After Monday’s blowout win, the Idaho Falls Chukars had the Pioneer League South Division’s first half title in their grasp. But the Chukars still needed to win, and that was far from a sure thing, as Tuesday illustrated.
The Chukars fell to the Missoula Osprey 2-1 in 10 innings Tuesday at Ogren Park Allegiance Field. The loss, coupled with Orem’s win, means the Chukars and Owlz are tied for first place in the South with one game left in the first half. Orem owns the tiebreaker.
The I.F. and Missoula pitching staffs were more than stingy; they were efficient.
The Chukars threw 117 pitches in 9.2 innings. The Osprey threw 113 in a full 10 frames. Neither team allowed a walk, the Chukars hit the only two batters of the game and the squads combined to tally 13 hits. I.F. and Missoula had 11 total 1-2-3 innings, as well, resulting in a game time of 2 hours and 21 minutes.
Alex Luna padded his resume as I.F.’s best starter, but he walked off the field with the team’s trainer prior to the bottom of the fifth, according to Chukars broadcaster Andrew Haynes. Luna allowed one run on four hits, no walks and five strikeouts in his four innings pitched.
Fellow right-hander Reinaldo Cepin was even more dominant. He also pitched four innings, allowing one hit and no walks with four strikeouts.
The only dent allowed by Luna and Cepin was a solo home run by Kyle Smith in the second inning. The blast, which was the only extra-base hit by either team, proved to be crucial as the game sped along.
Drew Milligan replaced Cepin in the top of the 10th and hit the second batter he faced. One out later, Milligan had the runner, Michael Branigan, picked off on a premature steal attempt. But the throw to first was wide, per Haynes, and David Edwards couldn’t corral it, so Branigan ended up at third base. Yan Sanchez responded two pitches later with a walk-off single up the middle.
Head-to-head record is the first tiebreaker for Pioneer League teams knotted up at the top of the South Division. I.F. and Orem (both 22-15 overall) went 4-4 against each other in the first half. If they remain tied after tomorrow’s games, the second tiebreaker would go into effect. That tiebreaker is division record.
The Owlz have gone 15-9 against South teams, while the Chukars have gone 13-11. So Orem will be the first-half champions if it remains tied with I.F.
The Chukars can only win the division under one scenario: a win over Missoula and an Orem loss to Billings (the North’s first-half champion).
Player of the game
Osprey starting pitcher Alex Gouin
Both sides pitched beautifully — Gouin just did it longer than anyone else. The right-hander went eight innings, allowing one earned run on seven hits, no walks and six strikeouts. It was his longest start this season, and the longest outing by an opposing pitcher against the Chukars.
The Chukars and Osprey conclude their three-game series at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday. I.F.’s Jace Vines (6.33 ERA) takes on fellow righty Jhoan Duran (5.40).