Tag: Cody Jones

MLB draft provides glimpse of future Chukars

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The MLB draft concluded Saturday, and several of the Kansas City Royals selections will appear at Melaleuca Field this summer.

The Royals have sent about 11 freshly drafted players per season to the Chukars since 2012, when teams saw their picks reduced from 50 to 40. Most of those players joined Idaho Falls on opening day, and some turned into future stars.

The Chukars’ rookie crop last season was relatively small compared to recent years. Kansas City’s highest 2015 pick on I.F.’s opening day roster was outfielder Roman Collins (fifth round). Five more 2015 selections made the Chukars’ initial roster, and they were all selected in the 14th round or later.

But other draftees started to roll in. Flame-throwing right-handed pitcher Josh Staumont (second round) joined the Chukars in July, as did outfielder Cody Jones (sixth round). Right-handers Daniel Concepcion (12th round), Matt Ditman (16th round) and Jacob Bodner (27th round) also came to I.F. later in the season.

The Chukars received 14 of Kansas City’s 2014 draftees that summer, and they all made the opening day roster. Two of those players were left-hander Eric Skoglund (third round) and first-baseman Ryan O’Hearn (eighth round) both of whom are top-30 prospects in Kansas City’s system, per multiple baseball scouting websites. O’Hearn, who currently plays for Double-A Northwest Arkansas, was the Pioneer League MVP in 2014.

Triple-A Omaha shortstop Hunter Dozier was selected eighth overall in 2013 and played 54 games for the Chukars that year. Dozier is currently Kansas City’s 11th-best prospect, according to FanGraphs.com (O’Hearn is fifth).

Kansas City forfeited its first-round pick this year after signing free-agent pitcher Ian Kennedy last offseason, per the Kansas City Star. But the Royals had a pick in each of the final 39 rounds, and they used their first to select Pepperdine right-hander AJ Puckett (No. 67 in round two).

The Chukars will announce their full opening day roster in the next few days. Their season starts Friday at Melaleuca Field versus Ogden. They also face the Idaho Falls Bandits in an exhibition Thursday.

Kansas City Royals’ 2016 draft class
AJ Puckett / second round / RHP / Pepperdine
Khalil Lee / third round / CF / Flint Hill School (Va.)
Jace Vines / fourth round / RHP / Texas A&M
Nicholas Lopez / fifth round / SS / Creighton
Cal Jones / sixth round / CF / Dadeville (Ala.) HS
Travis Eckert / seventh round / RHP / Oregon State
Chris DeVito / eighth round / 1B / New Mexico
Walker Sheller / ninth round / RHP / Stetson
Richard Lovelady / 10th round / LHP / Kennesaw State
Vance Vizcaino / 11th round / CF / Stetson
Jeremy Gwinn / 12th round / RHP / Colby CC
Logan Gray / 13th round / 2B / Austin Peay
David McKay / 14th round / RHP / Florida Atlantic
Mike Messier / 15h round / LHP / Bellarmine
Nick Heath / 16th round / CF / Northwestern State
Dillon Drabble / 17th round / RHP / Seminole State
Vance Tatum / 18th round / LHP / Mississippi State
Tyler Fallwell / 19th round / RHP / Cochise
Anthony Bender / 20th round / RHP / Santa Rosa JC
Dalton Griffin / 21st round / CF / South Effingham HS (Ga.)
Cody Nesbit / 22nd round / RHP / San Jacinto North
Kort Peterson / 23rd round / OF / UC Los Angeles
Mike McCann / 24th round / C / Seattle
Robby Rinn / 25th round / 1B / Bryant
John Brontsema / 26th round / 3B / UC Irvine
Rex Hill / 27th round / LHP / TCU
Yordany Salva / 28th round / C / Broward
Grant Gavin / 29th round / RHP / Central Missouri
Geoffrey Bramblett / 30th round / RHP / Alabama
Malcolm Van Buren / 31st round / RHP / Hanahan (S.C.) HS
Luke Bandy / 32nd round / CF / Providence Classical Christian Academy
Kameron Misner / 33rd round / OF / Poplar Bluff (Mo.) HS
Nathan Webb / 34th round / RHP / Lee’s Summit (Mo.) North HS
M.J. Sanchez / 35th round / C / California Baptist
Alex Massey / 36th round / RHP / Tulane
Justin Camp / 37th round / RHP / Auburn
Joey Fregosi / 38th round / SS / Murrieta Valley HS (Calif.)
Chase Livingston / 39th round / C / Rhode Island
Taylor Kaczmarek / 40th round / RHP / San Diego

Chukars announce five opening-day players

On Saturday, the Chukars announced the first five players assigned to Idaho Falls. They are Igol Feliz, Arnaldo Hernandez, Drew Milligan, Tanner Stanley and Miebrys Viloria.

Milligan is a left-handed pitcher who made 17 relief appearances for I.F. last season, amassing a 4.07 ERA with 25 strikeouts and 13 walks.

Feliz and Hernandez are both right-handed pitchers. Feliz signed with the Royals in 2011 and played for Rookie-level Burlington last season. Hernandez made one appearance (a start) for the Chukars in 2015, allowing six runs (two earned) in four innings.

Stanley, the son of former MLB catcher and first baseman Mike Stanley, is an outfielder in his second minor league season with the Royals.

Viloria is a catcher who spent part of 2014 and all of 2015 in Burlington.

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 tie Ogden for division lead with 10-5 win

By VICTOR FLORES
vflores@postregister.com

Tuesday’s game wasn’t a must-win for the Idaho Fall Chukars, but it was close.

Idaho Falls' D.J. Burt makes the play at second base and completes the throw in time for a double play dispite the efforts of Odgen's Gage Green to break up the double during Tuesday night's game at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls’ D.J. Burt makes the play at second base and completes the throw in time for a double play dispite the efforts of Odgen’s Gage Green to break up the double during Tuesday night’s game at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)

I.F. went in trailing the Ogden Raptors by one game in the Pioneer League South Division, and the Chukars hosted the Raptors for a two-game series starting Tuesday.

The Chukars are now tied for the second-half division lead after handling the Raptors 10-5 at Melaleuca Field. I.F. manager Justin Gemoll said his team has a one-game-at-a-time mindset, but the Chukars know the stakes. Seven games remain in the regular season.

“I’ve never been in a playoff before,” said Chukars catcher Xavier Fernandez, who transferred from the Burlington Royals on Monday. “I feel so excited, and I can’t even explain it.”

The Chukars scored first with a three-run bottom of the first inning. Two runs scored on an error, and Fernandez (3 for 5) hit an RBI single after a long at-bat.

Ogden scored once in the top of the second, but I.F. built on the lead in the bottom half. Center fielder Cody Jones kicked the scoring off with an RBI triple.

Next up was D.J. Burt, who hit a towering fly ball to left field. Left fielder Alex Santana froze as the ball went airborne, appearing to be camped under it. But Santana didn’t know where the ball was, and neither did most of Melaleuca Field. Even Burt thought it was an out.

Santana’s confusion didn’t matter. Burt’s fly ball landed over the wall, 410 feet away.

After 273 plate appearances, Burt had his first home run of the season.

“Finally,” said Burt, who hit two blasts in 163 plate appearances for Burlington last season. “It feels good.”

Gemoll, the third base coach, gave Burt a high five but didn’t exchange words with the 19-year-old as he rounded third.

“He was too busy smiling,” Gemoll said.

The Chukars scored four runs in the second inning, taking a 7-1 lead.

Idaho Falls' pitcher Julio Pinto fielded the ball and caught Odgen's Matt Jones between bases during Tuesday night's game at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls’ pitcher Julio Pinto fielded the ball and caught Odgen’s Matt Jones between bases during Tuesday night’s game at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)

I.F. extended the lead to 8-1 on a Brawlun Gomez home run (420 feet), but Ogden cut it to 8-5 with a four-run fourth. The Chukars added some insurance with a two-run sixth.

Julio Pinto made his first start for the Chukars and struggled, despite a mid-to-high-90s fastball. Pinto, previously with Burlington, gave up three runs (all earned) on five hits, a walk, five strikeouts and two wild pitches in 3.1 innings.

Fellow Chukars flamethrower Josh Staumont pitched three scoreless, hitless innings out of the bullpen, giving up two walks with four strikeouts.

Burt went 2 for 4 with two walks and has now reached base 49 games in a row. Newcomer Gabriel Noriega (shortstop) went 3 for 4, Jones went 2 for 5 with a walk and left fielder Roman Collins went 1 for 4 with two walks.

Tonight’s series finale is enormous for the Chukars (34-35). If they win, they’ll not only take a one-game division lead, they’ll improve their season record against Ogden (40-29) to 9-7. The first playoff tiebreaker is head-to-head record.

Derek Gordon is scheduled to start for I.F. in tonight’s game, which starts at 7:15.

Roster notes

Several key I.F. position players were missing from Tuesday’s game. Outfielder Amalani Fukofuka was on the bench getting rest, and Gemoll wasn’t sure if he’d play tonight either. Shortstop Jeckson Flores (hamstring) and catcher Kyle Pollock (hand) are both day-to-day. Gemoll also said catcher Pedro Gonzalez, currently on the disabled list, will not return.

Shortstop Marten Gasparini could return as early as this weekend, Chukars director of broadcasting Alex Cohen said. Gasparini is currently in Japan representing Team Italy in the World Baseball Softball Confederation U-18 Baseball World Cup

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.

Chukars tied for Pioneer League South Division lead after 7-6 loss to Grand Junction

By VICTOR FLORES
vflores@postregister.com

Ten games remain, and the Idaho Falls Chukars are tied for first in the Pioneer League South Division.

The Chukars fell 7-6 to Grand Junction Saturday night at Melaleuca Field. Shortly after the game ended, with lightning streaking across the sky and a fireworks show set to start, the Ogden Raptors beat Orem in 12 innings. Both I.F. and Ogden are 19-9 in the second half.

“All these games are important,” Chukars manager Justin Gemoll said. “We just have to take care of our business.”

Collins
Collins

The Chukars scored two runs on two-out single from designated hitter Roman Collins in the bottom of the first, but Grand Junction tied it up in the top of the third. The 2-2 score lasted until the fifth, when the Rockies got their third run off I.F. starter Daniel Concepcion.

In the bottom of the fifth, Chukars center fielder Cody Jones hit a leadoff single. Second baseman D.J. Burt came up next and hit a medium depth fly ball to right fielder Sam Hilliard. Third base coach Gemoll sent Jones on the tag-up, but he was out by several feet to end the inning.

“I don’t regret it,” Gemoll said. “It’s a left-handed outfielder running toward center field, so his body’s taking him away from the play. He just did a great job of being under it, keeping body control, arm strength, accuracy, all of that.”

An inning later, the Chukars regained the lead. Left fielder Amalani Fukofuka hit a leadoff triple and scored a few pitches later on a failed pickoff attempt by Rockies catcher Campbell Wear. Collins delivered again with an RBI triple two batters later, and he scored on a Brawlun Gomez single for a 5-3 Chukars lead.

The game looked in hand with Josh Staumont on the hill, but the right-hander uncharacteristically struggled in the seventh. The rookie allowed four runs (all earned) on three walks, a wild pitch and a double in the inning.

Before Saturday, Staumont had a 1.62 ERA with six walks and 32 strikeouts in 16.2 second-half innings.

“I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary, I just think he was working up a little bit more than usual,” Chukars pitching coach Jeff Suppan said. “Sometimes you don’t have it every night.”

I.F. got a ninth inning run but it couldn’t muster more.

The Chukars were shorthanded going into the game, and it hurt them. Prior to the top of the seventh, shortstop Jeckson Flores exited the game with a hamstring injury. Ryan Dale replaced him but went to third base, forcing third baseman Logan Nottebrok to second and Burt to shortstop.

Flores, who is day-to-day, is the only true shortstop on the team. Regular shortstop Marten Gasparini is currently in Japan representing Team Italy in the 2015 World Baseball Softball Confederation U-18 Baseball World Cup.

Gemoll said multiple Chukars can play infield, and Chukars director of broadcasting Alex Cohen said after Saturday’s game that I.F. will make several moves before today’s game.

The Chukars (32-34) host Grand Junction (27-39, 8-20 second half) today at 4 p.m. Todd Eaton will start on the mound for I.F. in the third game of the four-game series.

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 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.

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 take opener versus Rockies 6-4

Idaho Falls Chukars left fielder Roman Collins, No. 25, slides into second base safe on an infield out in the second inning as Grand Junction second baseman #2, Jonathon Pinon is late with the tag in a Saturday night game from Suplizio Filed in Grand Junction,CO. (Christopher Tomlinson / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)
Idaho Falls Chukars left fielder Roman Collins, No. 25, slides into second base safe on an infield out in the second inning as Grand Junction second baseman #2, Jonathon Pinon is late with the tag in a Saturday night game from Suplizio Filed in Grand Junction,CO. (Christopher Tomlinson / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)

The second half continues to get better for the Idaho Falls Chukars.

Idaho Falls got another strong start from Derek Gordon, two three-run innings and balance from the lineup in a 6-4 win over the Grand Junction Rockies at Sam Suplizio Field in Grand Junction, Colo., on Saturday night.

The Chukars improved to 29-30 overall and 16-5 in the second half. They lead the Pioneer League South Division second-half standings by three games over the Ogden Raptors and by five over the first-half champion Orem Owlz.

Outside of allowing two solo home runs to Jonathan Piron, Gordon was nearly untouchable. He allowed the solo shots in the second and fourth innings, but just two other hits and a walk while striking out four in 5.2 innings.

Cruz Guevara got the final out of the sixth, and hard-throwing Josh Staumont allowed two runs over the final three innings but closed it out.

The Chukars wiped out a 1-0 deficit in the third when Jeckson Flores walked and scored on DJ Burt’s one-out double to center. Amalani Fukofuka followed with a triple to right, giving I.F. a 2-1 lead. Fukofuka followed Burt home when the cutoff throw from shortstop Brendan Rogers sailed wide of third to make it 3-1.

Idaho Falls added three more runs in the sixth. Roman Collins led off with a single and Nick Dini followed with a single. After Brawlun Gomez and Ryan Dale Struck out, Flores reached on an error that scored Collins and Dini. Cody Jones then singled in Flores from third.

Jones, Burt, Fukofuka and Collins had three hits each for the Chukars, who outhit the Rockies 11-6.

The Chukars and Rockies (25-34 overall, 5-16 second half) play the second game of their four-game series at 4:05 p.m. today.

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.