Tag: Carter Hope

Chukars Notebook: Q&A with Ricky Aracena

Aracena
Aracena

Perhaps no player represents the Idaho Falls Chukars’ poor second half more than Ricky Aracena.

Through Sunday, the shortstop had hit .183 since the first half ended. His on-base percentage dropped from .320 to .286, and his slugging percentage fell from .379 to .305.

Aracena’s biggest area of struggle this season has been defense, where he committed 38 errors going into Monday’s game.Missoula shortstop Jasrado Chisholm is second in the Pioneer League with 24 errors.

But errors only tell half the story. Aracena has a cannon of a right arm that’s rarely inaccurate (MLB.com ranked his arm a 65 on the 20 to 80 scouting scale). He’s also shown good range thanks to his above average speed. His biggest issue is corralling routine ground balls.

Aracena signed with the Kansas City Royals for $850,000 as a 16-year-old in 2014. He was MLB.com’s No. 24 international prospect at the time, and he’s the 29th-ranked prospect in Kansas City’s system in the website’s most recent list.

“Aracena has the quickness and range to play shortstop, and his very strong arm allows him to make all of the necessary throws,” MLB.com’s scouting report says. “He exhibits good instincts in all facets of the game and earns praise for his makeup as well.”

Aracena recently talked with the Post Register about his defense, signing with the Royals and his favorite MLB player. Chukars bench coach Ramon Castro translated.

This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

I’ve noticed good arm strength and accuracy from you this season. Is that something you would say, too?

“I haven’t been good with defense, but I try every time to throw perfect to the base. I think it’s becoming better.”

What has been the main reason for the errors this season?

“The errors I make are because I’m not ready, not focused. It’s a mentality.”

Do you think you’ll be able to fix your error troubles going forward?

I’ve been more focused, I’ve been more relaxed from making nice plays. I’m continuing to work.”

Do you feel like you’ve improved as a defender this season?

“I try to work hard all the time, whether I make an error or not. There are a lot of things I can do better.”

How did you get noticed by MLB scouts as a teenager?

“I was training in the Dominican Republic. Some friend told a scout with the Kansas City Royals, ‘I’ve got this guy here, so come down here and watch him.’ I was good when I signed. I was running good, threw good to the base and hit good. That’s why the Kansas City Royals signed me.”

How did you react when you signed?

“I was excited to sign with the Kansas City Royals. I was very happy coming to the states. I’m working hard and trying to go to the big leagues.”

Did earning that much money surprise you?

“I was looking for more money. Another team wanted to give me less money. I wanted to stay in Kansas City because I knew the Royals give a lot of opportunities.”

Who is your favorite MLB player or players?

“Jose Reyes.”

Why him?

“He plays hard every day. He plays hard, he plays exciting, he enjoys the game.”

DOZIER MOVES UP

Former Chukar Hunter Dozier was promoted from Triple-A Omaha to Kansas City on Friday. The Royals made room for Dozier on their 40-man roster by placing pitcher Luke Hochevar on the 60-day disabled list, according to the Kansas City Star.

Dozier hit .294/.357/.506 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) with 15 home runs in 433 plate appearances this summer with the Storm Chasers. Before Friday, the third baseman was considered the Royals’ top minor league prospect in the minor leagues, per MLB.com.

Dozier, 24, played for the 2013 Pioneer League champion Chukars. He hit .303/.403/.509 with seven homers that season.

2015 CHUKARS MOVE ON

The Post Register ran an interview last month with former Chukar Josh Banuelos, who was released by the Kansas City Royals in June. But he wasn’t the only 2015 I.F. player who was released since last summer. Here are the others (their 2015 stats with the Chukars are in parentheses):

LHP Tripp Davis (Pioneer League all-star; 2.81 ERA, 30 Ks, 11BB in 32 IP)

LHP Cruz Guevara (5.30 ERA, 37 Ks, 17 BBs in 37.1 IP)

OF Brawlun Gomez (.231/.279/.447, team-leading 11 HRs in 208 ABs)

C Pedro Gonzalez (.328/.403/.552 in 58 ABs)

LHP Nick Green (3.52 ERA, 15 Ks, 7 BBs in 15.1 IP)

LHP Hunter Haynes (7.04 ERA, 27 Ks, 24 BBs in 47.1 IP)

RHP Carter Hope (6.07 ERA, 28 Ks, 12 BBs in 56.1 IP)

OF Riley King (1 for 3 in one game)

C Luis Lara (.320/.393/.320 in 25 ABs)

INF Logan Nottebrook* (.252/.341/.470 in 33 ABs)

C Kyle Pollock (.280/.348/.464 in 125 ABs)

RHP Alberto Rodriguez (3.38 ERA, 21 Ks, 13 BBs in 29.1 IP)

LHP Brandon Thomas (3.35 ERA, 34 Ks, 25 BBs in 45.2 IP)

LHP Ian Thompkins (4.44 ERA, 25 Ks, 20 BBs in 2.41 IP)

*Nottebrook retired

WHO’S HOT?

1B Joe Dudek

From Aug. 30 to Sept. 3, Dudek notched at least two hits in each of the four games. Through Sunday, Dudek had gone 17 for 35 (.486) with three home runs, five doubles and 11 walks in his last 11 games.

WHO’S NOT?

C MJ Sanchez

Sanchez has been saddled with the backup catcher role thanks to Meibrys Viloria, so his playing time has been sparse. When Sanchez has played, he’s struggled.

Through Sunday, the 22-year-old had played in nine games since the start of August. He went 2 for 28 (.071) with one walk in those contests. He’s hitting .214/.291/.229 on the season.

Chukars on verge of playoff berth after 9-4 win over Ogden

By JEFF PINKHAM
jpinkham@postregister.com

The Idaho Falls Chukars haven’t played perfect baseball in their amazing second-half turnaround. They’ve just overcome their mistakes much better than they did in the first half.

Saturday’s game was a perfect example.

The Chukars got off a rough start, falling behind 2-0 in the top of the second inning. But dominant relief pitching,

execution and plenty of offense more than made up for it in a 9-4 victory over the Orem Owlz in front of 2,142 fans at a chilly Melaleuca Field. The victory reduced Idaho Falls’ magic number to clinch the Pioneer League South Division second-half title to one. Any Chukars’ win or Ogden Raptors’ loss over the next three days will send Idaho Falls to the playoffs.

“This is why you play baseball,” Idaho Falls reliever Matt Ditman told Chukars’ fans in his on-field post-game interview with Chukars’ radio announce Alex Cohen. “You play to win championships.”

A championship appeared to be a long shot after a dismal first half that saw the Chukars go a league-worst 13-25 to finish 11 games behind the first-half champion Owlz. The Chukars have gone a league-best 24-11 since, building a two-game lead over Ogden and a nine-game lead over Orem with three games to play (all vs. Orem, one at home, two on the road).

And they’ve done it with wins like Saturday’s when they didn’t always play their best baseball.

Idaho Falls starter Carter Hope was shaky over the first four innings, allowing a two-run homer to catcher Tanner Lubach in the second and giving up two more runs on an RBI double by Sam Koenig and a wild-pitch strikeout. But Hope left with 5-4 lead thanks to a relentless offense.

The Chukars scored four runs in the second, sparked by a leadoff double by cleanup hitter Josh Banuelos. Newcomer Brandon Dulin followed with a single and Banuelos later scored when second baseman Franklin Torres booted a perfect double-play ball off the bat of Nick Dini.

Roman Collins made the Owlz pay for the mistake with an opposite-field double to left that scored Dulin. Logan Nottebrok and Jose Martinez followed with productive outs that each scored a run. After the Owlz tied things in the third, Banuelos started another rally with a leadoff triple to center. He scored on Dulin’s RBI groundout.

Josh Staumont replaced Hope to start the fifth, and he began a stretch of five dominant innings from the bullpen. Staumont pitched 2.2 hitless, scoreless innings, allowing two walks while striking out four. The performance dropped his ERA to 3.16 in 31.1 innings.

Ditman was even better in his Chukars debut, getting the final seven outs, three of them on strikeouts, without allowing a hit or a walk.

“They were outstanding,” Chukars manager Justin Gemoll said. “They came in and attacked the zone and threw strikes, and that’s what you want.”

Dulin, playing just his third game with Idaho Falls after starting the season with Burlington, gave the Chukars some breathing room in the sixth belted a two-out, two run double to the wall in left.

Idaho Falls second baseman D.J. Burt then capped off the offensive showing by executing a perfect bunt to second to extend his on-base streak to 52 games. Burt and Cody Jones then came around on a single by Banuelos, who increased his league-leading RBI total to 60.

The Chukars (37-36 overall) can clinch a playoff spot in their final regular season home game today against Orem (39-34, 15-20) at Melaleuca Field. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m.

Umpires frustrate Chukars in 9-8 loss to Grand Junction

Umpire calls carry extra weight right now for the Idaho Falls Chukars, who are battling the Ogden Raptors for the Pioneer League South Division title.

So the frustration ramps up when the umpires, from the Chukars’ perspective, make mistakes.

That frustration was evident Monday night against the Grand Junction Rockies, who benefited from several calls that drew ire from I.F.’s players, coaches and fans. It didn’t help that the Chukars lost the game 9-8 and fell one game behind Ogden in the South Division second-half standings. There are eight games left in the regular season.

Burt
Burt

“We had a couple of bad calls we should’ve gotten,” Chukars second baseman D.J. Burt said. “But that’s baseball.”

The Rockies scored twice off Carter Hope in the top of the first inning, but the Chukars took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the first. Both teams went on to score every half inning until the bottom of the fifth, when the game was tied 7-7.

The Rockies took the lead back in the top of the seventh on a two-out, two-run single by catcher Chris Rabago off left-hander Ian Thompkins.

The Chukars loaded the bases in the eighth with two outs but failed to score. In the ninth, they loaded the bases with no outs and scored a run, but they needed at least one more.

Most of the Chukars’ frustration with umpires Isias Barba (home plate) and Luis Hernandez (field) stemmed from balls and strikes.

In the sixth, Barba called Burt out on a high strike. Burt voiced his displeasure with Barba’s call as he walked back to the dugout.

Melaleuca Field got heated in the bottom of the ninth, too, when Hernandez ruled that third baseman Logan Nottebrok went around while trying to check his swing. Fans were incensed, and the umpires told several Chukars in the dugout to settle down. Nottebrok struck out looking on the next pitch, and that call wasn’t popular, either.

“They’re young, too,” Chukars’ manager Justin Gemoll said of the umpires. “Hopefully they learn from it. Things happened to both sides; it wasn’t like it was only our team. It’s just part of the game.”

Burt made noise in another way when he hit a triple in the first inning. That hit extended his on-base streak to 48 games, which is a 2015 high for affiliated baseball, according to the Chukars. Burt (1 for 3, two walks) passed Matt Holiday of the St. Louis Cardinals.

“It feels good,” Burt said. “At the plate, I didn’t want to think about it too much. I just wanted to stick to my game plan, be patient and be a spark to this team.”

First baseman Josh Banuelos went 2 for 4 with a walk, left fielder Roman Collins went 2 for 5 and center fielder Amalani Fukofuka went 1 for 3 with two walks.

The Chukars (33-35, 20-10 second half) host the Raptors (40-28, 21-9) for a two-game series starting at 7:15 tonight. The teams have a 7-7 record against each other this season. If they have equal second-half records at the end of the season, head-to-head record would be the first playoff tiebreaker, so both teams crave a sweep in their final series.

Valenzuela traded for Gomes

The Kansas City Royals bolstered their lineup Monday night by acquiring outfielder Jonny Gomes from the Atlanta Braves, first reported by Fox Sports. In return for Gomes, the Braves received shortstop Luis Valenzuela, who started the season with the Chukars.

Valenzuela, 21, hit .486/.472/.600 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) in 37 plate appearances for I.F. this season. On July 2, he was promoted to Single-A Lexington, where he hit .339/.368/.483 in 184 plate appearances.

Valenzuela will be assigned to the Single-A Rome Braves, Atlanta announced.

Sunday’s game

Behind a record sixth inning, the Chukars pounded the Rockies 16-7 on Sunday at Meleleuca Field.

The Chukars trailed 6-3 going into the sixth. After the inning, they led 12-6. The nine runs are the most I.F. has scored in an inning this season.

Designated hitter Amalani Fukofuka had one of his best games of the season, going 5 for 6 and finishing a home run shy of the cycle. The five hits are the most by a Chukars’ batter in a single game this season.

Catcher Nick Dini went 3 for 4 with a double, while Banuelos (2 for 4, double, two walks), right fielder Brawlun Gomez (2 for 4, double, walk), center fielder Cody Jones (2 for 6) and shortstop Gabriel Noriega (2 for 5) each had two hits.

Noriega is on a rehab assignment. He transferred from Triple-A Omaha to I.F. before Sunday’s game.

Ogden beats Chukars, creeps closer to South lead

The Idaho Falls Chukars can’t afford many bad performances the rest of the season, especially not in this two-game series at Ogden.

But on Wednesday night, they laid an egg.

I.F. lost 5-1 to the Raptors at Lindquist Field in Ogden, Utah. The Chukars now lead Ogden by two games in the Pioneer League South Division second-half standings with 13 games to play.

Banuelos
Banuelos

I.F. starting pitcher Carter Hope didn’t pitch poorly overall, but a few mistakes increased his season ERA.

After retiring the first six Raptors, Hope gave up a single to third baseman Jimy Perez to lead off the bottom of the third inning. Perez got caught in a rundown a batter later, but he dodged a tag to remain on second base. Faustino Oguisten followed with a home run to left field, giving Ogden a 2-0 lead.

Hope exited the game with one out in the sixth inning after giving up a run on a single, two doubles and a walk. The right-hander was charged with five runs after an RBI double from Oguisten, who finished a triple shy of the cycle.

Hope gave up five earned runs on eight hits, one walk and five strikeouts in 5.1 innings.

The Chukars’ offense had chances but couldn’t deliver a run until the ninth. In the top of the third, I.F. put runners on second and third with no outs but failed to score. In the sixth and seventh, the Chukars had runners on first and second with two outs, but the rallies ended there.

Chukars second base- man D.J. Burt led off the seventh with a walk, but he was picked off. Two batters later, first baseman Josh Banuelos was called out on strikes, and the buildup of frustration reached its boiling point. Banuelos yelled at home plate umpire Luis Hernandez following the strike three call, and Hernandez ejected him. This is the first time an I.F. player has been ejected this season.

Fukofuka.
Fukofuka

Catcher Kyle Pollock hit a solo home run in the top of the ninth, but that was all I.F. could muster.

Center fielder Amalani Fukofuka went 2 for 4 with a double, shortstop Jeckson Flores went 1 for 3 with a walk and Banuelos went 1 for 4. Along with Pollock, those were the only Chukars to get hits in the game.

Burt’s walk extended his on-base streak to 43 straight games.

Drew Milligan and Josh Staumont pitched 2.2 scoreless innings out of the bullpen. Staumont pitched two full innings without allowing a baserunner, and the righty struck out five of the six batters he faced.

The Chukars (31-32, 18-7) look to earn a series split against the Raptors (35-28, 16-9) tonight at 6:30.

Chukars capitalize on Grand Junction mistakes in 9-5 win

Second baseman D.J. Burt of the Idaho Falls Chukars fields the throw to second base in time to tag Sam Hilliard of the Grand Junction Rockies out as Hilliard tries to steal second during the bottom of the third inning of Tuesday's game at Suplizo Field in Grand Junction.  (Gretel Daugherty / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)
Second baseman D.J. Burt of the Idaho Falls Chukars fields the throw to second base in time to tag Sam Hilliard of the Grand Junction Rockies out as Hilliard tries to steal second during the bottom of the third inning of Tuesday’s game at Suplizo Field in Grand Junction. (Gretel Daugherty / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)

Monday’s game had an odd result for the Idaho Falls Chukars. It was a blowout loss.

Idaho Falls had lost five second half games going into Monday’s 10-2 loss to the Grand Junction Rockies, and its largest defeat was by five runs.

The Chukars rebounded on Tuesday with a 9-5 win over the Rockies at Suplizio Field in Grand Junction, Colo. The win, fueled by several Grand Junctions mistakes, gave I.F. a 3-1 series win.

The Chukars fell behind 3-0 after two innings with Todd Eaton on the mound. But Eaton settled down after that, and his offense caught fire in the top of the fifth.

Second baseman D.J. Burt led off the inning with an infield single, extending his hitting streak to 11 games and his on-base streak to 42. Right fielder Amalani Fukofuka singled the next at-bat, but he reached third base and Burt scored on an error by Rockies center fielder Wes Rogers.

Chukars first baseman Josh Banuelos reached on an error the next at-bat, scoring Fukofuka. Left fielder Roman Collins subsequently walked, and catcher Nick Dini reached on an error, scoring Banuelos and Collins.

The Chukars rounded out the scoring on a single by designated hitter Kyle Pollock, a double by third baseman Ryan Dale and a single by center fielder Cody Jones.

In total, I.F. scored seven runs on five hits and four errors in the fifth, taking an 8-3 lead.

Starting pitcher Todd Eaton of the Idaho Falls Chukars throws to a Grand Junction Rockies batter during the bottom of the second inning of Tuesday's game at Suplizio Field in Grand Junction. (Gretel Daugherty / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)
Starting pitcher Todd Eaton of the Idaho Falls Chukars throws to a Grand Junction Rockies batter during the bottom of the second inning of Tuesday’s game at Suplizio Field in Grand Junction. (Gretel Daugherty / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)

The fifth inning proved to be the difference for the Chukars behind Eaton, who retired the last nine batters he faced. The right-hander went 5.1 innings, allowing three runs (all earned) on four hits, three walks, a home run and two strikeouts.

The Chukars drew 10 walks, tied for the second most in a game this season. Collins led the patient charge, walking in all five of his plate appearances. No I.F. batter has walked more in a game this season. The Pioneer League record for walks in a game is six.

Banuelos and Dini each went 2 for 4 with a walk. Dale went 1 for 4 with a double and a walk.

The Chukars (31-31, 18-6 second half) start one of their biggest series of the year tonight at Ogden, Utah, for a two-game series against the Raptors (34-28, 15-9), who trail I.F. by three games in the Pioneer League South Division. Tonight’s series opener starts at 6:30 p.m. Carter Hope gets the start for the Chukars.

Gasparini named to Team Italy

Chukars shortstop Marten Gasparini was not in Tuesday’s lineup. That’s because he had been selected to play for his home country Italy in the 2015 World Baseball Softball Confederation U-18 Baseball World Cup, the Chukars announced around gametime.

The World Cup runs from Aug. 28 to Sept. 6 in Osaka, Japan, with 15 teams participating, including the United States (ranked No. 2). Gasparini, 18, departed for Japan immediately, according to the Chukars, so he could arrive in time for No. 11 Italy’s opening game against No. 3 Cuba on Friday.

Gasparini might return to I.F. if Italy’s World Cup run is short, and if the Chukars make the playoffs and go deep, Chukars director of broadcasting Alex Cohen said.

Gasparini is hitting .262/.339/.419 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) in 225 plate appearances for I.F. this season. He leads the Pioneer League with 79 strikeouts and 35 fielding errors.

Red-hot Chukars pull out another win, 5-4 over Billings

By JEFF PINKHAM
jpinkham@postregister.com

It was a game the Idaho Falls Chukars had no business winning. It was a game they would have no doubt lost in the first half of the Pioneer League season.

But this is the second half, and this is a very different Idaho Falls Chukars team.

The Chukars rallied from two late-inning deficits to force extra innings, escaped a mini-jam in the top of the 10th and then beat the Billings Mustangs 5-4 on Brawlun Gomez’s bases-loaded single in the bottom of the 10th in front of 3,195 fans Thursday at Melaleuca Field.

“We just try to fight until the end,” said Idaho Falls right fielder Amalani Fukofuka, who had an RBI single in the eighth and scored the winning run in the 10th. “We always try to play with confidence no matter what’s going on.”

That confidence at the plate was put to the test Thursday.

The Chukars were scuffling against Billings starter Jacob Constante, who allowed just two singles and two walks over the first five innings while striking out six. He was replaced by Austin Orwilier, who was even better. The 6-foot-2 left-hander, a 14th-round draft pick from Rice University this year, allowed a single to Roman Collins in the seventh but nothing else, striking out four of the seven hitters he faced.

Idaho Falls starter Carter Hope was just as good over the first six innings, allowing three hits and no runs while striking out five. But Hope ran out of gas in the seventh, allowing a two-out triple to Jonathan Martijn and a two-run homer to Dalton Carter. The Mustangs pushed across another run when Hector Vargas reached on a Gasparini error, moved to second on a single, to third on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Brantley Bell.

That’s when the Chukars found a little of their second-half magic.

Facing a 3-0 deficit and nothing to build on, Cody Jones singled with one out in the bottom of the seventh. The Chukars then caught a break when Jeckson Flores hit a perfect double-play ball to short. But the ball went through Vargas’ legs to extend the inning. Fukofuka made them pay with an RBI double to right, putting runners on second and third. Josh Banuelos followed with an RBI single to left, and Fukofuka followed Flores home when left fielder Kevin Garcia bobbled the ball.

Billings grabbed the lead back in the top of the ninth on a single from Zach Shields, a sac bunt and another error from Gasparini — his 35th of the season.

But Gasparini’s teammates bailed him out in the bottom of the ninth, getting a leadoff single from Kyle Pollock, a two-strike sac bunt from Ryan Dale and a game-tying single from Jones.

“We win as a team, we lose as a team,” Fukofuka said.

The bottom of the 10th started with a bunt single from Fukofuka, who moved to third on Banuelos’ groundout to third. Billings intentionally walked Collins and Gasparini to load the bases, and Gomez followed with the game-winning hit.

Alberto Rodriguez pitched the final two innings, allowing a bloop double in the 10th before working out of the jam.

Fukofuka finished 3 for 5 with two runs scored and an RBI. Collins went 2 for 3 with two walks and Jones was 2 for 5 with a run scored and an RBI.

The Chukars (28-30 overall, 15-5 second half) went 6-1 on their homestand against Helena and Billings and remained three games ahead of Ogden and four ahead of Orem in the South Division second-half standings. Idaho Falls is off tonight before opening a four-game series at last-place Grand Junction at 7:05 p.m. Saturday.

Chukars sweep doubleheader versus Helena; Denson makes history

By VICTOR FLORES
vflores@postregiser.com

Before Saturday, Idaho Falls Chukars fans had not seen their team at Melaleuca Field during the month of August.

The Chukars rewarded their fans with a doubleheader sweep over the Helena Brewers on Saturday night. Idaho Falls pulled out a walkoff 8-7 win in extra innings in the first game, and its pitchers shut down Helena in the second game for a 6-1 win.

In the first game, Idaho Falls erased a 3-1 deficit with a run in both the third and fourth innings. The Chukars scored four runs in the fifth inning to pull ahead, and the lead looked safe behind Carter Hope.

The right-handed Hope pitched four straight scoreless innings after his shaky start and was an out away from the Chukars’ first complete game of the season. But he encountered some trouble in the top of the seventh, allowing one run on two hits. Left-hander Tripp Davis replaced Hope after the run scored.

Davis was a Pioneer League all-star with a 2.70 ERA heading into Saturday’s doubleheader, but the side-armer struggled out of the gate. A hit batter, wild pitch and back-to-back singles netted three runs and sent the game into extra innings.

Helena right-hander Jon Olczak shut the Chukars down when he entered the game with two outs in the bottom of the fifth.

Banuelos
Banuelos

Olczak struck out 10 of his first 12 batters faced, allowing one baserunner, and he got two quick outs in the bottom of the ninth. But center fielder Amalani Fukofuka struck a single to right and stole second base, setting up first baseman Josh Banuelos, who was 3 for 4 at that point.

Moments later, he was 4 for 5.

Banuelos hit a deep drive to right field that one-hopped the wall and easily scored Fukofuka for the Chukars’ fourth walkoff win of the season.

Idaho Falls right-hander Josh Staumont made his first professional start in the second game and dominated. The Kansas City Royals’ 2015 second round draft pick went three scoreless innings, allowing one hit and two walks. He struck out seven thanks to a fastball that consistently sat in the high 90s.

Reliever Cruz Guevara gave up one earned run in his three innings, and Drew Milligan pitched a scoreless seventh. The offense supplied six runs on 12 hits.

Collins went 4 for 6 with a solo home run in the first game, second baseman DJ Burt went 5 for 8 (4 for 4 with a triple and double in the second game) and right fielder Brawlun Gomez hit a 440-foot home run in the second game.

Brewer makes major announcement

Helena outfielder and cleanup hitter David Denson came out as gay, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Saturday night. Denson is the first openly gay player actively playing for a team affiliated with the MLB.

Denson joins former major leaguers Billy Bean and Glenn Burke as the only affiliated baseball players to ever come out, according to the Sentinel. Bean and Burke came out after their careers ended. Bean helped Denson reach out to the Sentinel, the newspaper reported.

Denson isn’t the first professional baseball player to come out. Sean Conroy, a pitcher for the independent Sonoma Stompers, came out in June.

Through Saturday, Denson has a .255 batting average with four home runs in 159 at-bats for the Brewers this season.

Chukars-Brewers game postponed due to thunderstorms

The first matchup of a three-game series between the Idaho Falls Chukars and Helena Brewers was postponed Friday due to thunderstorms.

The grounds crew at Melaleuca Field pulled the tarp on to the field about 30 minutes before gametime, and it never came off as the rain grew heavier and the thunder grew louder. The game was called less than an hour later, mostly due to an ugly forecast.

The teams will play a doubleheader tonight starting at 5:30. Both games are scheduled to last seven innings.

Carter Hope, who was scheduled to start Friday’s game, will start the first game of the doubleheader for the Chukars, manager Justin Gemoll said. Derek Gordon will start the second game.

Idaho Falls (22-29) took three of four games on the road against Helena (19-30) last weekend. The Chukars lead the Pioneer League with a 9-4 second half record, while the Brewers have the worst record in the North Division at 3-10.

UPDATE:

Chukars end long day with 9-8 extra-inning win

A long day had a satisfying conclusion for the Idaho Falls Chukars.

The Chukars weathered a rocky bus ride and an 11-inning nail-biter against Ogden for a 9-8 win, their fourth straight. This is their longest winning streak of the season.

Around 4:45 p.m. on Saturday, Chukars’ left-handed relief pitcher Nick Green posted a tweet.

“First bus broke down 4 hours ago. 2nd bus just blew a tire. Today is not our day #milbproblems,” Green wrote on Twitter.

Idaho Falls — coming off a 9-8, six-run comeback win the night before — arrived in Ogden about an hour later, in plenty of time for first pitch.

Before Friday, the Chukars hadn’t hit a home run since July 21. And Idaho Falls’ only round-tripper on Friday was an inside-the-parker by Amalani Fukofuka.

In Ogden’s small confines on Saturday, the Chukars got back over the wall.

Catcher Nick Dini (2 for 4, walk) hit an RBI double in the top of the third to give Idaho Falls a 1-0 lead. Two batters later, third baseman Logan Nottebrok hit his first professional home run, a two-run blast to extend the lead to 3-0.

Gomez
Gomez

Two innings later, with a 3-2 lead, Idaho Falls got another two-run home run, this time by right fielder Brawlun Gomez (2 for 5). It was Gomez’s sixth big fly of the year, and his fourth against Ogden.

Chukars’ starting pitcher Carter Hope got one out in the sixth inning when he was replaced. Idaho Falls had a 7-4 lead at the time. Hope gave up four earned runs in 5.1 innings on six hits, two walks and two strikeouts. It was Hope’s longest outing of the season (including three appearances in the Arizona League), but the right-hander also gave up his most earned runs in an appearance all year.

But Idaho Falls’ bullpen couldn’t hold the lead. Ogden scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh off left-hander Cruz Guevara to take an 8-7 lead. Guevara had pitched 11.2 scoreless innings heading into Saturday night.

The Chukars came back, scoring a run in the top of the eighth on three singles and an RBI groundout from center fielder Cody Jones.

It took three innings for either team to score after that. In the top of the 11th, Nottebrok (3 for 5) continued his hot night.

The 23-year-old led off the inning with a triple to center. DJ Burt pinch-ran for Nottebrok and scored two batters later on a single up the middle by Jeckson Flores.

Tripp Davis completed his second scoreless inning in the bottom of the 11th to shut the door. Davis escaped a bases-loaded, one-out situation the inning prior.

Idaho Falls (17-26) will try to sweep the two-game series versus Ogden (20-23) today at 4 p.m.

Chukars can’t solve Great Falls’ starting pitcher in 5-2 loss

By VICTOR FLORES
vflores@postregister.com

The Idaho Falls Chukars have scored the Pioneer League’s third most runs per game, at 6.6.

On Tuesday night, right-hander Brannon Easterling made the Chukars look colder than Billings (4.9 runs per game).

Easterling was Tuesday’s starting pitcher for the Great Falls Voyagers. Great Falls’ offense wasn’t superb, but it didn’t matter. Easterling gave up one run in six innings, leading the Voyagers (16-13) to a 5-2 win in the series finale at Melaleuca Field.

The Chukars split the four-game series and went 5-2 on the homestand.

“Hats off to the starting pitcher,” Chukars hitting coach Andre David said. “He was on tonight. You give him credit, and you move on from that.”

Chukars starting pitcher Carter Hope gave up two runs in the first inning, and while he was only charged for one, he had a large hand in both.

Hope gave up a leadoff double to Landon Lassiter, who scored on a fielding error by Hope. A double and a sacrifice fly allowed another run, scored by Johan Cruz, who reached on Hope’s error.

Otherwise, Hope was excellent. The righty went five innings, giving up three runs (one earned) on eight hits, one walk and two strikeouts. His ERA dropped to 2.03 in 13.1 innings with Idaho Falls.

But Hope was overshadowed by Easterling, who allowed one earned run on four hits, no walks and four strikeouts. A solo home run from Chukars catcher Kyle Pollock (1 for 4) was responsible for Easterling’s only run allowed.

“I think we were just swinging at bad pitches and getting behind,” said Chukars third baseman Ryan Dale, who went 0 for 3 with a strikeout. “It wasn’t the pitcher. It was us.”

Easterling worked quickly between pitches, and his effectiveness combined with mistakes by Chukars hitters resulted in quick innings. The game finished in two hours and 29 minutes, despite a slow seventh, eighth and ninth.

“He had good rhythm and tempo, kept the ball down, changed speeds, located well,” David said of Easterling. “He commanded the fastball, and when he needed to go to anything other than that, he had command of that.”

The Chukars cut the deficit to 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh, but a two-run home run from Voyagers catcher Zach Fish off Alberto Rodriguez in the top of the ninth gave Great Falls a 5-2 lead. Those were Rodriguez’s first two earned runs of the season, breaking his 13-inning streak.

Chukars’ left fielder Roman Collins went 2 for 4 with a double, and first baseman Logan Nottebrok went 2 for 3 with a double.

Idaho Falls (12-21) gets today off and travels to Orem for a four-game series starting Thursday.