Tag: Melaleuca Field

Chukars’ lineup, bullpen awaken in a 7-5 win over the Mustangs

Idaho Falls Chukars pitcher Cole Way (right) celebrates his save with catcher MJ Sanchez Wednesday night against the Billings Mustangs at Melaleuca Field. (Photo courtesy of Steve Thayer)
Idaho Falls Chukars pitcher Cole Way (right) celebrates his save with catcher MJ Sanchez Wednesday night against the Billings Mustangs at Melaleuca Field. (Photo courtesy of Steve Thayer)

Not once did Cole Way shake off MJ Sanchez in the top of the ninth inning of Wednesday’s game. Ten minutes after the inning began, Way and Sanchez embraced.

The pitcher and catcher celebrated a rarity: an Idaho Falls Chukars win over the Billings Mustangs at Melaleuca Field. The 7-5 victory was the Chukars’ second of the six-game homestand, and their first over Billings this season. And it wasn’t close to over until Way’s final pitch of the ninth hit Sanchez’s glove.

Way buckles down

Third baseman David Edwards committed a fielding error with one out in the top of the ninth, setting up an easy narrative: an error sinks the Chukars once again.

Errors have killed I.F. all season, especially in the second half, and the Chukars looked doomed for a similar fate Wednesday. The Mustangs put the tying runs on second and third with one out in the ninth.

The situation didn’t phase Way. He struck out Colby Wright, who had gone 2 for 3 with a double heading into that at-bat. Cassidy Brown was up next. On a 2-2 count, Sanchez called for a changeup. Way didn’t hesitate, and he got Brown to chase to end the game.

“Cole’s best pitch is probably his changeup,” Sanchez said. “I had a lot of confidence in him and what he had, and I knew he was going to trust me. We were in sync.”

Right after the strikeout, Way screamed and pointed at Sanchez, praising his catcher for a good gameplan.

“He sat there and watched the hitters for eight innings, he read all their swings and he had a great sequence on every at-bat,” Way said. “He called a perfect pitch at the perfect time.”

Five in the sixth 

Rudy Martin led off the bottom of the first with a double. The Chukars were held hitless for the next four innings.

The first five innings summed up I.F.’s second half. The lineup looked listless. The bullpen got knocked around, this time with Christian Flecha filling the role with two earned runs in the fifth.

The lineup and the bullpen flipped a switch after that, starting with an offensive eruption in bottom of the sixth. The lineup batted around thanks to five hits and two walks.

Martin sparked the rally with a lead-off walk. The center fielder doesn’t like to use the word “slump”, but that’s what he was mired in for the bulk of August. From July 26 through Tuesday’s game, Martin hit 6 for 47 (.128) with two walks.

“We’ve been working in the cages, and today, it was a lot better,” Martin said. “I’m feeling a lot more comfortable at the plate. Hopefully tomorrow I can come and do the same thing.”

Sanchez was another struggling Chukar heading into Wednesday. He had been 0 for 10 without a walk in the month of August. On Wednesday, Sanchez extended the sixth inning rally with a single, and he walked in the eighth.

Cepin extends streak

The Chukars have struggled in almost every area during the second half. One of the few bright spots has been starting pitching, and that silver lining continued to glimmer Wednesday.

Left-hander Reinaldo Cepin allowed two earned runs on five hits and a walk in four innings. He also struck out three.

Before Wednesday, no I.F. starter had allowed more than one earned run on the homestand, yet I.F. went 1-4 in those games.

Player of the game 

Mustangs left fielder Taylor Trammell

Trammell went 2 for 3 with a triple, a double, two walks and three runs scored.

Up next

The Chukars (28-27 overall, 6-11 second half) and Mustangs (34-20, 11-5) wrap up the four-game series Thursday at Melaleuca Field. I.F.’s Matt Portland (6.59 ERA) takes on fellow lefty Max Wotell (5.03).

Mustangs hand the Chukars another ugly loss

Dale
Dale

Even hits yielded negative results for the Idaho Falls Chukars on Tuesday night.

With two outs and a runner on in the bottom of the ninth, Chukars first baseman Ryan Dale looped a hit down the right field line. Dale tried to stretch it into a double and give I.F. a whiff of hope. Billings’ Jose Siri squashed the rally by throwing Dale out at second base.

Dale’s out sealed a 7-2 win for the Billings Mustangs at Melaleuca Field. I.F.’s second-half record fell to 5-11, the worst in the Pioneer League.

“We’re more concerned, at this level, not necessarily with the wins and losses,” Chukars manager Justin Gemoll said. “The more consistent they can get with their preparation, their concentration, their attitude, all that kind of stuff, that’s what will translate into the games.”

Billings erupts in the eighth 

The Chukars trailed 2-1 heading into the top of the eighth inning. The way their lineup has hit the Mustangs, the deficit felt larger.

Billings filled the gap between perception and reality by scoring five runs in the top of the eighth inning. Four hits, two walks and two errors led to the five runs, which all came against Enmanuel Cammacho.

Unlike the Mustangs, the Chukars struggled with runners in scoring position, going 1 for 9 on the night. The Mustangs’ four pitchers allowed nine hits, one walk and two earned runs while striking out 12.

Billings has held the Chukars to 2.6 runs per game, peaking at five runs on Monday night.

Errors persist

I.F.’s Jace Vines made one of his best starts of the season, allowing one earned run on three hits, three walks and three strikeouts in five innings. Richard Lovelady and Nick Andros combined to toss 3.1 scoreless innings out of the bullpen. Cammacho pitched better than his line suggests.

And yet, the Mustangs won handily. Defensive miscues were a big reason why.

An error by I.F. shortstop Ricky Aracena (his league-leading 28th) led to Billings’ go-ahead run in the fifth. David Edwards overthrew Dale on a double play attempt in the top of the eighth. An accurate, on-time throw would have ended the inning with Billings up 3-1.

The Chukars committed four total errors Tuesday , giving them 10 the last two games. They’ve now piled up 124 errors on the season, good for nearly 20 percent of the league’s total. I.F. has more than twice as many as the Mustangs, whose 56 errors are a league-low.

“Some of (the errors) are a result of being too aggressive, where we’re trying to be too quick and we get ahead of ourselves,” Gemoll said. “We don’t want to take the aggressiveness away from them. We love the aggressiveness. At the same time, control it a little bit.”

Player of the game 

Mustangs right fielder Jose Siri 

Siri went 2 for 5 with his ninth home run of the season, a 421-foot solo shot to kick off Billings’ eighth inning rally .

Up next 

The Mustangs (34-19 overall, 11-4 second half) will go for the series win over the Chukars (27-27, 5-11) at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday at Melaleuca Field. I.F. lefty Reinaldo Cepin (3.76 ERA) is schedule to start against righty Moises Nova (5.40 ERA).

 

Mustangs rough up Chukars 12-5

Machado
Machado

The crowd at Melaleuca Field has seen plenty of offense from the Idaho Falls Chukars in 2016. But they haven’t seen anything more impressive than the offensive showing the Billings Mustangs displayed Monday night.

Billings pounded out 21 hits and held off two Idaho Falls rallies to beat the Chukars 12-5 in front of 3,290 fans in a game that lasted 3 hours, 22 minutes.

It was the sixth loss in seven games for Idaho Falls, which remained three games behind Grand Junction in the Pioneer League South Division second-half standings.

Whatever you can do

Billings grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on a leadoff triple by TJ Friedl and an RBI single from Taylor Trammell. The score remained stuck at 1-0 until the bottom of the fifth, when Idaho Falls bats held to one hit up to that point finally came to life.

Nick Heath got things started with a leadoff single and then stole second. He moved to third on a single from Luke Willis. With Ricky Aracena batting, Heath came home on a passed ball. Manny Olloque gave Idaho Falls the lead with a swinging bunt to third.

Billings didn’t take long to answer, scoring four runs on five hits against reliever Drew Milligan. The momentum from a solid start by Andres Machado (five innings, six hits, one earned run, five strikeouts) and the mini rally in the fifth was gone.

The Mustangs tacked on three runs in the seventh in what looked like insurance runs at the time. But Idaho Falls scored three runs on four hits to make it a game.

It wasn’t a game for long. Billings put the game out of reach after the first two hitters struck out, scoring four runs on five hits.

Idaho Falls went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth.

No relief

It was a tough night for the Idaho Falls bullpen. Milligan picked up a blown save and the loss after the rough sixth inning, while Jason Freeman allowed seven runs (six earned) on 10 hits in 2.2 innings. Cole Way walked one and struck out one in 0.1 innings.

Player of the game

The entire Billings lineup

There’s no way to pick one player for the Mustangs, who got a hit from every player in the lineup. Cassidy Brown led the way with four hits, while Jose Siri, Taylor Trammell, Hector Vargas and John Sansone each had three. Trammell, Montrell Marshall, Sansone and Morgan Lofstrom each had two RBIs.

Up next

The Mustangs (33-19, 10-4 second half) and Chukars (27-26, 5-10) play the second game of their four-game series tonight at Melaleuca Field. First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.

Sunday’s game

CHUKARS 7, VOYAGERS 3: Idaho Falls snapped a unsightly five-game losing streak, thanks to a strong start from Igol Feliz and a five-run second inning.

Feliz pitched in and out of trouble during his seven innings, allowing nine hits but not allowing a walk and limiting Great Falls to two earned runs.

And the offense, which had averaged just 2.8 runs during the five-game skid, belted five doubles and 11 hits total. Designated hitter Joe Dudek led the way, going 3 for 4 with two doubles, a run and two RBIs. Luke Willis, Angelo Castellano and Ryan Dale also had two-baggers.

And the defense, which leads the league in errors, didn’t have a miscue and turned one double play.

Chukars blow a 6-0 lead to the Voyagers, lose their fifth straight

Olloque
Olloque

The Idaho Falls Chukars’ locker room was nearly silent after Saturday’s game. The few players who spoke whispered, and smiles were absent. Anyone at the game understood why.

The Chukars surrendered an early six-run lead and fell 7-6 to the Great Falls Voyagers on Saturday night at Melaleuca Field. I.F.’s offense disappeared and the defense made crucial mistakes in the team’s fifth straight loss.

Chukars jump ahead early

The Chukars had scored four runs in the three games prior to Saturday’s. They overcame that margin with two swings.

The first came from third baseman Manny Olloque, who launched a 390-foot, three-run home run to left field in the bottom of the first inning. The blast put I.F. ahead 3-0.

Yeison Melo made the second swing, which also delivered a three-run homer. His traveled a few feet to the right of the foul pole in left field and landed 444 feet away from home plate. It put the Chukars up 6-0 through three innings.

On their most recent road trip, the Chukars scored six or more runs in one of their seven games. That was their only win of the trip, an 8-6 victory over the Voyagers.

Dreaded sevens

I.F. nursed a 6-4 lead heading into the seventh inning. Great Falls’ first two hitters of the inning reached base, and they moved to second and third on a Brady Conlan sacrifice bunt. The next hitter, Jameson Fisher, laced a double down the right field line to tie the game at 6-6.

Two innings later, Conlan hit a two-out double and reached third base on an errant throw by left fielder Rudy Martin. With the infield in, Fisher hit a tricky one-hopper to Ricky Aracena. The shortstop couldn’t handle it, and Conlan touched home plate to put the Voyagers up 7-6.

Errors up there

Aracena’s boot in the ninth inning wasn’t ruled an error, but it encapsulated another error-filled game for I.F.

The Chukars committed four errors in the game. Great Falls scored runs after three of them.

The most blatant examples of I.F.’s defensive struggles happened in the top of the fifth inning. Ahead 6-0 with two outs, Olloque whiffed on a simple ground ball that put Joel Booker on first. Booker advanced to third on a wild pitch during the next at-bat, and he scored on a Max Dutto single. Dutto moved up to third during the next at-bat on a wayward pickoff attempt from pitcher Arnaldo Hernandez. Two batters later, Conlan drove in Dutto and Aaron Schnurbusch (who walked) with a double.

The Chukars lead the Pioneer League with 116 errors (2.3 per game) this season. The next closest team in the league is Orem, which has committed 84 errors (1.7 per game).

Players of the game

The Voyagers’ bullpen

Relievers Brandon Magallones, Richard McWilliams and Kevin Escorcia shut down the Chukars for the final five innings. Together, they allowed one hit and one walk while striking out seven.

Great Falls’ bullpen also allowed one hit over four scoreless innings Friday.

Up next

The Chukars (26-25 overall, 4-9 second half) and Voyagers (29-21, 8-4) return to Melaleuca Field Sunday at 4 p.m. I.F.’s Igol Feliz (5.80 ERA) takes on fellow righty Jake Elliott (3.33).

Run-averse Chukars get swept out of Billings

Viloria
Viloria

The Idaho Falls Chukars will be happy to see Melaleuca Field again.

The team that has gone 18-5 at home continued to struggle on the road Wednesday night. The Chukars fell 6-1 to the Billings Mustangs at Dehler Park to end their seven-game road trip. I.F. was swept by the Mustangs, went 1-6 on the trip and fell to 8-18 on the road this season.

Hit and (no) run

The Chukars notched three hits in each of their first two games at Billings. They more than doubled that number Wednesday, tallying eight base knocks. They added three walks, and Angelo Castellano reached on an error.

While I.F. diverged from the low-hit streak, hits with runners on base remained elusive.

The Chukars left 11 runners on base Wednesday, and they went 0 for 13 with runners in scoring position. They have not recorded a hit in their last 19 at-bats with RISP, and they finished the series 1 for 25 in those situations.

Viloria comes down to Earth

Not even a brief slump can make Meibrys Viloria look bad.

The Chukars catcher went 0 for 4 on Wednesday, extending his hitless streak to seven at-bats. His 0-for-3 performance Monday ended a 20-game hitting streak.

Yet even after this two-game cold streak, Viloria leads the Pioneer League with a .420 batting average. He owns the league’s top slugging percentage and OPS, as well.

Wednesday’s 0-for-4 performance marked the first time in 36 games that Viloria has gone hitless in consecutive contests. In fact, Viloria has recorded at least one hit in all but five games this season. That includes an 0-for-1 showing in a pinch-hit situation June 22 against Orem.

Player of the game

Mustangs shortstop Gabriel Ovalle

Ovalle went 3 for 4 (three singles) with two RBIs on Wednesday. He also played his 13th error-less game this season at arguably the toughest position in baseball.

Bayliss earns promotion

Right-handed pitcher Brian Bayliss was promoted from I.F. to Single-A Lexington on Wednesday, ending his two-season tenure with the Chukars.

The Legends will be Bayliss’s first professional team other than the Chukars. He pitched 25.1 innings for I.F. last year and 17 this summer.

Bayliss rebounded from a 6.39 ERA in 2015 with a 3.18 ERA this season. His 2016 first half output was even better than the 3.18 indicates, and it netted him a Pioneer League all-star selection (he replaced an injured Alex Luna in the Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star game).

Up next

The Chukars (26-23 overall, 4-7 second half) get Thursday off and host Great Falls (27-20, 6-3) for a three-game set starting Thursday. Lefty Matt Portland (7.50 ERA) will start on the hill for I.F.

Chukars’ bats remain quiet in a 3-1 loss to Billings

Cepin
Cepin

Three hits can be enough to win if they cluster in the right moments. Those moments eluded the Idaho Falls Chukars on Tuesday night.

The Chukars had three hits for the second consecutive night against the Billings Mustangs at Dehler Park. I.F. managed four runson Monday, which would have been enough for a win the following night. That same cluster luck didn’t show up Tuesday, and the Chukars fell 3-1.

Offense falters again

Tuesday’s loss dropped the Chukars to 1-5 on their current road trip. Run prevention hasn’t been a strong suit, but the offense has been ground zero for I.F.’s struggles.

The Chukars have managed 3.5 runs and 7.2 hits per game on the road trip. They mustered one hit in a 12-0 shutout at Great Falls on Saturday, and the most runs scored in any of their six games was eight in Sunday’s win over the Voyagers.

I.F. has scored nearly eight runs per game this season (7.4, to be exact), and has averaged 8.8 at home. The Chukars have scored 6.1 runs per game away from Melaleuca Field. Their road record is now 8-17.

Tuesday’s game was getable. For the first time all second half, I.F.’s pitching staff allowed fewer than five runs in a game. Its lineup put seven runners on base and six in scoring position. The Chukars went 0 for 6 with runners on second or third base, and they stranded all but one of their seven runners.

A first for Cepin

With Alex Luna sidelined due to an oblique strain, Reinaldo Cepin got his first start of the season for I.F. The left-hander threw 50 pitches over four complete innings and allowed two earned runs on six hits, a walk and two strikeouts.

Cepin entered the game with the most innings pitched (22.1) of any I.F. reliever, and with good reason. The 22-year-old’s ERA rose to 3.76 after Tuesday’s start, and he now has 19 strikeouts against 11 walks. Cepin still hasn’t hit a batter or allowed a home run, and he’s given up 24 hits.

Player of the game

Mustangs designated hitter Taylor Trammell

Billings had 11 hits, but third place hitter Trammell and leadoff man T.J. Friedl, Jr. accounted for the only hits of consequence.

Friedl, Jr. went 2 for 4 and scored both times, first on a Trammell single and second on a Trammell double (the Mustangs’ only extra-base hit). The single scored another run, as well, so Trammell drove in all three Billings runs. He finished 3 for 4.

Up next

The Chukars (26-22 overall, 4-6 second half) and Mustangs (29-18, 6-3) wrap up their three-game series at Dehler Park at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday. Jace Vines (6.39 ERA) gets the start for I.F. against fellow righty Ian Kahaloa (2.36).

Another night, another Chukars comeback

Idaho Falls third baseman Manny Olloque dives to make a tag during Saturday’s game against Grand Junction at Melaleuca Field. (Courtesy of Steve Thayer)
Idaho Falls third baseman Manny Olloque dives to make a tag during Saturday’s game against Grand Junction at Melaleuca Field. (Courtesy of Steve Thayer)

An Idaho Falls Chukars rally is like a motorcycle accident. It’s not if one will happen, it’s when.

The Chukars displayed that inevitability in their first two games against Grand Junction. Saturday was the most glaring example of them all.

I.F. scored four runs in the eighth inning to overcome another late deficit and beat the Rockies 7-5 at Melaleuca Field.

“We’d much rather have them score a bunch of runs early,” Chukars manager Justin Gemoll said. “But with these guys, it’s just, be patient. That’s the big lesson. Be patient, and just watch them compete.”

Another late rally

Saturday marked the seventh time this season I.F. came back from a deficit in the sixth inning or later. Nothing early in the game pointed to another comeback, other than the Chukars’ habit of relentlessness.

The Rockies took a 4-1 lead in the fifth inning, and that held until the sixth. I.F. chipped away, but Grand Junction still led 5-3 going into the bottom of the eighth.

The lineup that produced three hits through six innings piled up six in the eighth alone. Meibrys Viloria kicked off the scoring with an RBI double, which extended his hitting streak to 17 games. Angelo Castellano then drove in Viloria and David Edwards to give the Chukars a 6-5 lead.

Edwards and Manny Olloque both singled with one out to spark the rally.

“You go, ‘OK, we’re a little flat,’ and then all of the sudden …” Gemoll said. “It takes one hit to get them going, and it has for the past month or so.”

Dudek breaks through 

Rockies left fielder Tyler Bugner made a diving catch in the bottom of the seventh to rob Joe Dudek of his first professional hit. At the time, it felt like cruel fortune. In hindsight, Dudek was happy to wait.

The Chukars’ first baseman came up an inning later with Castellano on second. He lined a single to Bugner that scored Castellano and gave I.F. a 7-5 lead.

It was Dudek’s first hit in eight at-bats.

“I didn’t want to doubt myself,” Dudek said. “It’s my second day here. I feel like I’m seeing it well. Just trying to put good swings on it. I’m getting more comfortable as the at-bats go on.”

Lovelady’s dominant debut 

Richard Lovelady’s first appearance as a Chukar came in a high-leverage situation, and he couldn’t have been more commanding.

The left-hander entered the game in the top of the ninth, right after I.F.’s furious eighth inning rally.

“There’s always nerves,” Lovelady said. “I didn’t try to do too much the first time out. Just go out there and pound the zone.”

Lovelady’s results: a three-pitch strikeout and two four-pitch strikeouts. His high-80s, low-90s fastball whizzed by Grand Junction’s bats, and only two of his 11 pitches were balls.

“I wish I could tell you it was planned, that I knew we were going to score four runs and he’d come in and get the save,” Gemoll said. “It worked out in our favor. He did a great job.”

Player of the game 

Rockies starting pitcher Ty Culbreth

The Chukars won, but no single player’s performance stood out from the rest. Culbreth, on the other hand, pitched five pristine innings. The left-hander allowed one unearned run on two hits and no walks. He also struck out seven.

Up next 

The Chukars (24-17, 2-1 second half) will try to take the series over Grand Junction (17-24, 1-2) on Sunday at 4 p.m. It’s the final game before the all-star break.

 

Late rally can’t rescue Chukars in 14-8 loss to Grand Junction

 created on Friday 7/29/2016 at 7:41:41 pm by Victor Flores modified on Friday 7/29/2016 at 9:19:25 pm by Victor Flores Cutline 1editforJuly-30-Chukars-2.jpg Idaho Falls center fielder Nick Heath follows through on his first-inning double during Friday’s game against Grand Junction at Melaleuca Field. (Courtesy of Steve Thayer )
Idaho Falls center fielder Nick Heath follows through on his first-inning double during Friday’s game against Grand Junction at Melaleuca Field. (Courtesy of Steve Thayer )

Everything felt familiar for five innings Friday.

The Idaho Falls Chukars trailed Grand Junction 3-1 through five, but the 2,947 fans at Melaleuca Field had seen this movie before. Just one night earlier, the Chukars trailed by three runs through five. They ended up winning 7-6. And I.F. owns the highest-scoring offense in the Pioneer League, as well.

Sure enough, the Chukars finished Friday with eight runs. But they weren’t nearly enough.

The Rockies pounded I.F.’s pitching staff for 14 runs on 17 hits. Only a six-run ninth inning prevented a double-digit blowout.

Floodgates open

Save for a couple of solo home runs, Chukars starter Arnaldo Hernandez pitched well heading into the sixth inning. Then the right-hander ran into control issues, and I.F.’s bullpen couldn’t plug up the leak.

Hernandez walked two of the first three batters he faced in the sixth, and he was replaced by Christian Flecha. The Rockies piled up four hits against the lefty, leading to five runs and an 8-1 lead.

Enmanuel Camacho relieved Flecha in the seventh, and the hits kept flowing. Grand Junction scored four runs on four singles and a walk.

“They were finding holes,” Chukars pitching coach Jeff Suppan said of Grand Junction’s hitters. “Sometimes, you make a really good pitch and it gets hit. Sometimes, you make a bad pitch and it’s an out. This is development. You’re learning. You’ve gotta know, how do you pitch when you don’t have your best stuff?”

The final two runs scored on a play that summed up I.F.’s first eight innings. With two outs, Cole Anderson hit a soft ground ball to Jordan Ebert. The ball rolled right under the legs of the Chukars’ second baseman, resulting in a 12-1 lead for the Rockies.

Baker holds I.F. in check

Rockies starter Bryan Baker entered Friday’s game with a 7.52 ERA. He had allowed at least two earned runs in his first five starts, and he was facing the Pioneer League’s best lineup.

Naturally, Baker quieted the Chukars.

Idaho Falls catcher Meibrys Viloria loads up to make a throw after a dropped third strike during Friday’s game against Grand Junction at Melaleuca Field. (Courtesy of Steve Thayer)
Idaho Falls catcher Meibrys Viloria loads up to make a throw after a dropped third strike during Friday’s game against Grand Junction at Melaleuca Field. (Courtesy of Steve Thayer)

The right-hander allowed a run on two hits and a walk in the first inning. I.F.’s next four innings against Baker were scoreless. On the night, Baker allowed allowed five hits with five strikeouts and the lone walk.

Viloria’s streak continues 

Meibrys Viloria had another strong performance at the plate Wednesday, going 2 for 5 with an RBI double. The all-star catcher extended his hitting streak to 16 games in the process.

Viloria has gone 31 for 61 (.508) with three home runs, two triples and six doubles during the steak, which began July 7 at Ogden.

Player of the game 

Rockies right fielder Manny Melendez 

Melendez and Jonathan Piron both recorded four hits, including one extra-bagger. Piron hit a double and Melendez hit home run, which gives him the slight edge for this award.

Up next 

The Chukars (23-17, 1-1 second half) and Rockies (17-23, 1-1) return to Melaleuca Field Saturday at 7:15 p.m. Igol Feliz (6.31 ERA) will start for I.F.

Chukars start second half with 7-6 comeback win over Grand Junction

Idaho Falls' Angelo Castellano tags second base and makes the throw to first in time for a double-play during Thursday night's game at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls’ Angelo Castellano tags second base and makes the throw to first in time for a double-play during Thursday night’s game at Melaleuca Field. (Monte LaOrange / mlaorange@postregister.com)

The Idaho Falls Chukars came agonizingly close to earning a Pioneer League South first-half title Wednesday. Now, they’ll have to outlast Ogden and Grand Junction for 38 more games to make it back to the playoffs.

I.F. took one step toward that prize Thursday with a 7-6 win over Grand Junction at Melaleuca Field. The Chukars erased another late three-run deficit, similar to Wednesday’s game at Missoula but in reverse of the crushing one-run loss.

Comeback trail

The Chukars went up 3-0 after the second inning, but that three-run lead slowly turned into a three-run deficit. After three strong innings, I.F. starting pitcher Matt Portland struggled to find the strike zone. He threw 37 balls against 40 strikes, walked five batters and allowed five earned runs in 3.2 innings pitched.

But the Chukars don’t stay silent with the bats at home games. In their first 19 contests at Melaleuca Field, their lowest offensive output was four runs. They scored fewer than six runs in only four home games, as well. The Chukars kept that category stagnant again Thursday.

I.F. hit three singles and drew a walk in the sixth inning, but the Rockies did just as much to blow the lead. First baseman Hunter Melton made a throwing error, and pitcher Lorenz Ozuna threw two wild pitches that each led to runs. The second tied the game.

Another error placed Chukars on first and second with no outs in the bottom of the eighth. Jordan Ebert took advantage, driving in Luke Willis with a single to put I.F. up 7-6.

Grand Junction got a runner to third in the top of the ninth against Nick Andros, but the left-hander got a flyout to centerfield to end it.

One-run discrepancy

In the first half, the Chukars went a measly 5-11 in games decided by one run. But the bulk of that losing came on the road. They went 1-9 in one-run games away from Melaleuca Field.

It’s hard to chalk up those struggles to anything but bad luck, mostly because one-run game performance is so random (at least for MLB teams). The Chukars also improved to 5-2 in one-run games at home following Thursday’s win. Their overall home record is now 16-4.

Roster moves

The Chukars added a pair of first-year players on Wednesday left-handed pitcher Richard Lovelady and infielder Joe Dudek.

Lovelady was drafted in the 10th round of June’s MLB draft out of Kennesaw State University. He pitched 10.1 relief innings for the Arizona League Royals earlier this summer, posting a 1.74 ERA with 14 strikeouts and two walks.

Dudek was an undrafted free agent out of the University of North Carolina. He transferred to the University of Kentucky prior to the 2016 season but did not play for the Wildcats because of NCAA transfer rules.

Up next

The Chukars (23-16, 1-0 second half) and Rockies (16-23, 0-1) return to Melaleuca Field on Friday at 7:15 p.m. Arnaldo Hernandez (6.09 ERA) will get the start for I.F.

Chukars rough up Osprey 17-7

Edwards
Edwards

Back-to-back road wins have pushed the Idaho Falls Chukars closer to winning the Pioneer League South Division first-half title. Idaho Falls held off Helena on Sunday to end that three-game series, then pounded Missoula 17-7 on Monday to kick off another three-game set.

The Chukars were unable to build on their one-game lead over Orem when the Owlz rallied from a late two-run deficit to earn a 6-5 win over Helena. The Chukars could clinch the first-half title Tuesday with a win and an Orem loss.

Hit parade

Idaho Falls has the top offense in the Pioneer League, and they only added to that lead Monday. The Chukars finished with 20 hits, including four doubles and two home runs. Every hitter in the Idaho Falls lineup had at least one hit, and every Chukar scored at least once.

Manny Olloque, Yeison Melo, David Edwards and Angelo Castellano each had three hits, while Rudy Martin, Meibrys Viloria and Jordan Ebert added two apiece. Idaho Falls hitters also drew four walks. And despite scoring 17 runs, they left 11 runners on base.

Idaho Falls scored at least two runs in seven of the nine innings, including four in the eighth and three in the second, seventh and ninth innings.

Mound presence

Castellano
Castellano

Idaho Falls starter Andres Machado wasn’t the force he had been in his previous three starts, when he allowed a combined one earned run on 11 hits in 14 innings. But he wasn’t bad, either. The 6-foot, 175-pound right-hander allowed three earned runs on six hits and two walks while striking out five in five innings to even his season record at 2-2.

Player of the game

Chukars second baseman Angelo Castellano

Castellano has been one of the few Chukars to struggle at the plate, hitting .259 while showing little power. But something clicked for the 6-foot, 170-pounder, who entered Monday hitting .245. Castellano pushed that average to .259 after going 3 for 6 with two singles and a three-run bomb in the seventh.

Up next

Idaho Falls (22-14) continues its three-game series with Missoula tonight. Alex Luna (3-0, 2.50 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Chukars while Alex Gouin (1-2, 5.79) is expected to start for the Osprey.

Sunday’s game

CHUKARS 7, BREWERS 6: At Helena, Mont., the Chukars turned the tables on their road woes, rallying from an early 4-2 deficit and then surviving a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the ninth inning to earn a rare victory away from Melaleuca Field.

Idaho Falls had lost seven road games by one run, including five of them in walk-offs. Helena nearly made it six Sunday, loading the bases in the bottom of the ninth with the Chukars up by a run. But Idaho Falls reliever Brian Bayliss got a flyout to end the threat and close out the win.

The Chukars trailed 4-2 entering the fifth, but Meibrys Viloria added to his amazing season by belting a three-run homer to right field. David Edwards followed with a solo homer to put the Chukars up 6-4. Helena tied the score with single runs in the fifth and eighth, but Idaho Falls went back ahead when Yeison Melo and Viloria singled. Jordan Ebert then lined a single to center that went in and out of the glove of Joantgel Segovia, allowing Melo to score.

Viloria improved his league-leading average to .456 by going 3 for 4, while adding his 15th double and sixth home run. Ricky Aracena was 2 for 4 with a run while Ebert was 2 for 5 with a run and an RBI and Melo was 2 for 5 with a run. And the league’s worst defense was error-free for the second straight game.