thursday’s game with two home runs in 135 at-bats on the season. On Thursday, he hit two bombs in consecutive at-bats. The first was a solo shot in the bottom of the third that opened the scoring. His second was a two-run blast in the fifth to give Orem a 3-0 lead.

Schukneckt finished 2 for 5.

Up next

The Chukars (31-31 overall, 9-15 second half) and Owlz (33-29, 11-13) begin another two-game set on Friday at Melaleuca Field. I.F righty Arnaldo Hernandez (5.53 ERA) will get the start against lefty Nate Bertness (3.64). First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.

Dudek, pitching come through in the Chukars’ 3-2 win over Orem

Viloria
Viloria

The Idaho Falls Chukars headed into Wednesday with a 1-11 record in one-run games on the road. That mark improved Wednesday night at Orem.

The Chukars prevailed 3-2 over the Owlz thanks to strong pitching and some two-out thunder from their lineup. Ogden’s extra-inning win over Grand Junction put I.F. 4.5 games out of first place in the Pioneer League South division second-half standings.

The Dudek abides

The Chukars got on the board in the top of the first inning after the first two batters were retired. Manny Olloque delivered a two-out single, and Meibrys Viloria drove him home with a double.

The sixth inning began equally mundane, with Nick Heath and Olloque providing two quick outs. Then Viloria stepped up and singled in front of Joe Dudek. On a 1-1 count, the first baseman drove a Greg Belton pitch over the wall in left-center field.

Dudek’s home run proved to be the difference, giving I.F. a 3-1 lead.

Portland stays sharp

Matt Portland is still issuing walks, but he’s managed to suppress the hits and runs over his last three starts, including Wednesday’s.

The left-hander went six innings against the Owlz. He allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits and two walks, and he struck out five.

Portland has allowed one earned run in each of his last three outings, which all lasted five or more innings. The opposing lineups in those three games averaged 3.7 hits and three walks against him. Portland also struck out five batters per game in that span.

Player of the game

Chukars catcher Meibrys Viloria

Dudek wouldn’t have hit the big fly if Viloria didn’t single in front of him. Plus, Viloria doubled in the first run. Overall, the catcher went 3 for 4, upping his batting average to a league-best .398.

Edwards named player of the week

Chukars infielder David Edwards was named the Pioneer League player of the week for his performance from Aug. 15 to Aug. 21.

Edwards went 9 for 18 with two doubles, two home runs (both on Sunday) and three stolen bases over the course of five games. He now leads the team with eight homers on the season.

Edwards joined Manny Olloque and Yeison Melo as Chukars with 2016 player of week honors. Andres Machado also earned a pitcher of the week honor, and Meibrys Viloria was July’s player of the month.

Up next

The Chukars (31-30 overall, 9-14 second half) and Owlz (32-29, 10-13) conclude their two game-series on Thursday at 7 p.m. Lefty Reinaldo Cepin will start for I.F.

Chukars go quietly in series finale at Grand Junction

Willis
Willis

Perhaps the Idaho Falls Chukars’ toughest second-half loss occurred Monday, when an eighth inning home run lifted the Grand Junction Rockies to a 5-4 win.

Tuesday’s loss looked more garden variety, but the Chukars squandered good chances to take the game, split the series and remain within striking distance of first place.

The Rockies earned a 5-1 win Tuesday at Sam Suplizio Field. The Chukars lost the final three games of the four-game series, and they now sit 5.5 games behind Grand Junction in the Pioneer League South Division second-half standings.

Pivotal seventh

I.F.’s offense was quiet for most of Tuesday night, but it perked up in the top of seventh inning, down 3-1.

With one out, Nick Heath walked, Jordan Ebert reached on an error and MJ Sanchez was hit by a pitch. That set the table for leadoff hitter Luke Willis, who had gone 2 for 3 heading into the at-bat. He struck out looking. Manny Olloque came up next and flew out on the first pitch.

The Chukars finished 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position.

Drew Milligan came out for his second inning of work in the bottom of the seventh, and he notched a strikeout and a groundout to start the frame. The next four batters went walk, single, walk, single. Two runs scored, and the Rockies led 5-1.

Opportunity dropped

The Chukars couldn’t have planned a better way to open their four-game series at Grand Junction. They won 13-3 and climbed to 2.5 games behind the Rockies (3.0 behind then-first place Ogden).

A series split would have put I.F. 3.5 games behind the Rockies and two behind the Raptors (Orem won the first-half title, so it cannot win the second half title). Winning three out of four or sweeping the series would have been gravy for the Chukars.

Instead, I.F. lost the final three games in eclectic fashion. Sunday’s loss stemmed from a poor start by Igol Feliz. Monday’s was a back-and-forth back-breaker. Tuesday’s fell at the feet of the lineup.

The Chukars have 16 games left to erase a 5.5-game deficit and jump two teams in the South standings.

Player of the game

Rockies starting pitcher Ty Culbreth

The left-hander pounded the strike zone throughout his five innings of work. That cost him in some cases (seven hits, including three doubles), but he escaped his few pickles. Culbreth allowed one earned run, walked none and struck out five on 70 pitches (52 strikes).

Up next

The Chukars (30-30 overall, 8-14 second half) travel to Orem (32-28, 10-12) Wednesday for a two-game series to finish the road trip. I.F. lefty Matt Portland (6.08 ERA) faces righty Travis Herrin (6.41) at 7:05 p.m.

Rockies’ rally makes Chukars’ playoff chase tougher

Viloria
Viloria

One swing of the bat in the bottom of the eighth inning led to a two-game swing in the Pioneer League South Division standings for the Idaho Falls Chukars on Monday night.

Moments after the Chukars rallied to take the lead with a four-run seventh inning, Colton Welker reached on a third strike passed ball and Hunter Melton followed with a two-run homer to right-center to lift the Grand Junction Rockies to a 5-4 win at Sam Suplizio Field.

The loss dropped the Chukars 4.5 games behind the Rockies in the South Division second-half standings.

Get him outta here

Idaho Falls bats were invisible over the first six innings against Grand Junction starter Bryan Baker. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound right-hander, whose ERA is hovering near 6, limited the Chukars to three hits and two walks while striking out six in six scoreless innings.

But the Chukars pounced when Baker hit the showers, scoring four runs on four hits and a walk against relievers Ryan Luna and Heath Holder in the seventh. Alex Luna did his job in the sixth and seventh, allowing just one hit while striking out three to give I.F. the lead entering the bottom of the eighth.

Idaho Falls reliever Cole Way got Vince Fernandez to line out leading off the inning, and appeared to have the second out with a strikeout of Welker. But Nick Dini, making a return to the Chukars lineup on his way back to Advanced-A Wilmington following an injury, let the pitch get by him and sending Welker to first. Melton followed with his fifth homer of the year.

Matt Dennis worked a perfect ninth inning to close out the win.

Dini, a member of Idaho Falls 2015 Pioneer League championship team, went 2 for 4 with a run to lead the Chukars. Meibrys Viloria added a two-run double for Idaho Falls.

Up next

The Chukars (30-29, 8-13 second half) and Rockies (28-30, 12-8) wrap up their four-game series tonight in Colorado. Idaho Falls then hits the road for two games in Orem beginning Wednesday.

Sunday’s game

ROCKIES 10, CHUKARS 6: At Grand Junction, Colo., Jose Gomez belted a pair of home runs and Grand Junction held off Idaho Falls in a game that featured five round-trippers.

David Edwards hit his seventh and eighth home runs of the season, but the Chukars couldn’t keep up. After taking a 2-0 lead in the top of the second, Grand Junction scored three runs in the third and three in the fourth. Idaho Falls kept chipping away, but couldn’t catch up.

Edwards finished 2 for 4 with two runs and three RBIs to lead Idaho Falls. Ricky Aracena went 2 for 4 with a triple, a run and an RBI while Rudy Martin was 2 for 5. The Chukars were hurt by four errors. Igol Feliz took the loss after giving up six earned runs on eight hits in four innings.

Gomez was 4 for 5 with three runs and four RBIs while Tyler Bugner went 2 for 4 with four runs scored for the Rockies.

Chukars mash their way to a 13-3 win over Grand Junction

Hernandez
Hernandez

The Idaho Falls Chukars began their six-game road trip close to must-win territory.

The Chukars entered Saturday 3.5 games out of first place in the Pioneer League South Division’s second half standings. The team they were chasing: the Grand Junction Rockies, who were preparing to host I.F. for a four-game series.

On Saturday, the Chukars declared themselves alive in the playoff race with a 13-3 win over the Rockies at Suplizio Field. I.F.’s lineup caught up to its pitching staff, and its win streak improved to three games.

Nocturnal bats

Pitching phenom Riley Pint made his professional debut against the Chukars on July 1, when he pitched two scoreless innings. The No. 4 overall pick in June’s MLB draft did not fare so well Saturday.

Pint allowed three hits, walked five and struck out three in three innings. All five of the runs he allowed (four earned) scored in the second inning. The Chukars tallied three hits and three walks in the frame.

The outburst in the fifth was all the Chukars would need, but they were unsatisfied. I.F. scored once in the fourth, twice in the sixth, thrice in the seventh and twice against in the eighth. The team compiled 14 hits (five doubles) and six walks.

Saturday was I.F.’s highest scoring game since its 17-7 win over Missoula on July 25. The Chukars hadn’t scored more than nine runs in a game since that date, either.

Arms stay sharp

Make that eight straight effective starts by I.F. pitchers. Arnaldo Hernandez pitched five efficient innings, in which he allowed three runs (one earned) on five hits and no walks. The right-hander struck out six Rockies, too.

Olloque
Olloque

The bullpen was even better. Jason Freeman, who allowed seven runs in 2.2 innings Monday against Billings, pitched two scoreless innings Saturday. The righty allowed one hit and one walk, and he struck out one.

Nick Andros, who entered Saturday’s game with an 8.18 ERA, didn’t allow one baserunner (who reached on an error) in two innings. The lefty struck out four, as well.

Player of the game

Chukars third baseman Manny Olloque

An easy choice nearly made easier. Olloque went 4 for 6 with two doubles, both of which hit off the right field wall, according to Chukars broadcaster Andrew Haynes.

Chukars first baseman David Edwards would have nabbed this honor on most other nights. He went 3 for 3 with a double and two walks.

Up next

The Chukars (30-27, 8-11) and Rockies (26-30, 10-8) return to Suplizio Field on Sunday at 7:05 p.m. I.F.’s Igol Feliz (5.40 ERA) faces fellow righthy Yohander Quintana (8.15).