By LUKE O’ROARK | @LukeORoark
Gloomy weather hung over Melaleuca Field to start the Idaho Falls Chukars’ season opener. The night ended with fireworks and a win, though.
The Chukars defeated the Raptors 4-2 Friday to start the season 1-0 for the third consecutive season.
JC Cloney got the win on the mound, striking out 11 and surrendering two earned runs on four hits in seven innings pitched. After a shaky, 2-run first inning, Cloney quickly settled his command, working Friday’s strike zone with breaking balls before Robert Garcia closed the game out with a save.
At one point, Cloney retired 12-straight during the middle innings.
“That was good to see a well-pitched game in this league,” Chukars Omar Ramirez said. “That doesn’t happen very often. It’s a nice to see a game well pitched.”
Down 2-0 to start their freshly new campaign, the Chukars responded with two runs in the bottom of the third. Cleanup hitter Nick Hutchins hit in the first run of the 2018 Chukars’ season, popping an RBI single into the right field gaps to score Freddy Fermin.
After Reed Rohlman scored Manny Olloque later in the bottom of the third, Friday’s game quickly became a classic pitchers’ duel.
That was, of course, until Olloque hit in Fermin with a line drive to left field in the seventh.
“I was just looking for a pitch to drive to score the run and I’m glad we won,” Olloque said. “That’s all that matters.”
Up 3-2, Jose Marquez added an insurance in the bottom of the eighth, eventually setting up Garcia to close the door on the 2017 Pioneer League champions.
He did — as the Chukars’ season began with patriotic fireworks and the cliched Journey song, “Don’t Stop Believing”.
“Everybody pitched good, hit good, good defense,” Olloque said. “Overall, good win.”
Player (s) of the Game
JC Cloney and Manny Olloque.
Cloney’s command was impressive Friday night. After surrendering two runs in the top of the first inning, Cloney settled in and attacked the zone. He struck 11 out in seven innings.
Olloque finished 2 for 4 at the plate, driving home a run in the bottom of the seventh. He had one run and one RBI.
“I go day-by-day. Like I said, we played a good game, we played good defense, very good defense we played. I always say if we have two of these three things: pitching, defense and timely hitting, situational hitting. If you have two of those, you’re in good shape every time you take the field. … We had all three of them. It won’t happen every night, but it’s nice to see the first game of the season.” — Chukars manager Omar Ramirez
– The Chukars have won three-straight season openers. They’re last season-opening loss was June 18, 2015 (16-10 to Grand Junction).
– Billy “Country Breakfast” Butler performed a solo home run derby before Friday’s game. Butler, a 2012 Silver Slugger with the Kansas City Royals, played for the Chukars in 2004.
– Attendance was announced at 3,132, per the Chukars’ organization.
The Chukars host the Ogden Raptors Saturday at Melaleuca Field for game two of a four-game home stand. First pitch is at 7:15 p.m.