Mustangs hand the Chukars another ugly loss

Dale
Dale

Even hits yielded negative results for the Idaho Falls Chukars on Tuesday night.

With two outs and a runner on in the bottom of the ninth, Chukars first baseman Ryan Dale looped a hit down the right field line. Dale tried to stretch it into a double and give I.F. a whiff of hope. Billings’ Jose Siri squashed the rally by throwing Dale out at second base.

Dale’s out sealed a 7-2 win for the Billings Mustangs at Melaleuca Field. I.F.’s second-half record fell to 5-11, the worst in the Pioneer League.

“We’re more concerned, at this level, not necessarily with the wins and losses,” Chukars manager Justin Gemoll said. “The more consistent they can get with their preparation, their concentration, their attitude, all that kind of stuff, that’s what will translate into the games.”

Billings erupts in the eighth 

The Chukars trailed 2-1 heading into the top of the eighth inning. The way their lineup has hit the Mustangs, the deficit felt larger.

Billings filled the gap between perception and reality by scoring five runs in the top of the eighth inning. Four hits, two walks and two errors led to the five runs, which all came against Enmanuel Cammacho.

Unlike the Mustangs, the Chukars struggled with runners in scoring position, going 1 for 9 on the night. The Mustangs’ four pitchers allowed nine hits, one walk and two earned runs while striking out 12.

Billings has held the Chukars to 2.6 runs per game, peaking at five runs on Monday night.

Errors persist

I.F.’s Jace Vines made one of his best starts of the season, allowing one earned run on three hits, three walks and three strikeouts in five innings. Richard Lovelady and Nick Andros combined to toss 3.1 scoreless innings out of the bullpen. Cammacho pitched better than his line suggests.

And yet, the Mustangs won handily. Defensive miscues were a big reason why.

An error by I.F. shortstop Ricky Aracena (his league-leading 28th) led to Billings’ go-ahead run in the fifth. David Edwards overthrew Dale on a double play attempt in the top of the eighth. An accurate, on-time throw would have ended the inning with Billings up 3-1.

The Chukars committed four total errors Tuesday , giving them 10 the last two games. They’ve now piled up 124 errors on the season, good for nearly 20 percent of the league’s total. I.F. has more than twice as many as the Mustangs, whose 56 errors are a league-low.

“Some of (the errors) are a result of being too aggressive, where we’re trying to be too quick and we get ahead of ourselves,” Gemoll said. “We don’t want to take the aggressiveness away from them. We love the aggressiveness. At the same time, control it a little bit.”

Player of the game 

Mustangs right fielder Jose Siri 

Siri went 2 for 5 with his ninth home run of the season, a 421-foot solo shot to kick off Billings’ eighth inning rally .

Up next 

The Mustangs (34-19 overall, 11-4 second half) will go for the series win over the Chukars (27-27, 5-11) at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday at Melaleuca Field. I.F. lefty Reinaldo Cepin (3.76 ERA) is schedule to start against righty Moises Nova (5.40 ERA).

 

Mustangs rough up Chukars 12-5

Machado
Machado

The crowd at Melaleuca Field has seen plenty of offense from the Idaho Falls Chukars in 2016. But they haven’t seen anything more impressive than the offensive showing the Billings Mustangs displayed Monday night.

Billings pounded out 21 hits and held off two Idaho Falls rallies to beat the Chukars 12-5 in front of 3,290 fans in a game that lasted 3 hours, 22 minutes.

It was the sixth loss in seven games for Idaho Falls, which remained three games behind Grand Junction in the Pioneer League South Division second-half standings.

Whatever you can do

Billings grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on a leadoff triple by TJ Friedl and an RBI single from Taylor Trammell. The score remained stuck at 1-0 until the bottom of the fifth, when Idaho Falls bats held to one hit up to that point finally came to life.

Nick Heath got things started with a leadoff single and then stole second. He moved to third on a single from Luke Willis. With Ricky Aracena batting, Heath came home on a passed ball. Manny Olloque gave Idaho Falls the lead with a swinging bunt to third.

Billings didn’t take long to answer, scoring four runs on five hits against reliever Drew Milligan. The momentum from a solid start by Andres Machado (five innings, six hits, one earned run, five strikeouts) and the mini rally in the fifth was gone.

The Mustangs tacked on three runs in the seventh in what looked like insurance runs at the time. But Idaho Falls scored three runs on four hits to make it a game.

It wasn’t a game for long. Billings put the game out of reach after the first two hitters struck out, scoring four runs on five hits.

Idaho Falls went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth.

No relief

It was a tough night for the Idaho Falls bullpen. Milligan picked up a blown save and the loss after the rough sixth inning, while Jason Freeman allowed seven runs (six earned) on 10 hits in 2.2 innings. Cole Way walked one and struck out one in 0.1 innings.

Player of the game

The entire Billings lineup

There’s no way to pick one player for the Mustangs, who got a hit from every player in the lineup. Cassidy Brown led the way with four hits, while Jose Siri, Taylor Trammell, Hector Vargas and John Sansone each had three. Trammell, Montrell Marshall, Sansone and Morgan Lofstrom each had two RBIs.

Up next

The Mustangs (33-19, 10-4 second half) and Chukars (27-26, 5-10) play the second game of their four-game series tonight at Melaleuca Field. First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.

Sunday’s game

CHUKARS 7, VOYAGERS 3: Idaho Falls snapped a unsightly five-game losing streak, thanks to a strong start from Igol Feliz and a five-run second inning.

Feliz pitched in and out of trouble during his seven innings, allowing nine hits but not allowing a walk and limiting Great Falls to two earned runs.

And the offense, which had averaged just 2.8 runs during the five-game skid, belted five doubles and 11 hits total. Designated hitter Joe Dudek led the way, going 3 for 4 with two doubles, a run and two RBIs. Luke Willis, Angelo Castellano and Ryan Dale also had two-baggers.

And the defense, which leads the league in errors, didn’t have a miscue and turned one double play.

Chukars Notebook: Road tripping

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The Idaho Falls Chukars’ first-half road struggles could be largely explained by luck, or lack thereof. Their most recent road trip was different.

Close losses made up the bulk of the Chukars’ 7-12 first-half road record. The Chukars went 1-6 at the Billings Mustangs and Great Falls Voyagers from Aug. 4 through

Wednesday. They were outscored by 25 runs.

Diagnosing I.F.’s road woes is difficult if not counterproductive. Teams go through slumps. The fact that the Chukars’ slump was away from Melaleuca Field could be coincidental. But manager Justin Gemoll saw some signs that explain the road struggles.

The Chukars fell to 8-18 on the road for the season following the Montana trip. Through Friday, that record was tied for the second worst in the Pioneer League. Their home record, meanwhile, was a league-best 18-6.

Why the polarization?

“At home you’re more familiar with the surroundings, you’re in a routine, Gemoll said. “(On the road) some of it is they’re going to a new place and they don’t know where to eat. A lot of it’s unfamiliarity.”

Discomfort can carry over to the field. Gemoll said his players, mainly the hitters, tried to do to much on the recent trip. They’d often swing at pitches they’d normally take.

“I told the guys, ‘Hey, relax,’ Gemoll said. “Sometimes you try so hard, you try harder and harder, and you dig yourself into a hole.”

The results have reflected those impatient approaches, especially the last seven games. The Chukars averaged 3.1 runs on 7.3 hits on the road trip. They now average 6.0 runs per game on the road, compared to 8.5 at home (through Friday).

The pitching staff has been more consistent, at least from a run prevention standpoint. The Chukars allowed 6.2 runs at home and 6.4 on the road going into Saturday.

But these results don’t necessarily point to an overarching problem. Randomness is rampant over small samples, from three-game series to 76-game seasons. The Chukars haven’t played enough games to make definitive conclusions about performance. For instance, the Chukars went 1 for 25 with runners in scoring position in their three-game sweep at Billings. There’s little evidence to suggest that major league hitters perform better than their peers with runners in scoring position.

The Chukars, of course, are far away from the big leagues. Some are teenagers. Many are in their first professional seasons. Road trips likely affect them more than seasoned vets.

“Professional baseball takes a toll on your body and your mind,” Gemoll said. “It’s a long grind. Get them used to it now.”

CHUKARS IN THE INFIELD

The Kansas City Star’s Rustin Dodd published a story Monday about a good problem for the Kansas City Royals: they have a logjam at third base.

Former Chukar Chelsor Cuthbert currently resides at third. The rookie is hitting .301 with a .795 OPS and 10 home runs in 337 plate appearances through Saturday filling in for all-star Mike Moustakas (also a former Chukar), who is out for the year with a knee injury.

Moustakas has been Kansas City’s starting third baseman for the last five years and was a key piece of the 2014 and 2015 World Series teams. First baseman Eric Hosmer (another former Chukar) and shortstop Alcides Escobar have been equally, if not more, valuable. Second base is occupied by Kansas City’s top prospect and former Chukar Raul Mondesi.

Highly touted prospect Hunter Dozier (and, you guessed it, a former Chukar) is playing third base for Triple-A Omaha. Dozier has made starts at first base and in the outfield, according to Dodd, the Star’s Royals beat writer. The Royals also think Cuthbert can play multiple positions, including second base, per Dodd. Kansas City could stick one of their infielders at designated hitter next season, as well.

There are scenarios where Kansas City’s entire infield will be made up of former Chukars next season. That would involve moving on from Escobar, who the Royals have a team option on for 2017. Mondesi would then move to shortstop (his main position in the minors), and Cuthbert would transition to second. The new infield would look like this: Hosmer/Dozier at first, Cuthbert at second, Mondesi at short, Moustakas/Dozier at third and Salvador Perez (a 2008-2009 Chukar) at catcher.

These position decisions, of course, won’t be made until at least the offseason.

STANDINGS UPDATE

The Chukars are 4-9 in the second half, leaving them three games back of Pioneer League South leader Grand Junction. The Chukars have 25 games left in the half to make up the deficit.

If the Orem Owlz (5-8 second half) finish first in the division for the second half, the Chukars would need to come in second to make the playoffs.

WHO’S HOT?

OF Luke Willis

Willis has quietly been one of I.F.’s best hitters this season, in part because he doesn’t play everyday. Since July 28, his batting average has risen from .311 to .341. Willis has gone 14 for 32 (.438) with two walks and no extra-base hits in that span.

WHO’S NOT?

OF Nick Heath

Heath’s batting average reached .297 on Aug. 4. He has recorded one hit since.

The left-hander has gone 1 for 22 with two walks and five strikeouts in his last six games. His average now sits at .264.

Chukars blow a 6-0 lead to the Voyagers, lose their fifth straight

Olloque
Olloque

The Idaho Falls Chukars’ locker room was nearly silent after Saturday’s game. The few players who spoke whispered, and smiles were absent. Anyone at the game understood why.

The Chukars surrendered an early six-run lead and fell 7-6 to the Great Falls Voyagers on Saturday night at Melaleuca Field. I.F.’s offense disappeared and the defense made crucial mistakes in the team’s fifth straight loss.

Chukars jump ahead early

The Chukars had scored four runs in the three games prior to Saturday’s. They overcame that margin with two swings.

The first came from third baseman Manny Olloque, who launched a 390-foot, three-run home run to left field in the bottom of the first inning. The blast put I.F. ahead 3-0.

Yeison Melo made the second swing, which also delivered a three-run homer. His traveled a few feet to the right of the foul pole in left field and landed 444 feet away from home plate. It put the Chukars up 6-0 through three innings.

On their most recent road trip, the Chukars scored six or more runs in one of their seven games. That was their only win of the trip, an 8-6 victory over the Voyagers.

Dreaded sevens

I.F. nursed a 6-4 lead heading into the seventh inning. Great Falls’ first two hitters of the inning reached base, and they moved to second and third on a Brady Conlan sacrifice bunt. The next hitter, Jameson Fisher, laced a double down the right field line to tie the game at 6-6.

Two innings later, Conlan hit a two-out double and reached third base on an errant throw by left fielder Rudy Martin. With the infield in, Fisher hit a tricky one-hopper to Ricky Aracena. The shortstop couldn’t handle it, and Conlan touched home plate to put the Voyagers up 7-6.

Errors up there

Aracena’s boot in the ninth inning wasn’t ruled an error, but it encapsulated another error-filled game for I.F.

The Chukars committed four errors in the game. Great Falls scored runs after three of them.

The most blatant examples of I.F.’s defensive struggles happened in the top of the fifth inning. Ahead 6-0 with two outs, Olloque whiffed on a simple ground ball that put Joel Booker on first. Booker advanced to third on a wild pitch during the next at-bat, and he scored on a Max Dutto single. Dutto moved up to third during the next at-bat on a wayward pickoff attempt from pitcher Arnaldo Hernandez. Two batters later, Conlan drove in Dutto and Aaron Schnurbusch (who walked) with a double.

The Chukars lead the Pioneer League with 116 errors (2.3 per game) this season. The next closest team in the league is Orem, which has committed 84 errors (1.7 per game).

Players of the game

The Voyagers’ bullpen

Relievers Brandon Magallones, Richard McWilliams and Kevin Escorcia shut down the Chukars for the final five innings. Together, they allowed one hit and one walk while striking out seven.

Great Falls’ bullpen also allowed one hit over four scoreless innings Friday.

Up next

The Chukars (26-25 overall, 4-9 second half) and Voyagers (29-21, 8-4) return to Melaleuca Field Sunday at 4 p.m. I.F.’s Igol Feliz (5.80 ERA) takes on fellow righty Jake Elliott (3.33).

Benches clear in the Chukars’ 7-2 loss to Great Falls

Idaho Falls Chukars starting pitcher Matt Portland throws a pitch during the first inning against the Great Falls Voyagers on Friday at Melaleuca Field. (Bill Schaefer for the Post Register)
Idaho Falls Chukars starting pitcher Matt Portland throws a pitch during the first inning against the Great Falls Voyagers on Friday at Melaleuca Field. (Bill Schaefer for the Post Register)

A Ricky Aracena error changed the course of Friday’s game.

The Idaho Falls Chukars shortstop made an errant throw in the top of the seventh inning that scored three runs, giving Great Falls a lead for good. One play later, the benches cleared for a near-brawl.

Heads cooled down and the Voyagers heated up after that. They defeated the Chukars 7-2 at Melaleuca Field, extending I.F.’s losing streak to a season-high four games.

Dejection and ejections

With two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the seventh, Great Falls’ Casey Schroeder grounded a Cole Way pitch to the left side. Aracena backhanded the ball and fired to second, but it sailed to the right of second baseman Jordan Ebert. The bases cleared and Schroeder reached second on Aracena’s 25th error, which leads the Pioneer League. Great Falls took a 4-2 lead.

The next batter, J.J. Franco, lined a single into left field. Luke Willis fired a strike home that that beat Schroeder by several feet. Catcher Meibrys Viloria stood just off the plate when he received the throw. Instead of sliding, Schroeder put his hands out and nearly collided with Viloria.

“He was playing hard,” Chukars manager Justin Gemoll said with a smile, gesturing air quotation marks.

Viloria stared Schroeder down, and Way hurled angry words toward the Great Falls catcher. Seconds later, both teams’ benches and bullpens piled onto the field.

The umpires and coaches quickly subdued both sides. The most heat came from the play at home that sparked the donnybrook. At one point, Viloria cocked his right arm back as if he was going to throw the baseball at a Voyager, but bench coach Ramon Castro held him back. The only contact came from coaches and players holding their guys back.

Viloria and Way were immediately ejected. The umpires, who declined to comment, took a little longer to toss Schroeder. According to Gemoll, the umpires said that Viloria and Way instigated the scuffle when they screamed at Schroeder.

“If instigating is screaming, then they could’ve thrown everybody out,” Gemoll said. “Our guys had a right to be upset, to protect their player.”

Portland dominates, then fizzles

Matt Portland pitched what he said was his best start of the season. The left-hander labored through the sixth and seventh innings, but through five, he was nearly unhittable.

Portland allowed one hit and one walk through five scoreless innings, and he faced 15 batters (the minimum) on 57 pitches.

“I wanted to go back to basics and simplify things,” Portland said. “Trust my mechanics, trust my stuff.”

But as the pitch count went up, the outs became tougher to record.

Portland needed 30 pitches to get the next four outs. He walked three in his final 1.1 inning and was replaced by Cole Way.

“I just started thinking about too much stuff,” Portland said.

Portland ended up allowing three runs, but Aracena’s error left him on the hook for one earned run. He allowed two hits and struck out four in his 6.1 innings. He also allowed one earned run in 6.1 innings on July 22 at Helena (six hits, three walks, six strikeouts).

Player of the game

Voyagers right fielder Aaron Schnurbusch

Schnurbusch went 1 for 4, and that one hit all but sealed Great Falls’ win. The left-hander launched an opposite field two-run home run in the top of the eighth inning to give the Voyagers a 6-2 lead. He also walked and scored two runs in the game.

Up next

The Chukars (26-24 overall, 4-8 second half) and Voyagers (28-21, 7-4) return to Melaleuca Field on Saturday at 7:15 p.m. I.F.’s Arnaldo Hernandez (6.50 ERA) takes on fellow righty Chris Comito.

Run-averse Chukars get swept out of Billings

Viloria
Viloria

The Idaho Falls Chukars will be happy to see Melaleuca Field again.

The team that has gone 18-5 at home continued to struggle on the road Wednesday night. The Chukars fell 6-1 to the Billings Mustangs at Dehler Park to end their seven-game road trip. I.F. was swept by the Mustangs, went 1-6 on the trip and fell to 8-18 on the road this season.

Hit and (no) run

The Chukars notched three hits in each of their first two games at Billings. They more than doubled that number Wednesday, tallying eight base knocks. They added three walks, and Angelo Castellano reached on an error.

While I.F. diverged from the low-hit streak, hits with runners on base remained elusive.

The Chukars left 11 runners on base Wednesday, and they went 0 for 13 with runners in scoring position. They have not recorded a hit in their last 19 at-bats with RISP, and they finished the series 1 for 25 in those situations.

Viloria comes down to Earth

Not even a brief slump can make Meibrys Viloria look bad.

The Chukars catcher went 0 for 4 on Wednesday, extending his hitless streak to seven at-bats. His 0-for-3 performance Monday ended a 20-game hitting streak.

Yet even after this two-game cold streak, Viloria leads the Pioneer League with a .420 batting average. He owns the league’s top slugging percentage and OPS, as well.

Wednesday’s 0-for-4 performance marked the first time in 36 games that Viloria has gone hitless in consecutive contests. In fact, Viloria has recorded at least one hit in all but five games this season. That includes an 0-for-1 showing in a pinch-hit situation June 22 against Orem.

Player of the game

Mustangs shortstop Gabriel Ovalle

Ovalle went 3 for 4 (three singles) with two RBIs on Wednesday. He also played his 13th error-less game this season at arguably the toughest position in baseball.

Bayliss earns promotion

Right-handed pitcher Brian Bayliss was promoted from I.F. to Single-A Lexington on Wednesday, ending his two-season tenure with the Chukars.

The Legends will be Bayliss’s first professional team other than the Chukars. He pitched 25.1 innings for I.F. last year and 17 this summer.

Bayliss rebounded from a 6.39 ERA in 2015 with a 3.18 ERA this season. His 2016 first half output was even better than the 3.18 indicates, and it netted him a Pioneer League all-star selection (he replaced an injured Alex Luna in the Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star game).

Up next

The Chukars (26-23 overall, 4-7 second half) get Thursday off and host Great Falls (27-20, 6-3) for a three-game set starting Thursday. Lefty Matt Portland (7.50 ERA) will start on the hill for I.F.

Chukars extend their affiliation with the Kansas City Royals through 2018

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The Idaho Falls Chukars will remain a Rookie-level affiliate of the Kansas City Royals for at least two more seasons.

The Chukars and Royals agreed to an extension through 2018, the Chukars announced Wednesday. Before the extension was finalized, the affiliation was going to expire at the end of this season.

“We are truly excited to continue our partnership with the Idaho Falls Chukars,” Royals director of minor league operations Ronnie Richardson said in a news release. “The Idaho Falls organization and the entire community continue to embrace our players and staff each year, and that truly makes Idaho Falls a special place to develop our players.”

The Chukars have been a Royals affiliate since 2004, so Wednesday’s extension will give them 15 seasons (and counting) in Kansas City’s system. The only MLB club to have I.F. as an affiliate for a longer period of time was the California Angels from 1965 to 1981.

“We couldn’t be happier with the relationship that we have developed with the Kansas City Royals over the past 12 1⁄2 seasons,” Chukars general manager Kevin Greene said in the news release.

The Chukars have made three Pioneer League championship series since 2004. They beat Helena in 2013 for their only league title as a Royals affiliate.

Chukars’ bats remain quiet in a 3-1 loss to Billings

Cepin
Cepin

Three hits can be enough to win if they cluster in the right moments. Those moments eluded the Idaho Falls Chukars on Tuesday night.

The Chukars had three hits for the second consecutive night against the Billings Mustangs at Dehler Park. I.F. managed four runson Monday, which would have been enough for a win the following night. That same cluster luck didn’t show up Tuesday, and the Chukars fell 3-1.

Offense falters again

Tuesday’s loss dropped the Chukars to 1-5 on their current road trip. Run prevention hasn’t been a strong suit, but the offense has been ground zero for I.F.’s struggles.

The Chukars have managed 3.5 runs and 7.2 hits per game on the road trip. They mustered one hit in a 12-0 shutout at Great Falls on Saturday, and the most runs scored in any of their six games was eight in Sunday’s win over the Voyagers.

I.F. has scored nearly eight runs per game this season (7.4, to be exact), and has averaged 8.8 at home. The Chukars have scored 6.1 runs per game away from Melaleuca Field. Their road record is now 8-17.

Tuesday’s game was getable. For the first time all second half, I.F.’s pitching staff allowed fewer than five runs in a game. Its lineup put seven runners on base and six in scoring position. The Chukars went 0 for 6 with runners on second or third base, and they stranded all but one of their seven runners.

A first for Cepin

With Alex Luna sidelined due to an oblique strain, Reinaldo Cepin got his first start of the season for I.F. The left-hander threw 50 pitches over four complete innings and allowed two earned runs on six hits, a walk and two strikeouts.

Cepin entered the game with the most innings pitched (22.1) of any I.F. reliever, and with good reason. The 22-year-old’s ERA rose to 3.76 after Tuesday’s start, and he now has 19 strikeouts against 11 walks. Cepin still hasn’t hit a batter or allowed a home run, and he’s given up 24 hits.

Player of the game

Mustangs designated hitter Taylor Trammell

Billings had 11 hits, but third place hitter Trammell and leadoff man T.J. Friedl, Jr. accounted for the only hits of consequence.

Friedl, Jr. went 2 for 4 and scored both times, first on a Trammell single and second on a Trammell double (the Mustangs’ only extra-base hit). The single scored another run, as well, so Trammell drove in all three Billings runs. He finished 3 for 4.

Up next

The Chukars (26-22 overall, 4-6 second half) and Mustangs (29-18, 6-3) wrap up their three-game series at Dehler Park at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday. Jace Vines (6.39 ERA) gets the start for I.F. against fellow righty Ian Kahaloa (2.36).

Chukars muster three hits in 7-4 loss to Mustangs

Olloque
Olloque

The Idaho Falls Chukars’ bats stayed cold and their road woes continued Monday night at Dehler Park in Billings, Mont.

The Chukars managed just one run on two hits over the first eight innings before finishing with a mini rally in the ninth while losing 7-4 in the first of three games against the Billings Mustangs. It was the fourth loss in five games for Idaho Falls, which doesn’t play another home game against until Friday. Idaho Falls fell to 8-16 away from Melaleuca Field this summer.

Where’s the offense?

Idaho Falls was handed its first shutout loss Friday night in Great Falls, and appeared headed for another blanking Monday. Billings starter Andrew Jordan, a 6-foot-3, 180-pound right-hander who was a 13th-round draft pick in 2015, limited the Chukars to one hit and one walk while striking out five over the first five innings.

The Mustangs built a 4-0 lead during that stretch, which seemed more than enough against a scuffling I.F. offense. Idaho Falls finally got on the board in the seventh on an RBI groundout from Yeison Melo. But Billings pushed the lead to 7-1 before Idaho Falls finished with three runs in the top of the ninth.

Manny Olloque, who had two doubles, belted a two-run double and Meibrys Viloria added an RBI sac fly to account for the runs.

Player of the game 

Billings catcher Morgan Lofstrom

Lofstrom entered Monday hitting just .118, but he got the Mustangs off to a strong start with a two-run homer to right-center in the bottom of the second inning. He finished 1 for 3, but his homer set the tone.

Up next

Idaho Falls (26-21 overall, 4-5 second half) and Billings (28-18, 5-3) play the second of three games Tuesday at Dehler Park. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.

Sunday’s game

CHUKARS 8, VOYAGERS 6: At Great Falls, Mont., newcomer Joe Dudek had a breakout game, belting two homers and driving in three runs to help Idaho Falls avoid a four-game series sweep against Great Falls.

And he did it in dramatic fashion.

The Chukars, scuffling coming out of the all-star break, coughed up a 6-0 lead by allowing two runs each in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. But Angelo Castellano led off the top of the ninth with a double to left, and Dudek followed with a home run over the fence in right-center field. Brian Bayliss pitched a perfect ninth inning to secure the win.

Meibrys Viloria continued his rampage through the Pioneer League, going 2 for 4 with a run and two RBIs, while Castellano was 2 for 4 with two doubles and two RBIs and Manny Olloque was 2 for 5 with two runs scored.

Chukars’ rally falls just short against Great Falls

Willis
Willis

One night after being held to one hit, the Idaho Falls Chukars came up just a hit short during a 6-5 loss to the Great FallsVoyagers on Saturday night at Centene Stadium at Legion Park. It was the third straight loss for the Chukars.

Road woes

Things haven’t gone the Chukars way on this road trip to Great Falls, and they didn’t get any better in the first inning Saturday. After going down in order in the top of the first, Idaho Falls surrendered four runs on five hits and a throwing error to dig an early hole.

Great Falls managed just two more runs, both coming in the sixth inning on two-out hits. Idaho Falls went down swinging, scoring two runs in the sixth, two in the seventh and one in the eighth to cut the deficit to one run. The Chukars nearly wiped out the deficit in the top of the ninth when Luke Willis and Rudy Martin singled to start the frame.

Ricky Aracena followed with a two-strike bunt, moving the runners to second and third. Manny Olloque then walked to load the bases for Pioneer League batting leader Meibrys Viloria. The Chukars then got a gift when a Jaider Rocha pitch got past catcher Carlos Perez. But Perez tracked it down and threw to Rocha, who tagged out Willis on a close play.

Viloria walked to load the bases again, but David Edwards’ liner went right to Aaron Schnurbusch in right field to end the threat and the game.

Player of the game

Idaho Falls left fielder Luke Willis

While Great Falls’ Jameson Fisher was 2 for 4 with two doubles, two runs and two RBIs, Willis gets the nod after a perfect night at the plate. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound right-hander went 4 for 4 to push his average to .339.

Up next

The Chukars (25-20 overall, 3-4 second half) hope to avoid a four-game road sweep when they wrap up their series against Great Falls (25-19, 4-2) at 1 p.m. Sunday. Igol Feliz (1-1, 5.91 ERA) is scheduled to start for Idaho Falls while Chris Comito (4-1, 2.74) will start for Great Falls.