Tag: Joe Mather

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

Osprey pound Chukars 17-9 in Pioneer League championship-opener


Sunday marked the Idaho Falls Chukars’ final home game of 2015. It was game one of the Pioneer League championship series.

It ended up being one of Idaho Falls’ worst losses of the season.

Aided by four home runs, the Missoula Osprey pounded the Chukars 17-9 in front of 1,044 fans Sunday at Melaleuca Field. One more win will net the Osprey their fourth Pioneer League title.

“We’re playing a pretty dang good team, if not the hottest team in the league,” Missoula’s first-year manager Joe Mather said. “By no means is the series over. We’re going to come out and work hard on Tuesday and not take anything for granted.”

I.F. gave up 16 runs in each of its first two games of the season, both losses to Grand Junction. The Chukars went 77 games without giving up that many runs in a game. The streak ended at the worst time.

Arnaldo Hernandez made his second start for I.F. after being called up from the Arizona League on Sept. 7. He lasted gave up three runs — all in the top of the second — in three innings. All three runs were unearned due to an error by shortstop Marten Gasparini, but Hernandez was not blameless. He gave up two hits, four walks and a 441-foot two-run home run to Kal Simmons (4 for 5, six RBIs).

Todd Eaton relieved Hernandez in the fourth, but he lasted 0.1 innings. Eaton gave up four runs (all earned) for a game ERA of 108.00.

Cruz Guevara replaced Eaton and gave up a 452-foot two-run home run to Jason Morozowski.

“We left some balls up, and they took advantage of our mistakes,” Chukars manager Justin Gemoll said. “We have to do a better job executing.”

The Osprey increased their lead to 16-4 in the top of the seventh inning on a grand slam from shortstop Isan Diaz.

In six games from Sept. 6 to Sept. 9, Missoula scored 16 total runs. They hadn’t scored more than 10 runs since Aug. 25.

Sunday’s win extended Missoula’s three-game playoff winning streak. They scored 13 total runs in their two wins over Billings. The Osprey’s 17 runs on Sunday are a season-high and the most they’ve scored in a game since their 22 on July 25, 2014.

“The bats have really come on at the right time,” Mather said. “We were fortunate enough to get pitches to hit, and the guys executed.”

First baseman Josh Banuelos (3 for 4, walk), left fielder Roman Collins (3 for 5, double) and third baseman Jose Martinez (3 for 4, triple, walk) each had three hits for the Chukars.

Monday is a travel day for each team, so the series will resume in Missoula Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. I.F. sends right-hander Derek Gordon to the mound to face lefty Cameron Smith.

A win would net the Osprey their first Pioneer League title since 2012.

Two wins would give the Chukars their second Pioneer League championship since becoming a Kansas City Royals affiliate in 2004.

“I’m proud of the way these guys have battled all year,” Gemoll said. “I couldn’t ask for anything more.”