Tag: DJ Burt

Missoula takes Pioneer League title with 8-1 win over Chukars

The Idaho Falls Chukars took the field for 82 games this season, the maximum any Pioneer League team can play. In many years, that would equate to a championship.

They fell one win short.

The Chukars fell to the Missoula Osprey 8-1 in Wednesday night’s winner-take-all championship series game in front of 1,178 fans at Ogren-Allegiance Park in Missoula, Mont. Missoula captured its fourth Pioneer League championship, and its second over Idaho Falls. The Osprey beat the Chukars in 2006, as well.

“Who wanted it more than these guys? Nobody did, nobody did,” Osprey manager Joe Mather told The Missoulian, shortly before taking an icewater bath and unveiling a banner. “This is the best team I’ve ever been a part of. I’m so proud of these guys. It was a team effort the entire way.”

Missoula has now won Pioneer League titles in 1999, 2006, 2012 and 2015.

The Chukars were vying for their second league title. The first came in 2013.

On Wednesday, I.F. took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth and had a chance to score more. But they left the bases loaded. In the bottom half of the inning, Missoula scored three runs, and it never relinquished the lead.

The Osprey scored one in the fifth and four in the sixth to build an insurmountable lead.

Some of the lights went out at Ogren-Allegiance Park right before the ninth inning started, forcing a 20-minute delay, according to The Missoulian, the Chukars and the Osprey. Third baseman Jose Martinez led the inning off with a single, but the Chukars couldn’t get anything else going, and the Osprey celebrated their title.

Counting playoffs, I.F. finished 2015 with a 41-41 record. After the Chukars’ 13-25 first half, getting to the playoffs felt almost unfathomable. But they flipped their first half record in the second half and held off Ogden for the second half division title. I.F.’s 25-13 second half record is its best half since becoming a Royals affiliate in 2004.

The Chukars took the Pioneer League South championship series over Orem in dramatic fashion. They had a chance to sweep in Game 2, but they gave up four runs in the final two innings. Game 3 went to extra innings, and I.F. prevailed 4-3 in 10.

I.F. gave up a team-high 17 runs in an eight-run loss to Missoula in Game 1 of the championship series at Melaleuca Field, but the Chukars bounced back with a 5-3 win at Missoula on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the Chukars hoped to end the season with a 42-40 record and their second championship trophy in three years. Instead, 41-41 and a magical season that fell just short.

Note: With a double and a walk Wednesday night, Chukars second baseman D.J. Burt finished the season with a 60-game on-base streak. That’s the best in affiliated baseball this season, according to the Chukars.

Bill Speltz of The Missoulian contributed to this report

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 lose 4-3 to Orem, finish regular season at .500

In the final game of the regular season, the Idaho Falls Chukars fell to the Orem Owlz 4-3 at Orem, Utah.

The Chukars finished the season at .500 and will host Orem tonight for the first game of the Pioneer League South Division playoffs.

I.F. took a 3-0 lead after one and a half innings, but Orem scored three runs in the bottom of the second off Chukars’ left-hander Brandon Thomas.

Owlz designated hitter Angel Genao hit a solo home run off Thomas in the fourth inning, and that proved to be the winning run.

Gasparini
Gasparini

Chukars center fielder Amalani Fukofuka and second baseman D.J. Burt each went 2 for 4. Burt, who also stole two bases, extended his on-base streak to 54 games.

Shortstop Marten Gasparini went 1 for 3 with a walk in his second game with I.F. since Aug. 24. Gasparini spent the previous two weeks in Japan representing Team Italy in the World Baseball and Softball Confederation U-18 Baseball World Cup.

The Chukars had a Pioneer League-best 25-13 record in the second half, flipping their league-worst 13-25 record from the first half.

I.F. plays the Owlz at Melaleuca Field at 7:15 tonight, then travels to Orem for the second playoff game Thursday and a third game (if necessary) Friday.

The Missoula Osprey and the Billings Mustangs will battle in the North playoffs. Whoever wins that series will get homefield advantage in the championship series. The winner of the South series will host the North championship representative starting Sunday.

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.

Fukofuka gets throwback walk-up song, game-winning hit in 9-8 Chukars victory

Fukofuka.
Fukofuka.

By MARLOWE HEREFORD
mhereford@postregister.com

Idaho Falls Chukars outfielder Amalani Fukofuka entered Monday’s opening game of a four-game homestand against the Billings Mustangs looking for a new walk-up song.

He not only left with a throwback to walk up to, but the game-winning hit to conclude a rollercoaster 9-8 victory before 3,144 fans at Melaleuca Field.

Before his third at-bat, the opening verse to “Say My Name” by Destiny’s Child blared through the Melaleuca speakers. He got a single in that at-bat, followed by a single and the game-winning RBI double in his final two appearances to finish the night 3-for-5.

The outfielder said he not only enjoyed the song chosen by the guys working in the booth, but called it fitting for his name which has drawn much attention throughout the league this season.

“I started laughing when it started playing,” Fukofuka said. “I actually told one of the guys who worked here that I didn’t like my old walk-up song and I told them to just pick whatever. I’ll stick with it.”

The song seemed to do the trick, as the win put the Chukars at 13-4 in the second half of the season. It also maintained I.F.’s lead in the Pioneer League South Division second-half standings to three games over the Ogden Raptors and Orem Owlz, who are both tied for second at 10-7.

It was also the latest in a recent string of rallies for the Chukars. Idaho Falls saw its 3-2 lead through two innings disappear as the Mustangs bats heated up and Chukars errors (five, all by shortstop Marten Gasparini) started taking a toll. Consecutive walks and a wild pitch by I.F. relief pitcher Brandon Thomas resulted in Ed Charlton coming home to put Billings up 7-3 entering the seventh inning stretch.

Idaho Falls responded with runs by D.J. Burt and Fukofuka in the bottom of the seventh and four runs in the bottom of the eighth, which saw five consecutive Chukars go to bat before the first out.

“They didn’t panic,” Chukars manager Justin Gemoll said. “They were trying to have good at-bats. Everyone’s been doing a good job of competing all year.”

Catcher Kyle Pollock went 2 for 4 with a two-run, 406-foot homer in the bottom of the second and Cody Jones went 3 for 5 with a double and two runs scored. Thomas earned the win, giving up three runs on four hits while walking four and strking out one in four innings.

Idaho Falls (26-29) faces Billings (25-29) for game two tonight at 7:15 p.m.

SUNDAY’S GAME: The Chukars got a strong start from Derek Gordon and completed a three-game series sweep with a 6-5 win over Helena on Sunday at Melaleuca Field.

Gordon had a no-hitter through 5.2 innings before a Gasparini error extended the inning. Malik Collymore broke up the no-hitter with a two-run home run. Helena added two more runs in the sixth to tie the game.

The Chukars took a 5-4 lead in the seventh when Cody Jones tripled and DJ Burt walked. Both runners came home on a botched pickoff play.

Helena got a run in the eighth, but Brian Bayliss pitched a scoreless ninth to secure the win.

Burt went 2 for 3 with three runs scored, Luis Lara was 3 for 4 and Joshua Banuelos was 2 for 4 with a run to lead the Chukars.

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.

Helena ends Chukars’ win streak at eight games

The Idaho Falls Chukars were a win away from tying a franchise record.

If the Chukars beat the Helena Brewers on Sunday afternoon, their winning streak would reach nine games. Not since June 2007, when the Chukars started the season 9-0, has Idaho Falls won that many consecutive games in their 11-year history as a Kansas City Royals affiliate.

But Helena ended the streak and avoided a four-game sweep with a 10-8 win Sunday at Kindrick Legion Field.

The Chukars started out slow, falling behind 3-0 after three innings and 5-2 after four. But they broke out in the fifth, scoring four runs for their first, and only, lead of the game.

Collins.
Collins

The highlight of the fifth inning was a two-run home run by left fielder Roman Collins (1 for 4).

The Brewers returned the favor, and then some, in the sixth inning. Helena scored five runs in the frame off starting pitcher Derek Gordon and reliever Ian Thompkins to take a 10-6 lead.

Gordon went into Sunday with five straight starts of two earned runs or fewer. He hadn’t given up more than four earned runs in a start all season.

On Sunday in five innings pitched, Gordon allowed seven earned runs on eight hits, two walks, three strikeouts and two home runs to Helena second baseman Jose Cuas. Gordon’s ERA rose from 3.38 to 4.34 by the time he departed in the sixth.

The Chukars scored twice in the top of the ninth and had the tying runs second and third with two outs, but third baseman Ryan Dale (1 for 4) struck out to end the game.

Regular starters Amalani Fukofuka (outfield) and Marten Gasparini (shortstop) rode the bench on Sunday (Gasparini pinch-ran in the ninth). Catcher Nick Dini, who has hit .405 in his last 10 games, also didn’t play.

Second baseman DJ Burt went 2 for 3 with a walk. First baseman Josh Banuelos and catcher Kyle Pollock each went 2 for 5 with a double.

Idaho Falls (21-27, 8-2 second half) travels to Billings (22-25, 5-5) for a three-game series starting Monday night at 7:05.

Chukars squander seven-run lead, prevail 9-8 in extras

For the second straight night, the Idaho Falls Chukars squandered a lead and went into extra innings.

For the second straight night, the Chukars prevailed in the 10th inning.

And for the eighth straight game, Idaho Falls earned a victory.

The Chukars surrendered an 8-1 lead to the Helena Brewers, but Ryan Dale hit a solo home run in the 10th to extend Idaho Falls’ winning streak Saturday at Kindrick Legion Field.

Dale
Dale

“It’s a good feeling knowing you’re helping the team out,” Dale said via Chukars’ director of broadcasting Alex Cohen. “It’s fun. It’s awesome to keep winning. Hopefully we’ll make the playoffs.”

The Chukars scored five runs in the top of the first inning, the second time they’ve done that this series. Idaho Falls scored five in the first inning of Thursday’s series opener.

On Saturday, second baseman DJ Burt hit a leadoff triple, and he scored the next at-bat on a double by left fielder Roman Collins. Two batters later, first baseman Josh Banuelos (2 for 4, walk) drove Collins in with a single. Banuelos scored two batters later on a sacrifice fly from shortstop Marten Gasparini (1 for 4).

Brawlun Gomez came up next and crushed a two-run home run to center field. Gomez (1 for 5) now leads the Chukars with eight home runs this season.

The Chukars extended their lead to 8-1 in the fourth on a two-RBI double from Collins (2 for 5).

Idaho Falls starting pitcher Carter Hope had been cruising to that point, but he gave up three runs in the fourth and one in the fifth. Hope pitched five full innings, giving up five earned runs on seven hits, two walks and two strikeouts.

Helena, like last night down 6-3, crept back.

They scored a run in the seventh, eighth and ninth inning to tie the game 8-8 and send the game into extra innings.

But they nearly walked off.

Helena tied the game with no outs on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to center field. Amalani Fukofuka’s throw skirted away, allowing the runners to advance to second and third. Helena loaded the bases again on an intentional walk, bringing up Jose Cuas. The third baseman attempted a suicide squeeze bunt, but he lined it into the glove of Banuelos, who threw to third base for an inning-ending double play.

Dale, who was in a 4 for 34 slump heading into Saturday, came up second in the 10th. The third baseman drilled a Jon Olczak pitch to the opposite field. It cleared the wall for his second home run of the season and a 9-8 lead for Idaho Falls.

“I was pretty nervous, but I got up there and tried to look for an elevated fastball,” Dale said. “I got what I wanted and put a good swing on it.”

Dale said it’s the first time he’s hit a game-winning home run.

Alberto Rodriguez, who blew a save in the ninth inning, pitched a scoreless bottom of the 10th to secure the eighth straight victory.

Dale and Burt each went 2 for 5, with Burt hitting two triples. Dini went 3 for 5, and catcher Luis Lara went 2 for 4 in his first game as a Chukar.

Idaho Falls (21-26, 8-1 second half) looks to sweep Helena (18-27, 2-7) today at 1:05 p.m.