Tag: Idaho Falls Chukars

Chukars’ notebook: Chukars, Royals looking for speed

Chukars’ Angel Medina rounds third on his way to home after a hit by Nathan Eaton in the third inning as the Chukars take on the Helena Brewers at Melaleuca Field on Tuesday. John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com

By LUKE O’ROARK | @Loroark@postregister.com
@LukeORoark

In sports, speed wins. Or, it certainly helps win.

Ask Al Davis (I mean, if you can talk to the dead).

Ask Usain Bolt or any sprinter. Ask any dude who’s ever tried to tackle running backs Barry Sanders or Chris Johnson.

Heck, even ask the Kansas City Royals — who, despite being amidst a rebuild, are looking for speed, Chukars field manager Omar Ramirez said.

“That is the Kansas City Royal’s identity. Run, run, run, run, run,” Ramirez said July 4. “I like to run (the bases, put pressure on defenses). That’s the Royals’ identity. And personally, I’m that type of manager.”

The Chukars certainly embody that “speed-first” idea from the Royals’ higher management.

Idaho Falls leads the Pioneer League in stolen bases this summer with 69. The second-most? Grand Junction at …. 52.

With speedster Tyler James — who overwhelmingly leads the league in stolen bases with 26 — and Offerman Collado batting second, the Chukars are trying to put as much speed as possible on the bags. Even Nate Eaton, who bats third, has 10 stolen bases, tied for the fourth-most in the league.

Chukars’ Nick Hutchins heads to third on a ground hit as the Chukars take on the Ogden Raptors during opening day at Melaleuca Field on Friday, June 15, 2018. John Roark/ jroark@posteegister.com

On paper, it’s worked. The Chukars host one of the most prominent offenses in the Pioneer League — scoring the second most runs (295) with a league-leading on-base percentage of .390. Simply put, the Chukars get on base often (they’re first in hits with 452; hit the most doubles and triples; walk the second-most out of any team), steal, and can play relatively smart small ball.

“That is my game: get on base anyway I can whether it’s a walk, hit, error, bunt. And just try to score runs,” James said previously. “Try to get in scoring position for the guys that knock me in.”

While in the big leagues, the correlation with speed and winning has yet to field results for the Royals — at least not yet. The Royals are tied for 12th in stolen bases (49) — Whit Merrifield is tied for fourth with 22 stolen bases — and have nine of the fastest 150 players in the MLB, per the MLB’s Statcast Sprint Speed Leaderboard metrics.

They’re at the bottom of the AL Central with a 32-71 record.

Standings (as of Saturday morning and in order by second half records)

Pioneer League North

Helena Brewers (MIL) 19-21, 2-0

Billings Mustangs (CIN) 16-23, 1-0

Missoula Osprey (ARI) 19-20, 0-1

* Great Falls Voyagers (CWS) 22-18, 0-2

Pioneer League South

Grand Junction Rockies (COL) 22-19, 2-1

Idaho Falls Chukars (KC) 22-18, 1-1

Orem Owlz (LAA) 13-27, 1-1

* Ogden Raptors (LAD) 27-14, 1-2

* – Denotes first-half division winner

Increasing stock

Catcher Chase Vallot.

On rehab assignment, Vallot joined the Chukars in mid-July and brought a heavy bat late in the Chukars’ lineup. After batting an abysmal .101 in Wilmington, he’s now batting .263 for the Chukars including a 3 for 5 night Friday against Orem. He had three RBIs and a home run in the sixth inning. He also hit two doubles.

Decreasing stock

Third baseman Angel Medina.

While batting .246/.281/.361 for the Chukars in 14 games, Medina committed three errors during Friday’s loss (two fielding, one throwing). His nine errors is second-most on the team (shortstop Offerman Collado has 11) but Medina has committed more in a half the amount of games (Medina’s played 14 games; Collado’s played 28).

Recent transactions (from July 21 to July 28)

– None, though Kansas City Royals’ third baseman Mike Moustakas was recently traded from Kansas City to the Milwaukee Brewers for Brett Phillips and Jorge Lopez. Moustakas played for the Chukars in 2007 and was a pivotal piece for the Royals’ World Series team in 2015.

First half MVPs

Nate Eaton, Reed Rohlman and JC Cloney.

While names like Manny Olloque, Carlos Diaz and Kyle Isbel provided more offensive firepower in a shorter span, and eventually moved up in the Royals’ farming system, Eaton and Rohlman have been the most statistically consistent offensive batters for the Chukars.

Eaton — who’s played a variety of infield positions — has batted .355 and knocked in 24 RBIs (second most), two home runs (tied for third), eight triples (first) and 10 doubles (third) in 124 at-bats. He’s also shown promise fielding, showcasing solid arm strength.

Rohlman, who exclusively plays first base, has batted .348 from mostly the cleanup spot. He leads the team in hits (48), RBIs (38) and home runs (4), displaying solid power and contact at the plate. He’s done it all in 138 at-bats.

Finally, Cloney. The southpaw ace selected out of Arizona in the ninth round of last year’s draft has been the Chukars’ most consistent arm. He’s a perfect 7-0 on the season, allowing 40 hits in 43.1 innings pitched. His 2.28 ERA, 37 strikeouts and 1.06 WHIP are some of the team’s best.

Upcoming

Idaho Falls is on the road until Thursday, playing two games in Ogden and three games in Orem. The Chukars return home Thursday for a crucial four-game homestand with Grand Junction, which may have some Pioneer League playoff implications down the line.

Chukars notebook: Some split on new MiLB extra innings changes

Chukars’ Tyler James is called out at third as the Chukars take on Grand Junction Rockies at Melaleuca Field on Thursday, June 28, 2018. John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com

By LUKE O’ROARK | Loroark@postregister.com
@LukeORoark

When the Idaho Falls Chukars and Grand Junction Rockies went to extra innings Friday at Melaleuca Field, Chukars fans saw something they probably haven’t seen: a free base runner starting on second at the start of every extra inning.

In March, the National Association of Professional Baseball incorporated a new rule regarding extra innings: if a minor league game goes to extra innings, both teams start with a base runner on second at the beginning of inning. The base runner at second is the inning’s leadoff hitter and is statistically counted as runner who’s reaching on an error (for purposes of determining earned runs), but no errors shall be charged.

This new policy was seen at Melaleuca Field for the first time Friday in the Chukars’ 7-6 12-inning win.

Chukars manager Omar Ramirez said the new rule doesn’t change their offensive gameplan much. Before Kyle Isbel ended the game with an RBI single to left field, both teams utilized small ball tactics. While the rule isn’t necessarily new to the minor league system — Ramirez said the Arizona League utilized the rule last summer — he was supportive of the new overhaul, as it saves team’s pitching and has the potential to keep players healthy.

“It depends on the hitter. Are we bunting or not?” said Ramirez when asked if strategies change due to the new rule. “Like, we’re not going to bunt when (Reed Rohlman) came to bat. Because he can get a double, hit it. With (Offerman Collado) or (Tyler James) we can bunt it. It depends on the hitter.”

“Let’s see how long it stays,” Ramirez added.

Chukars’ Nick Hutchins heads to third on a ground hit as the Chukars take on the Ogden Raptors during opening day at Melaleuca Field on Friday, June 15, 2018. John Roark/ jroark@posteegister.com

The policy was created to try to keep players healthy, as well as speed up minor league games. The average time of a nine-inning game in the minor leagues was two hours, 45 minutes in 2016 and 2:29 last year, according to ESPN.

Friday’s game, while anecdotal, finished in three hours, 58 minutes.

“We believe these changes to extra innings will enhance the fans’ enjoyment of the game and will become something that the fans will look forward to on nights where the game is tied late in the contest,” NAPBL president Pat O’Conner said in a March 14 report from ESPN. “Player safety has been an area of growing concern for our partners at the Major League Baseball level, and the impact that lengthy extra innings games has on pitchers, position players and an entire organization was something that needed to be addressed.”

Chukars’ designated hitter Nate Eaton said he was unaware of the rule change until Friday.

“I honestly didn’t know (about the new rule) until they said that I was the base runner when I went out there,” said Eaton, who finished 4 for 5 at the plate with two doubles. “I probably haven’t had that since I was 12-years-old. I mean, I don’t agree with the rule because I don’t think it should be easier to score runs quicker. If the game is going that long, it’s going that long for a reason and that’s because good baseball is being played, or bad baseball is being played on one side.”

Eaton said the game could be just as prolonged due to how offensive-orientated minor league games are.

“Oh yes, because you could easily score off a bunt and then a hit or sacrifice fly. Or go 0-0, just like we did there, and it keeps going,” Eaton said.

Standings (as of June 30th)

Pioneer League North

Great Falls Voyagers (CWS) 8-6

Helena Brewers (MIL) 8-6

Missoula Osprey (ARI) 7-6

Billings Mustangs (CIN) 4-9

Pioneer League South

Idaho Falls Chukars (KC) 10-5

Ogden Raptors (LAD) 9-6

Grand Junction Rockies (COL) 6-9

Orem Owlz (LAA) 5-10

Increasing stock

J.C. Cloney, Kyle Isbel and Jose Caraballo.

After his batting average hit a lowly .111 on June 19, Caraballo has garnered a hit in eight-straight games for Idaho Falls. He’s gone 12-35 at the plate since his hitting streak started.

For Cloney, the 2017 ninth-round pick out of Castaic, Cali., has molded into the Chukars’ ace. The reliable southpaw is 3-0 with an ERA of 1.35. He’s struck 21 batters out — including 11 during his first start — and has allowed three earned runs on 14 hits.

As with Isbel, he’s batted .372 since joining the Chukars on June 19. He went 3 for 6 Friday night and gave the Chukars their third-straight win after hitting in Tyler James with an RBI single to left field in the bottom of the 12th.

Decreasing stock

Tyler Gray. In his first two starts with the Chukars, Gray owns a 15.88 ERA. He’s allowed 10 earned runs on 11 hits in 5.2 innings of work. He’s struck out seven and walked two.

Recent transactions (from June 24 to June 30)

– Left-handed pitcher Derrick Adams was assigned to Idaho Falls from Burlington on June 28.

– Right-handed pitcher Daniel Duarte was loaned to Idaho Falls from Tigres de Quintana Roo on June 30.

– Second baseman Carlos Diaz was assigned to Idaho Falls from the AZL Royals on June 30.

– Idaho Falls released left-handed pitcher Michael Messier on June 30. Messier was with the Chukars for 18 days (June 12).

– Idaho Falls released left-handed pitcher Joey Markus on June 30. Markus was with the Chukars for 18 days (June 12).

Upcoming

Idaho Falls is amidst a four-game away series at Ogden. The Chukars will be back Wednesday, July 4, to host Orem for three games. First pitch Wednesday is 4:30 p.m.

Rockies close the door on Chukars late

By LUKE O’ROARK | @LukeORoark
Loroark@postregister.com

Not many quick, close games happen in the Pioneer League.

Chukars’ Jose Caraballo and Jose Marquez round the bases as the Chukars take on the Ogden Raptors during opening day at Melaleuca Field on Friday, June 15, 2018. John Roark/ jroark@posteegister.com

But a quick, close game is exactly what 2,869 Melaleuca Field attendees got Tuesday night.

The Grand Junction Rockies beat the Chukars 4-2 thanks to a three-run seventh inning and holding the Chukars scoreless in the final five frames.

The only stat most fans need to know after Tuesday: Idaho Falls is 0-5 when trailing after the eighth this season.

And indeed, the Chukars trailed after the Rockies scored three runs in the top of the seventh to take a two-run lead.

Down 4-2, the Chukars attempted to rally after a Jesus Atencio double in the bottom of the ninth got him to third and Andres Martin reached second after being walked.

But on a 2-2 count, with two outs, Alexander Martinez closed the doors on the hometown bird, striking out Offerman Collado.

Originally up 2-1, a throwing error by Collado, a Reese Berberet home run and a Cristopher Navarro RBI single to third was all Grand Junction need to get back into Tuesday’s game and hand the Chukars their fifth loss of the season.

The Chukars scored first Tuesday, as Tyler James reached home after Kyle Isbel grounded into a double play. The Chukars then scored another run in the bottom of the fourth thanks to a Nate Eaton ground out that scored first baseman Reed Rohlman.

Domingo Pena (1-1) took the loss, giving up three runs (one earned) on four hits while walking two and striking out four in 4.2 innings. Eris Filpo took the win, allowing two runs (both earned) on seven hits while walking three and striking out three in six innings.

Player(s) of the game

Offerman Collado. The shortstop was the Chukars’ most consistent at-bat Tuesday night. He went 3 for 5 at the plate. He did, however, have one throwing error and struck out during the last at-bat of the game.

Notables

– Jose Caraballo’s hit streak has reached six games. Jesus Atencio’s hitting streak has now reached five games.

– Rockies’ Cristopher Navarro was hit in the hand in the top of the ninth, but the play was called foul tip. Navarro was eventually walked.

– The Chukars’ offense has been sluggish as of late, scoring just three runs in the previous two games.

Upnext

The Chukars (7-5) host the Rockies today at Melaleuca Field. First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.

Ramirez returns to Idaho Falls for second stint

Chukars’ Manager Omar Ramirez talks to players during the first practice together of the year at Melaleuca Field on Wednesday, June 13, 2018. This is Ramirez’s second stint with the Royals. He was manager in 2013 when the Chukars won the Pioneer League Championship going 41-35. John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com

By LUKE O’ROARK | @LukeORoark
Loroark@postregister.com

Idaho Falls Chukars’ field manager Omar Ramirez is back in the 208.

But now in his second stint with the burgundy and silver, the 47-year-old has evolved. Grown and matured — as a manager.

“More experienced. More experience as a manager,” Ramirez said of his transition back to Idaho Falls during the Wednesday’s media day at Melaleuca Field. “In 2012, it was my first time being a manager … Just knowing the game more. About movement and pitching change and all that. Players teach you so much, about everything.”

Ramirez returns to the Chukars after spending time with the Royals’ other rookie and low-A affiliates during the previous three summers. After a quick hiatus to manage in Burlington and Lexington, respectively, Ramirez returns with not only more knowledge, but an outgoing personality that fits with Chukars baseball.

“One of the great attributes of a guy like Omar, especially at the lower levels in the minor leagues where the Latin players haven’t acclimated, or haven’t learned English yet, perhaps, Omar has the ability to speak and communicate equally well with the American and English and Spanish speaking players,” Chukars general manager Kevin Greene said. “And I think that’s a great attribute for anyone to ever have, especially to be successful at this level.”

Being a player, or manager, in the ever-so-fluid minor league system can be difficult. It’s no secret.

There can be some long hours, pitching coach Jeff Suppan and hitting coach Damon Hollins said. You spend time away from family, friends. You’re in Idaho one week and then next thing you know: poof, you’re in Kentucky.

By late August, the two-month grind of the minor leagues can grind even the most hardened.

Chukars’ Manager Omar Ramirez talks to players about fielding during the first practice together of the year at Melaleuca Field on Wednesday, June 13, 2018. This is Ramirez’s second stint with the Royals. He was manager in 2013 when the Chukars won the Pioneer League Championship going 41-35. John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com

“You’re always coaching, and it’s like as a player, once the games over, you shower and then you go home. a coach has more work to do,” Suppan said. “As a player, you come to the ball park and your work starts, but as a coach, you’re doing work well before the players are there. So, the best job in baseball is player, you know. Coaching has a lot of enjoyable things, but it’s a lot of work.”

And if someone knows this, it’s Ramirez — who got to the AAA level and played in the Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros farming system at one point in his career. He’s no stranger to not settling in one place for too long: he’s bounced around from Cleveland to Mexico to independent leagues, he said.

But within that minor league grind, there’s a chance to make an impact on a pro-baller’s career. That’s what drew Ramirez back to Idaho Falls, and coaching, after retiring due to lingering injuries, spending time in Mexico and building a family.

He said he loves teaching.

“It’s my life. It’s what I enjoy doing,” Ramirez said. “I love it. They always ask me, ‘Do you want to become a big league manager?’ And if the opportunity is there, that’s fine, but I like the minor leagues. The players listen to you. In the big leagues, they don’t listen to you. I like this. I can tell, ‘Hey, you’re doing this wrong, you’re doing this wrong.’ In the big leagues, it’s different.

“I enjoy my job,” Ramirez added.

The Chukars play the Idaho Falls Bandits, an American Legion double-A team today at Melaleuca Field. First pitch is at 7:15 p.m. Idaho Falls official season begins Friday at Melaleuca Field against Ogden.

Same time as always: 7:15 p.m.

Chukars’ Manager Omar Ramirez works with players during the first practice together of the year at Melaleuca Field on Wednesday, June 13, 2018. This is Ramirez’s second stint with the Royals. He was manager in 2013 when the Chukars won the Pioneer League Championship going 41-35. John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com

Ogden claws I.F., 13-8, at Melaleuca Field

By Luke O’Roark | Post Register | @LukeORoark
You might want to check your car for dents if you were at Melaleuca Field Wednesday night.

The Raptors blasted two home runs and took advantage of three oppositional fielding errors, to beat the Chukars 13-8 at Melaleuca Field in front of 1,579 fans.

Ogden tallied 15 hits against Idaho Falls’ three pitchers, Dillon Drabble, Garrettson Harris and Andrew Beckwith, to hand the Chukars’ their fourth loss in five games.

(FILE) Chukars’ Cristhian Vasquez catches a pop fly during game one of three against the Voyagers at Melaleuca Field in Idaho Falls, Id., Friday, August 11, 2017. (Photo/ John Roark, jroark@postregister.com)

Idaho Falls has allowed 58 runs during that span.

With the win, Ogden keeps its playoff hopes alive at 36-22 (14-7 second half). Idaho Falls’ chances continue to dip, falling to 26-33 (9-12).

The Raptors are 5-3 when playing the Chukars this season.

Despite Ogden’s hot offense at Melaleuca Field, the Chukars did respond with runs of their own Wednesday, peaking when first baseman Robby Rinn slugged a two-run home run to revitalize the Chukars in the bottom of the eighth.

Rinn finished the night 2 for 3 at the plate.

But the Chukars — the worst pitching, and most undisciplined, team in the Pioneer League — fell in similar fashion. They simply couldn’t prevent the Raptors from circling the bases throughout Wednesday’s three-hour bout.

After Drabble surrendered two home runs during the first two frames, the Chukars got onto the board thanks to Cristhian Vasquez and Matt Morales RBIs.

Freddy Fermin and Darrell Miller Jr. then squeezed the Raptors’ four-run lead after Fermin hit in a run and Miller walked home, respectively, to cut Ogden’s lead to two.

But a sloppy fifth innings, which included a throwing error from Morales that allowed an extra base runner, helped the Raptors to score four runs.

The Raptors’ damage continued in the top of the ninth frame when the Raptors scored three runs off Harris. Harris finished the night with five hits, three earned runs in 2.2 innings pitched for a 9.00 ERA. He struck out three batters. Drabble (1-3) took the loss after allowing seven earned runs on 10 hits and two home runs.

Idaho Falls’ offense failed to respond as Fermin, Vasquez and Gonzalez all struck out in the top of the ninth.

To start the night, Ogden took an early 3-0 lead after a 424-foot, three-run homer by Mitchell Hansen flew over the right wall during the first inning. It was Hansen’s ninth home run of 2017.

Connor Heady continued the damage, hitting a three-run home run to extend Ogden’s lead to 6-0. It was also over the right wall.

What’s important:

Two early home runs set the tone, as the Chukars’ offense couldn’t carry their weak pitching and three fielding errors.

Player (s) of the game:

Robby Rinn. Rinn finished 2 for 3 at the plate with a two-run home run during the top of the eighth. He was also walked twice.

Notables:

– Attendance was announced as 1,578 Wednesday night.

Upnext:

Idaho Falls will return to Melaleuca Field for game two against Ogden. First pitch is at 7:15 p.m.

Chukars notebook: A melting pot of different cultural backgrounds, Latin players attempt to integrate with Chukars

By Luke O’Roark | Post Register | @LukeORoark
Chukars’ employee Andrew Scarlata said two Latino Chukars players, instead of driving, once pegged his bike to go to the local grocery store a couple miles down the road.

Another time, one player wanted to order Domino’s Pizza 30 minutes before a game’s first pitch.

Scarlata’s quick tales aren’t malicious — rather, examples of cultural barriers some players may face when being drafted from overseas into the MLB’s farming system.

Chukars’ Julio Gonzalez and Chukars’ Freddy Fermin have a meeting at the mound with pitcher Chukars’ Janser Lara, center, during game one of three against the Voyagers at Melaleuca Field in Idaho Falls, Id., Friday, August 11, 2017. (Photo/ John Roark, jroark@postregister.com)

“I’ve realized that these guys will probably need some sort of help or information or support when they come to the U.S., a completely different culture,” said Scarlata, who was in the Dominican Republic last summer and worked with a few Chukars players like Freddy Fermin. “Some guys handle it differently than others. A lot of times with the Latin players … having money is a total 180 for them. Language-wise, it’s all about commitment.”

The Chukars — a rookie-level affiliate of the Kansas City Royals — have seven Spanish-speaking players on their roster this season.

Scarlata, who was hired by Chukars’ general manager Kevin Greene because of his close relationship with the seven players, said they receive English classes in their hotel have gone on a fishing trips and even visited Tautphaus Park to help become acclimated to Idaho Falls — an overwhelmingly white, English speaking area of the United States.

The percentage of Hispanic or Latino population in Idaho Falls is 12.8 percent of the total general populous, according to city-data.com.

“The Royals do a really good job. They have classes for the Latin players, and we communicate a lot,” Jake Wakamatsu said. “I think it’s a good thing for all of us to get together and just learn about each other’s cultures and about each other.”

The Spanish-speaking players, like Fermin and Cristhian Vasquez, have used the developmental league to not only hone their craft, but to understand American culture, societal norms and the English language.

Fermin, in a translated interview with Scarlata, said it can be an adjustment for them, though.

“It is hard,” Fermin said. “It is difficult with the language barrier, but I’m learning new words every day by talking with the coaches and learning inside the clubhouse every day.”

According to the Society for American Baseball Research, a study by Mark Armour and Daniel Levitt found that 27.4 percent of MLB players identified as Latino.

The MLB and MiLB has slowly, but surely, become more inclusive over the years to accommodate other players’ backgrounds.

For an example, the MLB mandated that all teams provide interpreters for players with limited or no English proficiency in 2016, according to NPR.

“I know if I were playing or managing in Latin America today and had to speak Spanish, I would want a translator, just because the nuances of everything you say can be misunderstood or taken out of context,” Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia told USA Today in 2016.

Chukars’ Cristhian Vasquez runs to third base during game one of three against the Voyagers at Melaleuca Field in Idaho Falls, Id., Friday, August 11, 2017. (Photo/ John Roark, jroark@postregister.com)

Chukars’ pitching coach Jeff Suppan and designated hitter Darrell Miller, Jr. said they recognized the language (and cultural) barrier that happens since the Chukars are a melting pot of players from the likes of Georgia, California, Venezuela, Arizona and the Dominican Republic.

“Every year, almost half the team is Latin,” right fielder Amalani Fukofuka said during the preseason. “So, it’s good to try and get to know them a little more and learn a little Spanish to communicate. You can mess with them sometimes, and they’re usually cool to talk to.”

Suppan pitched 17 years in the majors, communicating with players of multiple Latin backgrounds. He said the cultural and language barrier “is just baseball.”

“Hopefully, you just mesh as a team,” Suppan said. “So, I might come in with a California accent, somebody else comes in with a Georgia accent, a Philly accent, somebody is a Spanish speaker and you kinda blend and have your own language together.”

Suppan added that “team language” is a universal component to sports.

Miller, who occasionally has to communicate with Spanish-speaking pitchers during games, agreed.

“I know it can be a challenge in clubhouses, but being a member of the Royals, and knowing what they’re about, we mesh really well — whether or not we can understand each other sometimes,” Miller said. “Baseball has a universal language, and I do know a little bit of Spanish, and these guys work their tails off … It might be broken in our communication but again, you know what they’re trying to say. They know what you’re trying to say.”

The term “universal language” as Miller and Suppan described comes with just playing the sport.

No matter if a player is from South America or North Dakota, the objective is still to score as many runs as possible before three outs.

Chukars’ Julio Gonzalez runs to first base during game one of three against the Voyagers at Melaleuca Field in Idaho Falls, Id., Friday, August 11, 2017. (Photo/ John Roark, jroark@postregister.com)

Win or lose, Scarlata said he takes responsibility for the Latin players in Idaho Falls, though. He has tried to be empathetic to people of different backgrounds attempting to merge into the United States.

“They’re really like kids, when you think about it,” Scarlata said. “You go into a place, you don’t know the language very well, and you’re here to play baseball and all you know is that there’s a town around you. They’ve really impressed me coming here.”

Chukars rout Mustangs, 17-2, behind Gonzalez’s six RBIs

By Luke O’Roark | Post Register | @LukeORoark
The Chukars kept hitting in between the gaps and the Mustangs just couldn’t respond.

No matter how you slice it, Thursday night belonged to Idaho Falls’ trifecta of hitters: Julio Gonzalez, Logan Gray and designated hitter, Darrell Miller Jr.

Chukars’ Julio Gonzalez throws to first to make a double play against the Mustangs at Melaleuca Field in Idaho Falls, Tuesday, August 15, 2017. (Photo/ John Roark, jroark@postregister.com)

The trio combined for 12 RBIs as Idaho Falls routed Billings 17-2 at Melaleuca Field in front of 2,411 fans. Gonzalez led the way offensively with six RBIs while Miller and Gray added three RBIs, respectively.

All three had three or more hits during the win (Miller Jr. and Gonzalez had four hits apiece).

“We all had really good approaches,” Miller Jr. said. “Tried to keep it simple. (The Mustangs) have a really good staff … so it’s good to face pitching like that.”

The win split the four-game series at 2-2 as the Chukars move to 25-29 overall (8-8 second half ).

It was Idaho Falls’ largest-margin of victory since beating Helena 13-1 on July 21. The Chukars’ 22 hits, the second-most this season, made Thursday night’s win all the more sweeter.

Six of those hits came in the bottom of the sixth frame alone.

But while the offense exploded, the Chukars’ bullpen did its job, too.

“(Janser) Lara had a very solid start for us. Throwing the ball, attacking the hitters,” manager Justin Gemoll said. “And we scored runs early and we kept added on throughout the game. It’s a good win for us.”

Simply, the Chukars blasted Mustangs’ pitcher Tyler Mondile (L, 2-4) from the opening frame, registering 12 hits and eight runs.

Mondile finished the night with an ERA of 5.15.

Conversely, Idaho Falls’ starter Janser Lara controlled early and often. Billings’ six hits were one of the lowest totals this season against the Chukars, statistically one of the Pioneer League’s worst pitching and defensive teams.

But as Lara and closer Andrew Beckwith shut the door on Billings (24-28, 6-9), the Chukars kept adding on runs.

Lara finished the night with two runs on five hits while walking one and striking out six. He did allow one home run, as Jeter Downs hit his fourth dinger of the season in the top of the sixth.

Beckwith allowed one hit and struck out two in 2.1 innings pitched Thursday.

“They threw the ball well,” Pitching coach Jeff Suppan said of his bullpen. “Janser threw the ball well, so I was happy for him. I thought he was smooth and had good rhythm. It’s really his first time pitching in the United States, so I think his stuff really played well.”

What’s important:

From the start, this was the Chukars’ night. Six runs in the bottom of the third gave them an early lead and Idaho Falls hardly had a problem afterwards.

Player (s) of the game:

Julio Gonzalez. While Miller Jr., Gray and Janser Lara played a vital role during Thursday night’s win, Gonzalez’s six RBIs were most notable.

Quotable:

“It is nice to get one of these (routs), but it’s by no means a day off. We still have to go up there and keep our foot on the gas and not let up because that’s how a lot of teams come back, especially in this league. It’s an offensive league, so you’re not safe up by freakin’ eight runs. These guys battled, and we battled, and I think it was a good series.” — DH Darrell Miller Jr.

Notables:

– Gonzalez’s six RBIs were a team-high this year. He’s also only the third player to hit five-plus RBIs in a single game this year, joining Robby Rinn and Matt Morales.

– Darrell Miller’s RBI during the first frame was his 30th of the season. His 32 RBIs are tied for second-most (Tyler Straub) on the Chukars.

– An attendee was injured at Melaleuca during the latter portion of Saturday’s game and was transported away by ambulance. Chukars assistant GM Josh Michelson said the attendee was “okay” and had injured themselves from a fall.

Up next: The Chukars are off today. They will return to action Saturday at Grand Junction (27-27, 9-7). First pitch is at 6:40 p.m.

Voyagers only need home run to down Chukars, 2-0

By Post Register | Prsports@postregister.com
The Chukars just couldn’t get anything going Saturday night against the Voyagers.

Atleast, it was the quickest game of the season at two hours and 14 minutes.

Chukars’ Ramon Castro steals second base during game one of three against the Voyagers at Melaleuca Field in Idaho Falls, Id., Friday, August 11, 2017. (Photo/ John Roark, jroark@postregister.com)

Great Falls only needed a home run to outlast Idaho Falls, 2-0, Saturday night in Melaleuca Field, scoring two runs in the top of the second and holding on to earn its 20th win on the season. It was only the second time the Chukars had been shut out all season.

The Chukars fall to 22-27, 5-6 on the season. The Voyagers advance to 20-28, 5-5 and a top of the Pioneer League North standings.

The Voyagers scored their two runs late in the second frame, holding onto the lead after the Chukars failed to cross home plate for the first time since July 27 (3-0 loss to Orem).

It was a Franklin Reyes home run over the left field wall that scored Carlos Perez and got Great Falls on the board first. It ended up being the only offense necessary.

Despite starting pitcher Julio Pinto’s solid work on the mound — five hits, two earned runs and eight strikeouts in eight innings pitched — the Idaho Falls registered its lowest amount of hits since losing 13-2 to Orem on July 28 (four hits).

Saturday, the Chukars only mustered up five hits, with first baseman Robby Rinn going 1 for 4 at the plate. It was Rinn’s 10th-straight hit.

Pinto fell to 3-6 on the season. His eight innings pitched was also the longest start for any Chukar so far this season.

Chukars beat Voyagers, 6-3, with solid pitching

By Luke O’Roark | Post Register | @Lukeoroark
Two of the Pioneer League’s bottom dwellers played Friday night at Melaleuca Field.

One team didn’t play like it, though.

Chukars’ Garrettson Harris pitches after replacing Chukars’ Janser Lara during game one of three against the Voyagers at Melaleuca Field in Idaho Falls, Id., Friday, August 11, 2017. (Photo/ John Roark, jroark@postregister.com)

The Idaho Falls Chukars beat the Great Falls Voyagers 6-3 Friday night in front of 2,329 fans to start its seven-game homestand.

In a relatively back-and-forth affair, the Chukars took control thanks to five runs in the final three frames. The win pushed the Chukars to 22-26 (5-5 in the second half) on the season. The Voyagers fall to 19-28 (4-5).

Chukars outfielders Travis Jones and Amalani Fukofuka led the way at the plate, going 2 for 4 and 2 for 3, respectively. They both reached home plate twice.

“Quality at-bats, really,” said Jones, when asked what went right Friday night. “Our at-bats were pretty quality today.”

Jones broke the stalemate first, scoring on a wild pitch during the second inning after hitting a triple to right field to get on base.

It was almost the only run the Chukars needed until Voyagers’ outfielder Tate Blackmon hit a line drive off starting pitcher Janser Lara, and past Amalani Fukofuka, to tie the game at one in the sixth frame.

Lara, a Pioneer League All-Star, pitched well up to that point, finishing the night with one run on two hits while walking three and striking out four in 5.2 innings pitched.

Garrettson Harris relieved him, earning his second win (2-0) on the season in 2.1 innings pitched.

The Chukars answered the Voyagers’ single run with three runs in the bottom of the six when Fukofuka scored off a failed rundown and Freddy Fermin and Brewer Hicklen plated two runs off RBIs.

“You can only hit the ball so hard, and it’s up to God where the ball goes and I think it’s been going in the hole lately,” Jones said.

The Voyagers made it close with two runs in the seventh, but two Chukars — Fukofuka and Robby Rinn — scored with bases loaded to put the game away.

Chukars’ Julio Gonzalez throws to first during game one of three against the Voyagers at Melaleuca Field in Idaho Falls, Id., Friday, August 11, 2017. (Photo/ John Roark, jroark@postregister.com)

“What really won the game was the good communication between the pitcher, catcher and the infield,” Fermin said through Chukars’ Andrew Scarlata, who translated. “It was superior tonight.”

What’s important:

The Chukars success against the Voyagers this season continued Friday night. Every time Great Falls seemed to score, Idaho Falls answered.

Player (s) of the game:

Travis Jones and Janser Lara. Lara, one of the Chukars best pitchers, showed solid command, not allowing a run until the sixth inning. Jones went 2 for 4 at the plate, including a triple in the bottom of the second.

Notables:

– Rain briefly hit Melaleuca Field during the first inning, causing some fans to ditch their seats. The rain lasted less than two minutes.

– Right fielder Amalani Fukfofuka registered his 14th hit in 11 games Friday after a line drive was mishandled by Voyagers’ third baseman Craig Dedelow.

– Travis Jones’ recent tear through the Pioneer League continued Friday when he tripled to right field. He later scored on a wild pitch. Jones has garnered nine hits in the previous four games.

Up next: The Chukars will return to Melaleuca Field tonight for game two of three against the Voyagers. First pitch is at 7:15 p.m.

Mustangs halt Chukars’ sweep, win 14-9

By Post Register | Prsports@postregister.com
The Idaho Falls Chukars entered Wednesday’s game against Billings with a sweep on the line and instead took a 14-9 loss to the Mustangs at Dehler Park. 

The Chukars fall to 21-26 overall and 4-5 in the second half of Pioneer League play.

As in its previous two games against Billings, Idaho Falls again got off to a quick start on Wednesday with a 5-0 lead after the top of the first. Billings matched it to end the frame knotted at 5-5. Matt Morales scored with two outs in the top of the fourth to make it 6-5 Idaho Falls, but that was the last time the Chukars would lead.

The Mustangs (22-23, 4-4 second half), capitalized on a walk, two errors, a wild pitch, a balk, a stolen base, and two hits all with two outs to score four runs in the top of the fifth inning to take a 9-6 lead. Billings scored another five unanswered runs in the next two innings before Idaho Falls got back on the scoreboard again with three runs in the top of the eighth.

After combining for 25 runs and five errors on Tuesday, the Chukars and Mustangs combined for 27 hits and seven errors on Wednesday. Five of those errors were committed by Idaho Falls.

Morales went 3 for 5 with three runs scored, Amalani Fukofuka went 2 for 5 with a double, two RBIs and two runs scored while Robby Rinn went 1 for 5 with a double, two RBIs and a run scored.

Starting pitcher Dillon Drabble took the loss, giving up seven runs (four earned) on seven hits while walking three and striking out four in 4.2 innings.

The Chukars return to Melaleuca Field on Friday for game one of three against Great Falls after a seven-game road trip to Montana. First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.