Tag: Arnaldo Hernandez

Chukars Notebook: Meibrys Viloria reflects on MVP season

Idaho Falls Chukars catcher Meibrys Viloria connects for a single during the Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star game on Aug. 2 in Ogden, Utah. (Photo courtesy of Steve Thayer)
Idaho Falls Chukars catcher Meibrys Viloria connects for a single during the Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star game on Aug. 2 in Ogden, Utah. (Photo courtesy of Steve Thayer)

Barring a major slump, the Pioneer League MVP was Meibrys Viloria’s to lose at the end of the first half.

Viloria, 19, tailed off a bit in the second half, but it didn’t cost him. The catcher became the third Idaho Falls Chukar since 2007 to win the Ralph Nelles Award. The league announced his MVP honor on Tuesday.

“I was working hard since spring training to right now, so I’m very excited,” Viloria said Thursday through I.F. bench coach Ramon Castro.

In the first 38 games, Viloria led the league in almost every major category: batting average (.457), on-base percentage (.504), slugging percentage (.793), hits (53), RBIs (36), doubles (15) and total bases (92). Most of those leads evaporated in the second half, but he still remained near the top.

His numbers look especially impressive compared to 2015. In 150 at-bats with Burlington last season, Viloria did not record single extra-base hit. He had 37 in 226 at-bats this season (28 doubles, three triples and six home runs).

“I’ve been working hard, working with Andre (David) in the cage every day, Viloria said. “That’s part of why I had a great season.”

Viloria still saw parts of his game that need improvement. Defense was his biggest weakness, he said, especially throwing outbase stealers. Viloria did, however, throw out 34 percent of all runners who tried to steal on him this season. That number would land him well within the top 10 of MLB catchers, and it was near the middle among regular Pioneer League catchers this season.

David, the Chukars’ hitting coach, said Viloria is mechanically sound as a hitter. One of the big things David worked on with Viloria was improving the position of his back elbow. That area has improved, David said, but there’s still room to grow.

David also praised Viloria’s hitting approach.

“When there were days that weren’t going well, which weren’t very many, he seemed to maintain a positive approach and knew that his plan and daily routine would carry him over into good things,” David said. “He understands what it takes on daily basis.”

DINI’S BUMPY ROAD TO I.F.

Nick Dini played 42 games for the Chukars last season. The catcher returned to I.F. for nine more this summer.

Dini, 23, began the 2016 season with Single-A Lexington, where he played one game. He moved up to Class A Advanced Wilmington for seven games, then returned to Lexington on June 30. In his first at-bat back on July 2, a pitch hit Dini in the hand, forcing him to exit the game. He later found out that his hand was broken, and he was placed on the 7-day disabled list.

Dini returned to action in the Arizona League on Aug. 16 and was moved up to I.F. on Aug. 22. He hit .378 with an .843 OPS in 39 plate appearances for the Chukars.

The constant shuffling and limited playing time this summer has frustrated Dini. But he put his struggles into perspective after seeing so many of his former teammates get released.

“Every opportunity you get, you’ve gotta take advantage of it,” Dini said. “The harsh reality is, if you don’t, you’ll be out of job. It sucks seeing guys go, but you understand that that’s part of it.”

STRAHM’S STRONG SEASON

Former Chukar Matt Strahm has thrived during his brief action with the Kansas City Royals this season. The left-handed pitcher owns a 0.54 ERA, 22 strikeouts and six walks in 16.2 innings pitched for the big league club this year.

Strahm, 24, was called up on July 31. He made his MLB debut that day and allowed one earned run in 0.1 inning against the Texas Rangers. He hasn’t allowed a run since.

Strahm made his professional debut with the Chukars in 2012. He returned to I.F. in 2014 after undergoing Tommy John surgery the year before, according to the Kansas City Star.

MLB.com’s most recent prospect rankings has Strahm at No. 4 in Kansas City’s system.

FOLLOW THE LEADERS

Multiple Chukars led the Pioneer League in various statistical categories this season. Here they are:

Batting average Meibrys Viloria (.376)

Doubles Viloria (28)

RBIs Viloria (55)

Stolen bases Nick Heath (36)

Errors Ricky Aracena (38)

Hits allowed Arnaldo Hernandez (99)

Walks issued Matt Portland (37)

THE “WHO’S HOT?” PLAYER OF THE YEAR

C Meibrys Viloria

Apologies to Joe Dudek, Nick Heath, Alex Luna, Yeison Melo, Manny Olloque and Luke Willis, but this honor clearly belongs to the MVP.

THE “WHO’S NOT” PLAYER OF THE YEAR

LHP Nick Andros

Andros finished the season with a 9.20 ERA, 48 hits allowed, 31 strikeouts, 14 walks issued and seven home runs given up. On Monday at Orem, the Chukars had a 9-8 lead in the 10th inning when Andros entered the game. The Owlz scored two runs off Andros to walk off and eliminate I.F. from playoff contention.

Chukars end the 2016 season with a fitting win

Idaho Falls Chukars third baseman Manny Olloque hits a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh inning Thursday against the Orem Owlz at Melaleuca Field. The Chukars won the season finale 10-8. (Photo courtesy of Steven Thayer)
Idaho Falls Chukars third baseman Manny Olloque hits a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh inning Thursday against the Orem Owlz at Melaleuca Field. The Chukars won the season finale 10-8. (Photo courtesy of Steven Thayer)

The Idaho Falls Chukars ended their season in fitting fashion.

The game lasted three hours and 10 minutes, I.F.’s 25th game with a duration of at least three hours. The Chukars and Orem Owlz traded leads three times and scored boat loads of runs. And no Chukars game would be complete without some errors.

I.F. finished the 2016 season with a 10-8 win over Orem Thursday night in front of 2,194 fans at Melaleuca Field. The Chukars didn’t make the Pioneer League playoffs, but they finished the season with a 40-36 overall record the best in the South Division.

“When you’re not in the playoffs, it’s easy to check out,” Chukars third baseman Manny Olloque said. “But I felt like we finished strong and did good throughout the year. We were above .500, and we competed every game.”

Crooked numbers

The Chukars entered Thursday’s game with 507 runs scored, 35 more than second-place Ogden. With 10 on Thursday, I.F. finished the season averaging 6.8 runs per game.

Run prevention, however, wasn’t the Chukars’ strong suit, as Thursday showed.

Chukars opening day starter Arnaldo Hernandez took the hill in the final game, which didn’t go as well as his first start. Hernandez pitched five innings in I.F.’s 8-2 win over the Ogden Raptors on June 17, allowing one earned run on three hits. On Thursday, the first five Orem batters reached base, and three of them scored.

Hernandez pitched 4.1 innings on Thursday. The right-hander allowed eight runs (seven earned) on 11 hits and a walk, and he struck out two.

I.F.’s offense immediately bailed Hernandez out from his rough start. The Chukars scored six runs on five hits, two walks and a hit-by-pitch in the bottom of the first.

Orem rallied to take an 8-7 lead in the fifth, but I.F. responded in the seventh. Joe Dudek opened the scoring with his sixth home run of the season, a deep two-run shot to center field. The next batter, Manny Olloque, hit a blast to left field to finish the scoring for the night.

Enmanuel Cammacho pitched three scoreless, hitless innings, and Richard Lovelady pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his sixth save of the season. The left-hander was lights out in his 13 games with I.F. Lovelady finished with a 1.84 ERA, 16 strikeouts and seven walks.

“Every guy got better,” Chukars manager Justin Gemoll said. “It’s a developmental league. These guys grew together as a team and figured out how to win some ballgames.”

The Chukars also committed two errors in the game, upping their season total to 167 (2.2 per game). The next closest team was Ogden, which finished with 131 errors.

Player of the game

Chukars third baseman Manny Olloque

Olloque and Dudek each hit a home run and a double. Olloque added a single to finish 3 for 4, while Dudek was 2 for 4.

Thursday’s performance ended an impressive 2016 season for Olloque. The Pioneer League postseason all-star had a .330 batting average, eight home runs and an OPS over .850.

The biggest area Olloque wants to improve is defense. The 20-year-old committed 25 errors this season, including two on Thursday.

“I lost focus,” Olloque said. “I look forward to instructs and get better on defense.”

Raptors rally past the Chukars 3-2

Hernandez
Hernandez

Idaho Falls’ slim chances at making the Pioneer League playoffs took a big hit Friday with a 3-2 loss to the Ogden Raptors in Utah.

The loss, combined with Grand Junction’s 15-inning win over Orem, pushes the Chukars five games behind the Rockies in the South Division second-half standings with just eight games to play. Idaho Falls can be eliminated with any combination of Chukars losses and Grand Junction wins that adds up to three.

Good start, bad finish

Idaho Falls got another good performance from a starting pitcher, but couldn’t make it equal a win. Arnaldo Hernandez was strong in his six innings, allowing two earned runs on three hits with two walks and nine strikeouts. But the game was tied when he left the game, and Ogden got to the I.F. bullpen when it counted.

DJ Peters did the damage, smacking a solo homer off Christian Flecha in the bottom of the eighth. Ogden relievers Adalberto Pena and Vinny Santarsiero did the rest, allowing just one hit and two walks while striking out five over the final three innings to secure the win.

Idaho Falls finished with just five hits, two of them coming from Joe Dudek. Angelo Castellano added a solo homer in the third inning, his second of the season.

Player of the game

Ogden right fielder DJ Peters

On a night of limited offense, Peters was the hero. He stepped to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the eighth in a tie game and belted a no-doubter over the wall in left-center field. That run proved to be the difference.

Up next

The Chukars and Raptors play a doubleheader today after Thursday’s game was rained out. Idaho Falls will start Andres Machado (2-3, 3.72) starting Game 1 at 3:05 p.m. and Igol Feliz (2-3, 5.54 ERA) taking the hill in Game 2 to follow.

Alex Luna struggles in the Chukars’ 9-5 loss to Ogden

Luna
Luna

The Ogden Raptors entered Wednesday night in need of a win. The only problem: they were 0-7 at Melaleuca Field on the season.

But Ogden proved that Melaleuca Field was not a complete death trap by beating the Chukars 9-5 Wednesday night. The Raptors avoided a four-game sweep and remained a half game back of Grand Junction in the Pioneer League South Division second-half standings.

The Chukars, meanwhile, fell 3.5 games behind the Rockies. Eight games remain.

Luna’s rocky return

Chukars right-hander Alex Luna owned a league-leading 2.48 ERA in the first half. That number didn’t change for nearly a month due to an oblique injury he suffered on July 26.

Luna made relief appearances on Aug. 22 and on Friday, and he finally earned a start on Wednesday. The outing, however, was his worst of the year.

Luna allowed nine earned runs on 10 hits in 4.2 innings against the Raptors (he walked one and struck out three). He hadn’t allowed more than three earned runs in any of his previous six starts.

“I felt alright, like I was back from my injury. I wasn’t thinking about that, and it didn’t hurt at all,” Luna said. “Sometimes you just don’t have your best stuff, and tonight was one of those nights. I was leaving the ball up, wasn’t putting it where I wanted to and kinda placing it rather than throwing it.”

Luna allowed seven runs through four innings, but the bullpen remained mostly silent until he ran into trouble in the fifth. Chukars manager Justin Gemoll said Luna’s long leash was not really due to the 8.1 innings thrown by the bullpen on Tuesday night. Instead, Gemoll cited the predetermined number of pitches that I.F. targeted for Luna. Gemoll declined to give the specific number. Luna threw 77 pitches (52 strikes) in the game.

Playoff scenarios

I.F.’s playoff chances are slim, but there are a couple of ways they could reach the postseason.

The first, most direct scenario involves the Chukars winning most, if not all, of their remaining games and winning the South division second-half title outright.

The second scenario requires Orem to vault into first place alone. The Owlz won the first half title, so if they win the second half, the South team with the next best overall record would make the playoffs. The Chukars currently own the division’s second best overall record.

The second scenario, however, is less likely because Orem is 2.5 games out of first place in the second half standings. So winning out is the best way for I.F. to nab the second playoff spot. Otherwise, the Chukars would need Orem to win or sweep its four-game series against Grand Junction, then they would need to lose most of their final four games against the Owlz.

Player of the game

Raptors shortstop Gavin Lux

Lux had a big night in his Ogden debut Wednesday night, going 3 for 4 with an RBI.

The Dodgers selected Lux with the 20th overall pick in June’s MLB draft, and they signed the 18-year-old for a reported $2.3 million.

Up next

The Chukars (35-33 overall, 13-17 second half) and Raptors (33-35, 16-14) continue to play each other, only in Ogden. The four-game series starts Thursday at 6:30 p.m., when I.F. righty Arnaldo Hernandez will take on 6-foot-10 righty Nolan Long. The Chukars are 0-4 at Ogden this season.

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.

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).

Lefties deal in the Chukars’ 7-3 win over Billings

Idaho Falls pitcher Richard Lovelady closes out Thursday’s 7-3 win over the Billings Mustangs at Melaleuca Field. (Courtesy of Steve Thayer)
Idaho Falls pitcher Richard Lovelady closes out Thursday’s 7-3 win over the Billings Mustangs at Melaleuca Field. (Courtesy of Steve Thayer)

Another solid start, a hot lineup and a fresh mustache keyed the Idaho Falls Chukars’ second straight win.

The Chukars ended the seven-game homestand with a 7-3 win over the Billings Mustangs on Thursday night at Melaleuca Field. The win over the Pioneer League’s best team gave I.F. its first back-to-back victories in August.

Lefties shine

Matt Portland started a string of a strong starting pitching performances on the homestand. The left-hander topped off the seven home games with another solid start.

Portland pitched five innings, allowing three runs (one earned) one five hits and three walks with six strikeouts.

“We worked a lot on his tempo, with the idea of throwing it through the strike zone instead of to the strike zone,” Chukars pitching coach Jeff Suppan said.

Every Chukars starter on the homestand pitched at least four innings, and the most earned runs any of them allowed was two.

Drew Milligan entered Thursday’s game with a 9.27 ERA, which ballooned thanks to nine earned runs over his previous four innings. The left-hander said he was thinking too much about mechanics, but there was also something missing. He needed mustache.

Milligan said he pitched well in extended spring training, the last time he sported a thick mustache. A couple weeks ago, he decided to bring it back. The stache grew back to spring training form Thursday, when he pitched three scoreless innings. Was it due to the mustache?

“One-hundred percent,” Milligan said. “It’s gotta stay, for sure.”

Milligan didn’t allow a hit or a walk, and he struck out three. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is now 28-to-7, and he still hasn’t allowed a home run.

“It’s a process,” Suppan said. “‘What makes me more intense? What makes me less intense? How do I take the same intensity every game?’ That’s what they’re learning, and Milly did a really nice job tonight.”

Lefty Richard Lovelady closed the game out with another perfect ninth inning. Lovelady has allowed one earned run in seven innings with the Chukars. He’s struck out nine, walked one and allowed four hits.

Sending them home

A week ago, the Chukars were struggling with runners in scoring position to an unsustainable degree. They went 1 for 25 with runners on second and/or third at Billings over the weekend, and they only slightly improved to start the homestand.

I.F. went 4 for 11 (.364) with runners in scoring position during Wednesday’s 7-5 win. That number swelled to 6 for 12 on Thursday.

In the bottom of the fourth, I.F. had a 4-2 lead with Luke Willis on third, one out and Ricky Aracena at the plate. The Chukars shortstop hit a high chopper to the left side, and pitcher Patrick Riehl appeared to touch it before it hit the ground and bounced foul. But home plate umpire Trevor Danneger ruled it foul, even after a discussion with base umpire Chris Sundvold.

The call looked like an omen, the way the Chukars had played earlier in the homestand. Instead, Aracena walked, Meibrys Viloria drove Willis home, and Aracena scored on a groundout.

Player of the game 

Chukars second baseman Angelo Castellano 

Castellano led all hitters with three hits, and he finished 3 for 4 with an RBI and two runs scored. But he also earns this honor for the impressive range, body control and arm strength he displayed at second all night.

Up next

The Chukars (29-27, 7-11 second half) get Friday off and start a six-game road trip Saturday. Arnaldo Hernandez is scheduled to start against fellow righty Alejandro Requena in game one of a four-game series against the Grand Junction Rockies.

https://twitter.com/VictorFlores_IF/status/766469314966872064

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.