Tag: Bryan Brickhouse

Chukars surrender three-run lead in eighth, lose 6-5 to Orem

The Idaho Falls Chukars held a three-run lead with six outs remaining. Then they led by one with two outs.

If they preserved the lead, they’d be headed to the Pioneer League championship.

Now they’re heading to an elimination game.

The Orem Owlz clawed back from a 5-2 eighth-inning deficit and earned a 6-5 walkoff win in game two of the Pioneer League South Division championship series Thursday at Orem, Utah. Tonight’s game in Orem will determine who advances to the championship.

After three scoreless innings, the Chukars took control of the game in the fourth.

First baseman Josh Banuelos (1 for 4) drove in second baseman D.J. Burt with a two-out double. The next batter was designated hitter Brandon Dulin, who bombed a two-run home run for a 3-0 lead.

Orem’s designated hitter Jared Walsh answered, hitting solo home runs in the fourth and sixth innings to cut I.F.’s lead to 3-2.

But the Chukars extended the lead back to three in the top of the eighth. Right fielder Amalani Fukofuka (1 for 4) hit an RBI double, and he scored two batters later on a single from Dulin (2 for 4).

I.F.’s bullpen woes began with Matt Ditman, who loaded the bases with no outs to start the bottom of the eighth. Orem scored one run on a groundout, and another came in on an error from shortstop Marten Gasparini. Ditman suddenly had a one-run lead to work with, and the bases were loaded with one out, but he escaped the threat.

Brian Bayliss recorded the first out of the ninth inning, but he subsequently walked first baseman Jeff Boehm. The next batter was center fielder Jared Foster, who drove Boehm in with a double. Bayliss walked the next two batters, bringing up catcher Angel Genao. He grounded to Burt, but the Chukars couldn’t complete the double play, and the Owlz forced another game.

Chukars starter Bryan Brickhouse gave up one run (earned) on four hits, a walk and three strikeouts in his four innings of work.

Julio Pinto gets the start tonight for the Chukars in their playoff rubber-match at Orem. First pitch is scheduled for 6:15.

In the North Division, Missoula knotted up its series with Billings after a 7-5 win Thursday night.

Royals honor Fukofuka, Gordon

On Thursday, the Kansas City Royals announced their players and pitchers of the year for each minor league affiliate. Fukofuka was named I.F.’s player of the year, and Derek Gordon was named its pitcher of the year.

Chukars roll over Orem 6-2 in playoff opener

Idaho Falls Chukars second baseman DJ Burt dives on an infield grounder during the first game of the Pioneer League South Division playoffs against the Orem Owlz Wednesday at Melaleuca Field. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls Chukars second baseman DJ Burt dives on an infield grounder during the first game of the Pioneer League South Division playoffs against the Orem Owlz Wednesday at Melaleuca Field. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)

By VICTOR FLORES
vflores@postregister.com

Wednesday might have marked the Idaho Falls Chukars’ final home game of 2015.

But they seem on track to play at Melaleuca Field one more time.

I.F. hosted the Orem Owlz on Wednesday night for the first game of the Pioneer League South Division championship series. The game played out like so many in the second half. The Chukars won 6-2.

“They have fun together, and it seems like a different guy is stepping up every night,” Chukars manager Justin Gemoll said.

Idaho Falls Chukars pitcher Derek Gordon throws for a strike against the Orem Owlz during the Pioneer League South Division playoffs Game one Wednesday at Melaleuca Field.  (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls Chukars pitcher Derek Gordon throws for a strike against the Orem Owlz during the Pioneer League South Division playoffs Game one Wednesday at Melaleuca Field. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)

After a 13-25 first half, the Chukars won the second-half division title with a 25-13 record. The turnaround was incredible by itself, but the second half was also historic. Before this season, I.F.’s best half since becoming a Kansas City Royals’ Rookie affiliate in 2004 came in 2009, when it went 23-14 in the second half.

If anyone expected playoff jitters from the Chukars, they didn’t appear during the first few innings of Wednesday’s game.

I.F. starting pitcher Derek Gordon retired Orem’s first six batters on 13 pitches. The Chukars scored once in the first inning and four times in the second inning, although Orem should have limited the damage to one run in the second.

With the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the second inning, second baseman D.J. Burt grounded back to pitcher Jeff Malm. The left-hander got a forceout at home, and catcher Tanner Lubach tried to double up Burt at first. But first baseman Jeff Boehm couldn’t corral the throw, and the inning went on.

Right fielder Amalani Fukofuka came up next and smoked the first pitch down the right-field line. Ten seconds later, Fukofuka was standing at third base and the Chukars led 5-0.

Fukofuka (1 for 4) has continued to rake since last week, when he missed two games to attend the funeral for his cousin, Medina.

“I think about her before every game, and it keeps me going,” Fukofuka said. “I know she’s up there looking after me.”

Gordon never looked in trouble during his seven innings of work. He gave up two earned runs on five hits, a walk and five strikeouts. Gemoll lauded the righty’s fastball command and aggression.

“I just treated it like any other start,” Gordon said. “I went out there and tried to compete.”

Flame-throwing right-hander Josh Staumont threw two scoreless innings to preserve the 6-2 win.

Idaho Falls Chukars center fielder Cody Jones runs to first base after a line drive to left field during the Pioneer League South Division playoffs game one against the Orem Owlz Wednesday at Melaleuca Field. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls Chukars center fielder Cody Jones runs to first base after a line drive to left field during the Pioneer League South Division playoffs game one against the Orem Owlz Wednesday at Melaleuca Field. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)

Shortstop Marten Gasparini went 3 for 4 with two stolen bases in his third game back from Japan, where he represented Team Italy in the World Baseball and Softball Confederation U-18 Baseball World Cup.

“My head was with the (Chukars) the whole time I was over there,” Gasparini said. “I was ready to play in the playoffs. I was looking forward to this moment since the start of the second half.”

Center fielder Cody Jones went 2 for 3 with a walk and third baseman Jose Martinez went 1 for 2 with a walk.

I.F. hopes to clinch the series tonight at Orem, Utah. First pitch is scheduled for 6:15, and Bryan Brickhouse will start on the mound for the Chukars.

If the Owlz win tonight, both teams will play at Orem again Friday to determine who will go to the Pioneer League championship. I.F. would host the first championship game on Sunday if it gets past Orem. In the North Division series, Billings took a 1-0 series lead with a 5-2 win over Missoula.

Chukars build division lead to two games with 8-5 win

The Idaho Falls Chukars got one step closer to a playoff berth Thursday night.

The Chukars cruised past the Owlz 8-5 at Orem, Utah, giving them their first winning record of the season. I.F. now has a two-game lead in the Pioneer League South Division for the second half, thanks to Ogden’s 16-8 loss to Grand Junction. Five games remain.

I.F. fell behind 1-0 after the first inning, but it took control in the top of the second on a two-out, two-run home run from left fielder Roman Collins.

The Chukars never trailed again. In the top of the fourth, second baseman D.J. Burt cleared the bases with a two-out triple, extending the lead to 5-1. Burt’s extended his on-base streak to 51 games with the hit.

The lead grew to 8-1 the next inning on an RBI double from catcher Nick Dini, an RBI groundout from Collins and an RBI single from Carlos Diaz.

The third baseman Diaz was one of I.F.’s two additions before the game. He and left-handed pitcher Nicholas Andros were promoted from the Arizona League Royals. Shortstop Gabriel Noriega ended his rehab assignment with the Chukars on Thursday, as well, and was promoted to Triple-A Omaha.

Bryan Brickhouse pitched three solid innings for the Chukars, giving up one run (earned) on one hit, one walk and three strikeouts.

Dini and designated hitter Brandon Dulin each went 3 for 5. Collins and first baseman Josh Banuelos each went 2 for 5.

Ogden’s elimination number shrunk to four with the loss and I.F.’s win. That means the Chukars can clinch the second half division title with two wins and two Raptor losses.

The Chukars also own the first playoff tiebreaker due to their 9-7 record against Ogden this season, so their divisional lead is really three games.

I.F. (36-35, 23-10 second half) wraps up its two-game series with Orem (38-33, 14-19) tonight at 7:15.

Chukars Notebook: Second half resurgance

By VICTOR FLORES
vflores@postregister.com

History is brewing at Melaleuca Field.

Second baseman D.J. Burt chases down a ball during the Idaho Falls Chukars’ 9-8 loss to Ogden on June 31 at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)
Second baseman D.J. Burt chases down a ball during the Idaho Falls Chukars’ 9-8 loss to Ogden on June 31 at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)

The Idaho Falls Chukars enter today’s game against Grand Junction with a 19-9 second half record, tops in the Pioneer League. That record is even more impressive when compared to the Chukars’ first half, when they finished dead last at 13-25.

I.F. is currently tied with Ogden in the Pioneer League South Division for the second half. Even if the Chukars miss the playoffs, they might finish with the winningest half since they became a Kansas City Royals affiliate.

The Chukars joined the Royals’ organization in 2004. Since then, their best half was in 2009, when they went 23-14 to end the season. The Chukars would need to go at least 5-5 to surpass the 2009 mark.

It should be noted that the halfway point of a season is an arbitrary endpoint. In other words, the dividing line between the first 38 games and the last 38 games is essentially meaningless.

The beginning of a season is the most significant starting point for a baseball team, and I.F. has gone 32-34 since then. You can create any narrative you want by closing your eyes and randomly placing your finger on a calendar.

The Pioneer League, of course, doesn’t work like the MLB, which rewards season-long records. Teams only need one good half to be in the Pioneer League playoff hunt, as the Chukars have shown. But that doesn’t mean the Chukars went into a telephone booth on July 28 and came out a superteam.

That all said, several I.F. players and coaches said they hit a mental reset button after the first half ended. They knew July 28 marked a new season, and that mental rewiring counts for something.

Plus, several players have gone from bad to elite, and their improvement started almost squarely on July 28. Second baseman D.J. Burt and shortstop Marten Gasparini are at the top of that list.

After July 28, Burt was hitting .198/.324/.215 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage). Through Friday, he was hitting .282/.389/.364, and his defense looks improved.

Gasparini’s slash line dropped to .205/.275/.346 through July 27. Now, it’s .262/.339/.419, although Gasparini might be done for the season because he is representing Team Italy in the 2015 World Baseball Softball Confederation U-18 Baseball World Cup.

“A lot of the position players, especially, are very young, so whenever you go up a level, not everybody’s going to have immediate success,” Chukars reliever Tripp Davis told Chukars director of broadcasting Alex Cohen on Aug. 11. “They’ve put in their time in the first half, and now everything’s clicking.”

The pitching is clicking, as well. I.F.’s first half team ERA was 5.33. It’s down to 4.93 on the season, thanks to pitchers like Davis (2.84 second-half ERA) Derek Gordon (3.12) and Josh Staumont (3.48, 34-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio).

I.F. has also been good/lucky in close games during the second game. The Chukars have won five extra-inning games (7-1 on the season), eight by one run and are 13-4 in games decided by two runs or fewer.

The Chukars will enjoy this success even if they miss the playoffs and fizzle over these last 10 games. Their players have developed in the second half, and that is ultimately all that matters in rookie ball.

PICOLLO VISIT’S I.F.

J.J. Picollo — the Royals’ vice president/assistant general manager for player personnel — has watched the Chukars since Thursday in Ogden, and he’ll be in Idaho Falls through today. He makes trips to see Kansas City’s three Rookie-level teams once a year.

Picollo said he’s here for two main reasons.

“One, getting to learn our new players, guys who were drafted this year. I saw a lot of them in mini-camp but didn’t see them in games,” said Picollo, who has held his current position since 2008. “The second thing is to look at the guys we’ve had in the system, see how they’re progressing, see where they’re at.”

INTERN MIGRATION

Chukars general manager Kevin Greene has been employing college interns since he became GM in 1993, and he believes the opportunties benefit him and the interns.

But every summer, he deals with the same issue: interns going back to school.

This summer, the Chukars had six administrative interns (some receive college credit, but all of them receive stipends, Greene said). Four have begun classes — Jake Guza (College of Idaho), Matthew Donovan, Aaron Palmberg (both BYU) and Desiree Cannon (Lewis and Clark). I.F. also lost several college-age concessions workers.

Greene and the Melaleuca Field staff aren’t too worried about being understaffed, though. After all, they’ve survived the intern migration for 22 years.

ROSTER MOVE

Last Sunday, right-handed pitcher Bryan Brickhouse made a three-inning rehab start for the Chukars against Grand Junction (he allowed two earned runs). The next day, Brickhouse was added to I.F.’s active roster.

This is Brickhouse’s third stint with the Chukars. He made one start for I.F. in 2012 and nine appearances (eight starts) in 2014.

WHO’S HOT?

2B D.J. Burt

Burt’s hot second half gets two mentions in this space. Since July 28, Burt his hitting .398 with nine extra-base hits, seven stolen bases and 15 walks. He’s also reached base (via a hit, walk or hit-by-pitch) in 46 straight games.

WHO’S NOT?

OF Brawlun Gomez

Gomez leads the Chukars with nine home runs, but he’s been in a major slump. In his last 11 games, Gomez is hitting 5 for 41 (.122) with two walks and 22 strikeouts. He has 79 strikeouts on the season, tied for first in the Pioneer League with Gasparini.

Chukars remain in first after 4-2 win over Grand Junction

The Idaho Falls Chukars lead the Pioneer League South Division second-half standings for another day.

A two-run fifth inning powered Idaho Falls to a 4-2 win over the Grand Junction Rockies on Friday at Melaleuca Field to begin a four-game homestand and give the Chukars their 10th win in the last 11 home games. Coupled with Ogden’s 14-6 win over Orem, the Chukars (32-33, 19-8) remain atop the South Division standings by one game over the Owlz.

Dini
Dini

Nick Dini broke open a scoreless game with a one-out, solo home run in the bottom of the fourth. The Rockies (27-38, 7-20) answered with a solo home run from Jonathan Piron to begin the top of the fifth.

The offensive spark continued in the remainder of the frame, as D.J. Burt put the Chukars ahead again with an RBI-triple that drove in Cody Jones. The hit stretched Burt’s on-base streak to 45 games. The lead was pushed to 3-1 two batters later when Joshua Baneulos scored Burt with a single to right.

Jones, who reached on a fielding error by Grand Junction first baseman Collin Ferguson with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, came home on a wild pitch by James McMahon two batters later for I.F.’s fourth run.

Brendan Rodgers drove in Mylz Jones with a double in the top of the eighth for Grand Junction’s final run.

Dini finished 2 for 3 and Burt went 2 for 5 with a triple, an RBI and a run scored.

Hunter Haynes, who relieved starting pitcher Bryan Brickhouse after three innings, gave up two runs on six hits while walking none and striking out five in five innings. Brandon Thomas earned the save, tossing a scoreless inning while allowing two hits and a walk.

First pitch for game two between the Rockies and Chukars is 7:15 p.m. tonight.

Chukars dominate Grand Junction 11-7, return to .500

Idaho Falls Chukars shortstop Jeckson Flores tags out Grand Junction Rockies base runner Sam Hilliard, who tried to steal second base in a Sunday afternoon game at Suplizio Filed in Grand Junction, Colo. (Christopher Tomlinson / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)
Idaho Falls Chukars shortstop Jeckson Flores tags out Grand Junction Rockies base runner Sam Hilliard, who tried to steal second base in a Sunday afternoon game at Suplizio Filed in Grand Junction, Colo. (Christopher Tomlinson / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)

The Idaho Falls Chukars started the season 3-3. Fifty-four games later, they returned to .500.

The Chukars dominated the Grand Junction Rockies 11-7 Sunday at Suplizio Filed in Grand Junction, Colo. The win not only got the Chukars back to .500 on the season, it improved their second half record to 17-5 to maintain their three-game lead over the Ogden Raptors.

Idaho Falls got started with a six-run third inning. Third baseman Logan Nottebrok led the inning off with a solo home run. Shortstop Jeckson Flores singled to left field and center fielder Cody Jones bunted for a single that Rockies manager Anthony Sanders disagreed with. He was subsequently ejected for the first time in his managerial career.

Idaho Falls Chukars first baseman Josh Banuelos watches his three-run home run in flight during Idaho Falls’ six-run third inning in a Sunday afternoon game against the Grand Junction Rockies at Suplizio Filed in Grand Junction, Colo. (Christopher Tomlinson / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)
Idaho Falls Chukars first baseman Josh Banuelos watches his three-run home run in flight during Idaho Falls’ six-run third inning in a Sunday afternoon game against the Grand Junction Rockies at Suplizio Filed in Grand Junction, Colo. (Christopher Tomlinson / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)

Second baseman D.J. Burt came up next and doubled, scoring Flores. Two batters later, Josh Banuelos hit a three-run home run (his third of the season) to center field. Idaho Falls scored its final run in the inning after a double from left fielder Roman Collins and a single from catcher Kyle Pollock.

The Chukars took a 6-2 lead into the sixth inning, when they scored three more runs. Nottebrok hit his second home run of the night (and third of the year), a two-run shot two batters into the inning. Burt later scored on a wild pitch.

Jones, Burt, Banuelos, Nottebrok and Flores had three hits apiece. Banuelos was a triple shy of the cycle. Collins also went 2 for 5. The Chukars racked up 18 hits as a team.

Bryan Brickhouse made a rehab start for Idaho Falls, giving up two runs (both earned) on two hits, two walks and two strikeouts in three innings. Brickhouse is making his third stint with the Chukars. He made one start for them in 2012 and pitched 27.2 innings for them last season. Brickhouse pitched 6.1 innings in the Arizona League this season before being promoted to Idaho Falls.

The Chukars (30-30) play Grand Junction (25-35, 5-17 second half) again Monday night at 7:05.

Chukars walkoff winners in 10 innings over Brewers

By PAUL LAMBERT
prsports@postergister.com

Idaho Falls Chukars short stop Corey Toups hits a foul ball during Monday's game against the Helena Brewers at Melaleuca Field. Toups has a batting average of .314. Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com

Visit the Melaleuca Field batters box and receive an all-expenses paid trip to first base.

Such was the failed on-field promotion presented by the visiting Brewers on Monday night at Melaleuca Field.

The Helena pitching staff issued a season-high 12 walks Monday and the Chukars took them up on their free-pass offer with an 8-7, 10th-inning win.

Idaho Falls gave up its third-consecutive five-run lead at home before Luis Valenzuela won it in walk-off fashion with a single down the first-base line in the bottom of the 10th.

Mike Hill trotted home from third on Valenzuela’s hit, and Valenzeuela was mobbed by his teammates between first and second base.

Idaho Falls got to Helena pitcher David Carver with patience, getting five walks from the Brewers starter over the first three innings. Two of those walks came back around to score.

Carver, who was just promoted from the Arizona League Brewers, had issued only three walks over 19 innings entering Monday’s game.

Continue reading “Chukars walkoff winners in 10 innings over Brewers”

Brawl breaks out, Chukars go into 14th inning tied 7-7 with Raptors

By PAUL LAMBERT
prsports@postregister.com

Ogden Raptors rookie manager Jack McDowell threw a right hand at Idaho Falls manager Omar Ramirez, and it was on.

A 10th-inning fight broke out between the Raptors and Chukars at Melaleuca Field on Tuesday night, adding extra drama to an extra-inning thriller, a game that was tied 7-7 in the top of the 13th inning at Post Register deadline.

The confrontation began when Ogden designated hitter Justin Chigbogu took exception to something said by Idaho Falls catcher Pedro Gonzalez following Chigbogu’s three-pitch strikeout in the top of the 10th.

After reaching the third-base on-deck circle, Chigbogu flipped his bat and started shouting and walking toward Gonzalez.

At that point, home umpire Jordan Johnson got between the two, the benches and bullpens cleared, and more than 50 grown men began pushing and shoving midway between home plate and the pitching mound.

The much-taller McDowell was bumping and pointing in Ramirez’s face, and Ramirez was bumping and barking right back — finally shouting an audible, two-word curse.

McDowell threw the first punch, and that sent the entire throng from pushing to punching.

The teams separated once, and after some additional barking, snowballed on the infield again 90 seconds later.

A third fracas erupted as McDowell and Ramirez reached the clubhouse after both were ejected. Apparently, McDowell was waiting for Ramirez and the bulldogging began anew. Again both dugouts and bullpens made a mad dash to the clubhouse area.

After separating the teams a third time, Johnson had tossed McDowell, Chigbogu, Ogden catcher Julian Leon, pitching coach Greg Sabat and outfielders Colin Hering and Theo Alexander.

Ramirez was also thrown out, along with Idaho Falls pitcher Brooks Pounders and infielder Brooks Gomez.

Idaho Falls gave up a 7-2 lead to Ogden for the second straight night when the Raptors posted five runs in the eighth on three walks, a hit batsman and two hits.

The two teams won’t meet again until the end of the season, when they play five straight to close the Pioneer League’s second half.

CHUKARS CHATTER: Idaho Falls lost a pair of players to promotion this week, losing RHP Ashton Goudeau to the Lexington Legends (Class A long season), and INF Logan Davis to the Wilmington Blue Rocks (High Class A). … Robert Pehl extended hit hitting streak to 11 games with an RBI single in the fifth. … The Chukars have had 10 or more hits in 10 straight games at Melaleuca Field. … Both of Tuesday night’s pitchers, Bryan Brickhouse (I.F.) and Jeff Brigham (Ogden) had Tommy John surgery in 2013.

Chukars hold off Owlz rally for 9-7 road win

POST REGISTER

At Orem, Utah, no lead is safe when the Idaho Falls Chukars are involved.

The Chukars, who rallied from big deficits several times during their most recent homestand, watched Orem turn the tables Thursday night at Brent Brown Ballpark.

Luckily for Idaho Falls, Orem’s rally from an early seven-run deficit ran out of gas and the Chukars held on for a 9-7 win in front of 5,875 fans.

The Chukars appeared headed for a laugher early, scoring three runs in the first, three more in the second, two in the fourth and one in the fifth to take an 9-1 lead.

Ryan O’Hearn was in the middle of things once again for the Chukars. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound first baseman hit a two-run home in Idaho Falls’ three-run first, a two-run single in the second and finished 3 for 4 to push his batting average to .403.

Continue reading “Chukars hold off Owlz rally for 9-7 road win”

Chukars pitch a gem, shut out Rockies 9-0

By JEFF PINKHAM
jpinkham@postregister.com

Idaho Falls Chukars pitching coach Mark Davis won’t have an easier night at the ballpark than he had Friday night.

Chukars pitchers got 14 groundball outs and didn’t allow a runner to reach second base, and Idaho Falls got its first winning streak of the season with a 9-0 victory over the Grand Junction Rockies in front of 1,841 fans at Melaleuca Field.

Davis said there was a simple explanation for the dominance of his pitchers Friday.

“They were aggressive,” said Davis, who won the Cy Young Award for the Padres in 1989.

It all started with starter Bryan Brickhouse, a 2011 third-round draft choice who is in Idaho Falls on a rehab assignment while working his way back after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2013. The 6-foot, 195-pound righthander allowed just one hit and one walk while striking out three in four innings. He induced seven groundball outs and threw just 34 pitches.

“He set the tone,” Davis said. “He had a good breaking ball, a lively fastball and he actually threw a couple changeups. He threw the ball really well.”

Continue reading “Chukars pitch a gem, shut out Rockies 9-0”