Tag: Brian Bayliss

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.

Northwest League pounds Pioneer League 11-5

Viloria
Viloria

OGDEN, Utah Last year’s inaugural Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star Game concluded in walkoff fashion. The Northwest League won again this year, but the score was not nearly as close.

The Northwest League followed up last year’s 6-5 win in Spokane, Wash. with an 11-5 victory Tuesday at Lindquist Field in Ogden. All four Idaho Falls Chukars who represented the Pioneer League played, but they had quiet performances.

The Pioneer League answered the Northwest’s three-run top of the third inning with a four-run bottom half. Ogden’s DJ Peters tied it at 3-3 with a 445-foot two-run home run to left-center field.

The home team’s lead was short-lived. The Northwest League hit for the cycle in the top of the fourth and scored seven runsto take a commanding 10-4 lead. Home run derby champion Gio Brusa of Salem-Keizer capped the inning with a two-runblast to right field.

Olloque
Olloque

The Northwest League finished with 19 hits in the game, and the Pioneer League had seven.

Third baseman Xavier Turner of the Spokane Indians won the game’s Most Valuable Player award. He went 3 for 3 with a solo home run.

Peters’ home run was his only hit in three at-bats, but it was enough to earn him the Pioneer League’s Top Star honor.

I.F.’s Meibrys Viloria was the Pioneer League’s starting catcher, and fellow Chukar Manny Olloque started at third base. Viloria finished 1 for 3 with a single, and Olloque went 0 for 2 with a strikeout and a deep flyout to right.

I.F.’s Yeison Melo replaced Peters in right field in the top of the sixth. He went 0 for 2 with a lineout to left and a game-ending groundout to second.

Chukars reliever Brian Bayliss pitched the sixth inning. The right-hander allowed one earned run on three hits while striking out one.

Chukars’ all-stars took giant leaps this season

Chukars third baseman Manny Olloque grabs a foul ground ball during the game against the Orem Owlz on June 22 at Melaleuca Field. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)
Chukars third baseman Manny Olloque grabs a foul ground ball during the game against the Orem Owlz on June 22 at Melaleuca Field. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)

Last Wednesday, the Chukars lost to Missoula on a walkoff home run. The man who served up the homer was Brian Bayliss, who discovered he was a Pioneer League All-Star hours earlier.

Bayliss’ all-star selection couldn’t fully neutralize the sting of the walkoff, but it softened the blow. The second annual Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star Game is a good reminder to Bayliss and the Chukars’ other four all-stars Alex Luna, Yeison Melo, Manny Olloque and Meibrys Viloria of the larger picture. They’ve taken strides toward the higher levels of affiliated baseball over the last month and a half.

“It’s an honor,” Olloque said. “Just keep going. We’ve got plenty of season left. Improve on it.”

All five of I.F.’s All-Stars have gone through some version of the same story: they’ve broken through this season afterlackluster 2015 campaigns. Viloria might be the most glaring example.

The 19-year-old catcher leads the Pioneer League in batting average (.448), slugging percentage (.776), OPS (1.269), doubles(17) and total bases (97). Viloria has drawn only 10 walks, but that does not mean he’s impatient.

“He knows what he’s looking for,” Chukars hitting coach Andre David said. “If there’s a fastball on the outer half, and hedoesn’t like it, he’d rather be 0 and 1 than 0 for 1. Taking nothing away from his aggressiveness. It’s a controlledaggressiveness.”

Why take a walk when you get a pitch you can crush?

Viloria has 20 extra-base hits, including the six home runs that landed him in Tuesday’s home run derby and in the starting lineup for the game to follow. He had 39 hits last year with Burlington. None went for extra bases.

“I was working hard last year,” Viloria said in Spanish through I.F. bench coach Ramon Castro. “I tried hitting the ball (hard)but I couldn’t do it last year. I wasn’t focused. This year, I’m more focused, relaxed, I see the ball better and I have moreconfidence.”

Olloque hit .169 with a .438 OPS in 18 games with the Arizona League Royals that summer after battling a thumb injury. Hehas been plenty healthy this summer.

Olloque’s .342 batting average and .895 OPS netted him the start at third base for Tuesday’s game.

“He recovers really well,” David said. “If the pitcher makes a good pitch or a good couple pitches, it doesn’t phase him.”

Melo had the best 2015 season of I.F.’s all-stars, hitting .318 in 43 games for the Arizona League Royals. His OPS, however, was .772. That number is .919 this season, thanks in large part to 12 doubles, four triples and three home runs. Melo leads the Pioneer League in hits (58) and RBIs (39).

“We have done some things that have allowed him to be more in a position to see the fastball,” David said. “If it’s a breaking ball that he can get to or they hang, he’s in a better position to (hit) that, but he’s also recognizing, for the most part, the ones he can’t handle.”

Luna had a 4.54 ERA in 41.2 innings with Burlington last year. In 40 innings this season, he leads the Pioneer League in ERA (2.48) and the team in strikeouts (42). He’s issued just seven walks.

“We want to fill up the strike zone, and he’s able to do that,” Chukars pitching coach Jeff Suppan said. “It makes the hitters more aggressive. Then he can pick, he can change speeds, and he does that well.”

Luna will miss the game due to a strained oblique, and Bayliss filled his vacancy. Bayliss played for the Chukars last year and finished with a 6.39 ERA in 25.1 innings. His ERA is 3.24 in 16.2 innings this year, and he allowed only one earned run his first 10 innings. Suppan said Bayliss has been effective in throwing his changeup off his sinking fastball, and he tries to get hitters to chase his curveball.

The five all-star Chukars aren’t close to their major goal, but Tuesday’s game validates the progress they’ve made.

“I continued working hard,” Melo said. “I want to make the next level next year.”

Chukars Notebook: A heartbreaking end to a strong first half

Bayliss
Bayliss

In the ninth inning of the final game of the first half, the Idaho Falls Chukars didn’t know what their audience did: the Orem Owlz had lost.

Orem’s loss to Billings gave the Chukars an opening. If they came back to beat Missoula, they’d be the Pioneer League South Division first half champions.

As Orem’s game was concluding, the Chukars staged a comeback. A 4-1 deficit turned into a 4-4 tie, and it was feet away from a 5-4 lead. Angelo Castellano hit a double high off the wall to tie it up.

I.F.’s joy soon turned into anguish. Jacy Cave hit a walkoff home run off Brian Bayliss to put a disappointing end to an otherwise successful first half for the Chukars.

“It was a tough loss, especially when the game’s over and you find out that Orem lost,” Idaho Falls manager Justin Gemoll said. “Still, (we) accomplished a lot. I think a lot of our losses were by one or two runs. A lot of close games. With those close games, it just makes you focus on doing the little things right because a bunch of little things add up to a win.”

In some ways, Bayliss symbolized I.F.’s strong first half and its dispiriting end. Bayliss is a Pioneer League All-Star. The right-hander finished the first half with a 2.87 ERA, 13 strikeouts and three unintentional walks. Cave’s home run was one negative moment in a half full of positive ones.

“It’s baseball. It happens,” Bayliss said. “You’ve got another half season, and you just have to move on.”

The Chukars haven’t won a first half title since 2007, and they went a league-worst 13-25 in the first half of 2015. Bayliss was on last year’s team, and the playoff race this week didn’t feel new to him. It felt like the second half of last year, when the Chukars won the South Division.

The biggest goal for Gemoll and company, of course, is to develop their players. The coaching staff wants all 29 players to improve, wins and losses be damned to some extent.

Not every aspect of development is mechanical. Close games and tight playoff races can also prepare the players for the next level, even if Pioneer League contests feel light years away from the World Series.

“To get to that next level, you’ve gotta be a little bit sharper up top,” Gemoll said. “That’s what the good big league players do.”

One positive from finishing second in the first half title chase: the second half has stakes. The Chukars have another playoff race to look forward to.

LUNA’S STATUS

Chukars starting pitcher Alex Luna strained his left oblique Tuesday at Missoula. The injury will force Luna to miss Tuesday’s All-Star game, but neither he nor Justin Gemoll expect him to miss much time. Luna isn’t exactly sure when he’ll be back, but he hopes to throw again by Tuesday.

Luna leads I.F. with 42 strikeouts, and he’s issued seven walks in 40 innings pitched. The right-hander also leads all Pioneer League starters with a 2.48 ERA.

MONDESI CALLED UP

Kansas City called up former Chukar Raul Mondesi on Tuesday. The 21-year-old has started at second base the previous five games for the Royals and has gone 6 for 17 (.353) at the plate. He recorded his first MLB hit Wednesday, a bunt single against the Los Angeles Angels.

Mondesi, widely considered the Royals’ top prospect, was added to Kansas City’s 2015 World Series roster and made one plate appearance in Game 3. He started this season in Double-A Northwest Arkansas but was suspended 50 games in May after testing positive for Clenbuterol, a performance-enhancing drug. He returned to Advanced Single-A Wilmington on June 25, moved up to Northwest Arkansas on July 4 and ascended to Triple-A Omaha on July 9.

Mondesi played for the Chukars in 2012 at the age of 16. He hit .290 with a .733 OPS in 232 plate appearances.

FORMER CHUKARS LITTER TOP 30 LIST

MLB.com released its updated overall and team prospect lists this week. The Royals’ new top 30 looks similar to their preseason list, but several players have moved around.

Below are the former and current Chukars who made the Royals’ list:

1. SS/2B Raul Mondesi (preseason: No. 1) Was a Chukar in 2012; No. 54 on MLB.com’s top 100 list

2. 3B/OF Hunter Dozier (preseason: No. 15) Chukar in 2013

4. LHP Matt Strahm (preseason: No. 10) Chukar in 2012, 2014

6. RHP Kyle Zimmer (preseason: No. 2) Chukar in 2014

8. 1B/OF Ryan O’Hearn (preseason: No. 13) Chukar in 2014

9. RHP Alec Mills (preseason: No. 15) Chukar in 2012, 2014

10. RHP Jake Junis (preseason: unranked) Chukar in 2013

11. RHP Josh Staumont (preseason: 18) Chukar in 2015

14. SS Marten Gasparini (preseason: 8) Chukar in 2014, 2015

23. RHP Brooks Pounders (preseason: 29) Chukar in 2014, 2015

24. LHP Eric Skoglund (preseason: 28) Chukar in 2014

29. SS Ricky Aracena (preseason: 26) Current Chukar

30. 2B/SS Corey Toups (preseason: unranked) Chukar in 2014

Former Chukars who dropped out of the top 30: OF Amalani Fukofuka (preseason: 20; Chukar in 2015), OF Brandon Downs (preseason: 24; Chukar in 2014)

WHO’S HOT (FIRST HALF)?

C Meibrys Viloria

Alex Luna, Manny Olloque, Yeison Melo and others had excellent halves, but Viloria is the indisputable choice for this award. In the first 38 games, Viloria led the Pioneer League in batting average (.457), on-base percentage (.504), slugging percentage (.793), hits (53), RBIs (36), doubles (15) and total bases (92).

WHO’S NOT (FIRST HALF)?

LHP Nick Andros

Andros finished the first half with a 10.80 ERA in 13.1 innings pitched. He allowed 27 hits, seven walks (11 strikeouts) and a team-high six home runs.

Osprey dash Chukars’ division title hopes with walkoff home run

Bayliss
Bayliss

The first half of the Pioneer League season couldn’t have ended more dramatically. Or with more heartbreak for the Idaho Falls Chukars.

The Chukars rallied in the ninth inning to force a tie with the Missoula Osprey and restore life into their first-half title chances. But before the buzz from the three-run top half of the ninth wore off, Missoula walked off with a 5-4 win Wednesday at Ogren Park Allegiance Field.

I.F.’s loss handed Orem its third straight Pioneer League South Division first-half title.

Wild ninth

The Chukars were the Pioneer League’s best scoring team in the first half, and it wasn’t particularly close. They scored 303 runs (7.97 per game) over their first 38 contests, good for 42 more than Orem, the league’s second most prolific team.

But I.F.’s dynamic offense was nowhere to be found for most of its final two games against Missoula. The Chukars lost to the Osprey 2-1 in 10 innings on Tuesday and trailed 4-1 heading into the ninth on Wednesday.

With a title on the line, the offense woke up.

Orem and I.F. both had 22-15 records heading into Wednesday. Since the Owlz owned the tiebreaker, the Chukars had to beat Missoula, and Billings had to beat Orem in order for I.F. to claim the first-half title.

The Orem-Billings game ended as the Chukars were batting in the ninth. The Owlz lost 7-5.

Almost on queue, the Chukars began to rally. Yeison Melo walked and Meibrys Viloria singled to lead off the inning. With one out, Jordan Ebert singled home Melo.

4-2.

Viloria scored a batter later on a fielder’s choice groundout by Nick Heath. If not for Heath’s speed, the Osprey would have turned a double play and the game would have ended.

4-3.

Angelo Castellano came up next and crushed an Erbert Gonzalez pitch to center field. The ball was feet away from clearing the fence, according to Chukars broadcaster Andrew Haynes, but I.F. wasn’t complaining. Heath came all the way around from first to score.

4-4.

Rudy Martin grounded out on a close play, according to Haynes, to end the inning.

Gonzalez had allowed three earned runs in his previous 14 innings pitched (1.93 ERA). The Chukars saddled him with three earned runs in the ninth, alone.

All-Star reliever Brian Bayliss returned for his second inning of work in the bottom of the ninth. He struck out Billy Endris to bring up Jacy Cave with one out and nobody one. In a 1-0 count, Cave drove a Bayliss pitch toward left-center field. It cleared the wall, giving Missoula its second straight walkoff win.

The Chukars have not won a first-half South Division title since 2007.

Player of the game

Missoula right fielder Jacy Cave

Cave did more than launch the game’s biggest hit. He also hit a triple and went 4 for 5 on the night.

Up next

The Chukars (22-16) begin the second half at Melaleuca Field Thursday at 7:15 p.m. against the Grand Junction Rockies (16-22). Lefty Matt Portland (6.43 ERA) will get the start for I.F. against righty Mike Nikorak (2.89).

Five Chukars selected to Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star Game

Viloria
Viloria

Five Idaho Falls Chukars will represent the Pioneer League in next week’s Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star Game.

The five Chukars are reliever Brian Bayliss, starting pitcher Alex Luna, right fielder Yeison Melo, third baseman Manny Olloque and catcher Meibrys Viloria. Infielder David Edwards was also named the first alternate for the Pioneer League team. He will join his teammates if any current position player pulls out of the game.

Bayliss was not named to the initial all-star roster, but a spot opened up due to a Luna injury. Luna strained his oblique in Tuesday’s game at Missoula, according to Chukars broadcaster and director of media relations Andrew Haynes.

Viloria and Olloque will start for the Pioneer League, and Melo will come off the bench.

Going into Wednesday, Viloria led the league in batting average (.455), on-base percentage (.504), slugging percentage (.804), doubles (15), RBIs (36) and total bases (90). He and Melo were tied for first in hits with 51, and

Olloque
Olloque

Olloque was third with 50.

Viloria’s 1.308 OPS was tops in all of Minor League Baseball, according to MiLB.com.

Olloque was hitting .355 with a .891 OPS through Tuesday, and Melo hit .345 with an .859 OPS.

Luna leads all Pioneer League starters with a 2.48 ERA (minimum 0.8 innings pitched per start). He’s also struck out 42 and walked seven in 40 innings pitched.

Through Tuesday, Bayliss had a 2.51 ERA, 10 strikeouts and five walks in 14.1 innings pitched.

First baseman Josh Banuelos, outfielder Amalani Fukofuka and reliever Tripp Davis represented I.F. in last season’s inaugural all-star game, which was played in Spokane, Wash. This year’s game will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 2 around 7 p.m. in Ogden, Utah.

Here are the full rosters (asterisk = starter):

Pioneer League
RHP Brian Bayliss, Idaho Falls
LHP Nate Bertness, Orem
SS Jasrado Chisholm, Missoula
3B Brady Conlan, Great Falls
RHP Colton Cross, Helena
RHP Jordan Desguin*, Helena
RHP Jake Elliott, Great Falls
LHP Roberth Fernandez, Ogden
RHP Connor Grey, Missoula
SS Jose Gomez*, Grand Junction
OF Mitchell Hansen* (DH), Ogden
1B Ibandel Isabel, Ogden
RHP Dean Jackson, Missoula
C Ryan January, Missoula
OF Jahmai Jones*, Orem
RHP Andrew Jordan, Billings
RHP Alex Luna, Idaho Falls
RHP Aron McRee, Great Falls
RF Yeison Melo, Idaho Falls
RHP Kenny Oakley, Grand Junction
3B Manny Olloque*, Idaho Falls
OF DJ Peters*, Ogden
2B Jonathan Piron*, Grand Junction
RHP Tony Santillan, Billings
OF Aaron Schnurbusch*, Great Falls
CF Jose Siri, Billings
2B Hector Vargas, Billings
C Meibrys Viloria*, Idaho Falls
RHP Nash Walters, Helena
INF Colton Welker, Grand Junction

Northwest League
SS Chris Baker, Tri-City
INF Cavan Biggio*, Vancouver
1B Jacob Bosiokovic*, Boise
OF Gio Brusa, Salem-Keizer
RHP Jesus Castillo, Eugene
RHP Jared Cheek, Eugene
RHP Tommy Eveld, Hillsboro
RHP Tyler Ferguson, Spokane
RHP Julian Fernandez, Boise
OF Eric Filia*, Everett
RF Ashford Fullmer, Salem-Keizer
OF Robert Garcia*, Eugene
SS Garrett Hampson*, Boise
C Javier Hernandez, Vancouver
OF Kyle Lewis, Everett
RHP Diomar Lopez, Tri-City
RHP Tyler Mark, Hillsboro
RHP Javier Medina, Boise
RHP Brandon Miller, Everett
RHP Patrick Murphy, Vancouver
RHP Liay Newsom, Everett
LHP Jose Paulino, Eugene
OF Chris Pieters* (DH), Eugene
RHP Emmanuel Ramirez, Tri-City
C John Riley, Salem-Keizer
OF Chad Smith, Spokane
C Seth Spivey*, Spokane
3B Xavier Tuner*, Spokane
SS Donnie Walton, Everett
RHP Jake Winston, Hillsboro

Chukars rough up Osprey 17-7

Edwards
Edwards

Back-to-back road wins have pushed the Idaho Falls Chukars closer to winning the Pioneer League South Division first-half title. Idaho Falls held off Helena on Sunday to end that three-game series, then pounded Missoula 17-7 on Monday to kick off another three-game set.

The Chukars were unable to build on their one-game lead over Orem when the Owlz rallied from a late two-run deficit to earn a 6-5 win over Helena. The Chukars could clinch the first-half title Tuesday with a win and an Orem loss.

Hit parade

Idaho Falls has the top offense in the Pioneer League, and they only added to that lead Monday. The Chukars finished with 20 hits, including four doubles and two home runs. Every hitter in the Idaho Falls lineup had at least one hit, and every Chukar scored at least once.

Manny Olloque, Yeison Melo, David Edwards and Angelo Castellano each had three hits, while Rudy Martin, Meibrys Viloria and Jordan Ebert added two apiece. Idaho Falls hitters also drew four walks. And despite scoring 17 runs, they left 11 runners on base.

Idaho Falls scored at least two runs in seven of the nine innings, including four in the eighth and three in the second, seventh and ninth innings.

Mound presence

Castellano
Castellano

Idaho Falls starter Andres Machado wasn’t the force he had been in his previous three starts, when he allowed a combined one earned run on 11 hits in 14 innings. But he wasn’t bad, either. The 6-foot, 175-pound right-hander allowed three earned runs on six hits and two walks while striking out five in five innings to even his season record at 2-2.

Player of the game

Chukars second baseman Angelo Castellano

Castellano has been one of the few Chukars to struggle at the plate, hitting .259 while showing little power. But something clicked for the 6-foot, 170-pounder, who entered Monday hitting .245. Castellano pushed that average to .259 after going 3 for 6 with two singles and a three-run bomb in the seventh.

Up next

Idaho Falls (22-14) continues its three-game series with Missoula tonight. Alex Luna (3-0, 2.50 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Chukars while Alex Gouin (1-2, 5.79) is expected to start for the Osprey.

Sunday’s game

CHUKARS 7, BREWERS 6: At Helena, Mont., the Chukars turned the tables on their road woes, rallying from an early 4-2 deficit and then surviving a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the ninth inning to earn a rare victory away from Melaleuca Field.

Idaho Falls had lost seven road games by one run, including five of them in walk-offs. Helena nearly made it six Sunday, loading the bases in the bottom of the ninth with the Chukars up by a run. But Idaho Falls reliever Brian Bayliss got a flyout to end the threat and close out the win.

The Chukars trailed 4-2 entering the fifth, but Meibrys Viloria added to his amazing season by belting a three-run homer to right field. David Edwards followed with a solo homer to put the Chukars up 6-4. Helena tied the score with single runs in the fifth and eighth, but Idaho Falls went back ahead when Yeison Melo and Viloria singled. Jordan Ebert then lined a single to center that went in and out of the glove of Joantgel Segovia, allowing Melo to score.

Viloria improved his league-leading average to .456 by going 3 for 4, while adding his 15th double and sixth home run. Ricky Aracena was 2 for 4 with a run while Ebert was 2 for 5 with a run and an RBI and Melo was 2 for 5 with a run. And the league’s worst defense was error-free for the second straight game.

Chukars turn on the power late, beat Osprey 6-5

Chukars infielders David Edwards (left) and Manny Olloque (right) high-five their teammates after Idaho Falls’ 6-5 win over Missoula on Tuesday at Melaleuca Field. (Courtesy of Steve Thayer)
Chukars infielders David Edwards (left) and Manny Olloque (right) high-five their teammates after Idaho Falls’ 6-5 win over Missoula on Tuesday at Melaleuca Field. (Courtesy of Steve Thayer)

The Idaho Falls Chukars’ lineup might take a while to wake up, but it never sleepwalks through a game.

That was the case again Tuesday. The Chukars didn’t record a baserunner through three innings, and they were hitless through four. No matter. They finished with 10 hits and a 6-5 win over the Missoula Osprey Tuesday at Melaleuca Field. I.F. now occupies first place in the Pioneer League South by itself.

Power out, power in

First pitch of Tuesday’s game was delayed 15 minutes due to a power outage that affected the entire region. Everything returned back to normal at Melaleuca Field around 6:45 p.m., except for the Chukars’ offense.

The team that averaged 8.3 runs on 10.9 hits per game heading into Tuesday was shut down the first four innings by right-hander Chester Pimentel. Not only did he hold I.F. hitless for four innings, he struck out six batters over that span.

Then the Chukars’ lights turned on.

Five singles led to three runs in the bottom of the fifth, and the Chukars suddenly had a two-run lead. Before that inning, it was easy to forget that Alex Luna I.F.’s best starting pitcher was also pitching a gem. He finished with three earned runs in 5.2 innings, but he only allowed five hits and one walk while striking out eight.

The Osprey regained the lead against Luna and Brian Bayliss in the top of the sixth, but a 5-3 deficit to the Chukars is like a summit reachable by wheelchair.

Sure enough, the Chukars scored once in the bottom of the sixth to inch closer. Meibrys Viloria led off the bottom of the eighth, and the outcome of his at-bat felt comically predicable. Viloria skied a 400-plus-foot home run to right field. The next batter, David Edwards, launched a pitch the opposite way over the left field wall to give I.F. the lead for good.

“You play to the last out of the ballgame, and that’s kind of the attitude these guys have taken,” Chukars pitching coach Andre David said. “That’s a good learning experience for them as they move up, to understand that you’re competing every pitch. That’s how you get better, is to be able to compete through the tough times as well as the good times.”

The Chukars have now won five games this season in which they trailed in the seventh inning or later. They’re also 15-4 at home.

Alone at the top

I.F.’s win, coupled with Orem’s 5-3 loss to Billings, vaulted the Chukars into first place alone in the South Division. I.F. has a 19-12 record with seven games left in the first half.

The Chukars were also at home on July 19 last year for their 31st game. They beat Billings 4-2 in 11 innings that night to improve to 11-20, and they finished the first half 13-25.

Melo named player of the week

Chukars outfielder Yeison Melo hit .520 last week, making him an easy choice for the Pioneer League player of the week.

From July 11 to 17, Melo went 13 for 25 with a double, triple and his first two home runs of the season.

Player of the game

Chukars catcher Meibrys Viloria

Viloria might cool down this season, but don’t hold your breath. The catcher went 3 for 4 with key hits: the game-tying home run and an RBI single in the sixth to cut Missoula’s lead to 5-4.

Viloria is now batting .472 in 89 at-bats this season.

Up next

The Chukars get Wednesday off and begin an eight-day road trip on Thursday at Helena (11-20). Jace Vines is scheduled to take on fellow right-hander Jordan Desguin in game one of the four-game series.

Bats show life in Chukars’ 10-8 win over Orem

Olloque
Olloque

The Idaho Falls Chukars avenged Friday night’s 16-5 bludgeoning and snapped a three-game losing streak thanks to a revitalized offense on Saturday.

The Chukars nearly squandered a big lead, but they held on for a 10-8 win over the Orem Owlz Saturday in Orem.

Bats awoken

The Chukars scored 12 total runs during their three-game losing streak to start their current road trip. Their bats finally awoke on Saturday.

I.F.’s lineup combined to record 15 hits, three walks and one hit batsman. The Chukars broke out with a five-run second inning and increased the lead to 9-1 heading into the bottom of the fifth.

Tanner Stanley went 3 for 5 and launched I.F.’s only extra-base hit, a two-run double in the top of the fifth.

Pitchers struggle to hold lead

Chukars starter Arnaldo Hernandez allowed one run in his first four innings and was gifted a 9-1 lead heading into the fifth. But the right-hander gave up three runs that inning, and Orem had hope.

I.F. increased the lead to 10-4 in the sixth, but the Owlz scored three times in the seventh and once in the eighth. Lefty Cole Way pitched in the three-run seventh, and Brian Bayliss allowed the final run.

Chukars pitchers allowed 12 hits and six walks on the night.

Thaiss moves up

Before Saturday’s game, Orem first baseman Matt Thaiss was promoted to Burlington, the Los Angeles Angels’ Single-A Affiliate.

Thaiss was the No. 16 overall pick in June’s MLB draft and earned a $2.15 million signing bonus, per the Orange County Register. He hit .338 with a .964 OPS in 65 at-bats for the Owlz these last two months. Against the Chukars, Thaiss went 4 for 14 with three doubles and his first professional home run.

Player of the game

Chukars third baseman Manny Olloque

Olloque didn’t record an extra-base hit, but a 4 for 5 performance at the plate is more than enough to earn this honor. Olloque now has a .350 batting average, good for the top 20 in the Pioneer League.

Up next

The Chukars (12-10) face the Owlz (14-8) at 4:05 p.m. Sunday in Orem. I.F.’s Igol Feliz (5.49 ERA) is scheduled to get the start against fellow righty Travis Herrin (10.80).

Chukars walk off unlikely winners over Ogden

Idaho Falls right fielder Yeison Melo leaps high to make a catch just in front of the wall during the third inning of Monday’s game against the Ogden Raptors at Melaleuca Field. (Photo courtesy of Steve Thayer)
Idaho Falls right fielder Yeison Melo leaps high to make a catch just in front of the wall during the third inning of Monday’s game against the Ogden Raptors at Melaleuca Field. (Photo courtesy of Steve Thayer)

A game that deserved a wild ending got just that when Meibrys Viloria crushed a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the 10th inning to hand the Idaho Falls Chukars a 16-12 victory over the Ogden Raptors in front of a season-best crowd of 3,678 fans Monday night at Melaleuca Field.

Viloria’s 458-foot blast high over the wall in right field sent the fans scurrying to catch the fireworks show 10 minutes before the scheduled 10 p.m. start time, and sent the Chukars to an unlikely win.

Overcoming the odds

Idaho Falls did everything it could to hand the game to Ogden, falling behind 7-0 in the second inning, committing seven errors and walking 12 Raptors hitters. Fittingly, the Chukars were a strike away from a win in the top of the ninth when a close pitch went against Idaho Falls lefty Reinaldo Cepin. DJ Peters made the Chukars pay, sending the next pitch into left field to score the tying run.

Viloria
Viloria

But Brian Bayliss got the final out of the ninth and then worked a scoreless 10th before Idaho Falls loaded the bases on single, a sac bunt, an intentional walk and another walk. Yeison Melo had the first chance to end it, but he struck out after getting ahead in the count. That left it up to Viloria, the Chukars’ leading hitter this summer. Viloria worked the count into his favor before launching a no-doubter to right for this team-high third home run and setting off a celebration at home plate.

As they have done for much of the season, the Chukars were able to overcome bad defense (they lead the Pioneer League in errors) and inconsistent pitching with dominating offense. One day after collecting 18 hits, Idaho Falls finished with 19 in Monday’s win. Everyone in the lineup had at least one hit, four had two hits and Tanner Stanley (3 for 5, three runs, two RBIs), Colton Frabasilio (3 for 5, two runs, RBI) and Viloria (3 for 5, three runs, six RBIs) had three.

Overlooked

Lanky left-hander Cole Way didn’t have his best stuff, but his three innings of shutout relief allowed the Chukars to rally from the early 7-0 deficit. The 6-foot-9, 235-pound punter-turned-pitcher from Tulsa, Okla., allowed just one hit and walked three while striking out four. His ERA dropped to 2.08.

Player of the game

Chukars catcher Meibrys Viloria

The sweet-swinging lefty has been a nightmare for pitchers this summer. He entered Monday second in the league with .467 average, going 21 of 45 with nine doubles, a triple and two home runs. He increased his average to .480 on Monday, adding his 10th double and third home run while pushing his RBI total to 19 (tied for the team lead).

Up next

The Chukars wrap up their six-game homestand with a game against the Ogden Raptors tonight. First pitch is set for 7:15 p.m. Idaho Falls then hits the road for three games at Ogden and three more at Orem before taking a day off July 12.

Sunday’s game

CHUKARS 18, ROCKIES 7: Idaho Falls blasted five homers on a breezy Sunday afternoon and cruised to a win over the Rockies, giving the Chukars three wins in the four-game series.

Luke Willis, Leland Clemmons, Ryan Dale, David Edwards and Manny Olloque went deep for the Chukars, who finished with 18 hits. Olloque led the hit parade, going 3 for 5 with two runs scored and five RBIs. Willis was 3 for 5 with four runs and two RBIs, Ricky Aracena was 3 for 6 with two runs and two RBIs and Angelo Castellano went 2 for 4 with a double, a run and two RBIs.

Arnaldo Hernandez earned the win, allowing two runs (one earned) on eight hits with no walks and five strikeouts in 5.2 innings.