Tag: Missoula Osprey

Chukars down Osprey late, win 14-7

By Luke O’Roark | Post Register | @LukeORoark
The Chukars’ offense started hot Monday and never cooled down.
Idaho Falls scored six runs in the first frame, two in the second and another in the top of the third to go up 9-0. It (technically) didn’t need another run Monday at Ogren Park, beating Missoula 14-7 late.

Robby Rinn (via Chukars Media)

The win puts the Chukars at 16-18 on the season. The Osprey fall to 16-18. Idaho Falls has won three of its previous five.
With their offense clicking early, the Chukars never eased up during the latter innings — as the Osprey scored four runs in the final five frames to make Monday’s first of a three-game series relatively closer than the first three innings indicated.
Chukars’ designated hitter Freddy Fermin had a positive outing, going 4 for 5 for four RBIs at the plate. Robby Rinn was responsible for three of the Chukars’ 19 hits, going 3 for 6 for two RBIs at the plate.
The Osprey also found offense, garnering 12 hits, but by the time they collected double-digit hits, it was too late.
The Chukars have outscored their opponents in the past five games, 47-29. And their offense may continue to improve, winning eight of their past 11 games by five runs or more.

What’s important:

The Chukars offense was electric Monday, winning 14-7 after 19 hits. The Chukars’ offense has found their groove as of late, outscoring their opponents 47-29 in the previous five games.

Player of the game:

Freddy Fermin. Fermin paced the Chukars’ offense early by hitting 4 for 5 at the plate for four RBIs and tagging home three times.

Upnext:

The Chukars return to Ogren Park to play Missoula in game two of a three-game series Tuesday evening. First pitch is at 7:05 p.m.

Sunday’s game:

At Kindrick Legion Field, Helena beat Idaho Falls 10-5 after scoring all of its runs between innings three and six. Three Brewers’ home runs probably didn’t hurt their chances, either.
The scoring started when the Brewers’ Jay Feliciano hit a three-run dinger to Helena a 3-0 lead. Then Yerald Martinez added two more runs with a home run off Chukars’ pitcher Julio Pinto (2-5) in the bottom of the third.
The Chukars’ answered the two home runs with four runs of their own during the top of the fourth, as Tyler Straub hit in Robby Rinn off a sac fly to right field before Freddy Fermin hit a two-run home run to cut into the Brewers’ lead, 5-4.
But a three-run triple, followed by a two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth by the Brewers, downed the Chukars.
Pinto finished with the loss: four hits, five earned runs, two ome runs and six strikeouts in four innings pitched. Jeremy Gwinn had trouble, too, allowing five earned runs and eight hits in just three innings of work.
Fermin led all Chukars offensively, going 2 for 4 for three RBIs.
The loss put Idaho Falls at 15-18. Helena advanced to 15-18.

Chukars best Osprey behind Capps, strong pitching

Capps (via Central Oklahoma Athletics)

By Luke O’Roark | Post Register | @Lukeoroark
Whatever Chukars’ pitcher Holden Capps did during Tuesday’s pregame at Melaleuca Field, he should keep doing it.
Capps, along with the Chukars bullpen, shut down the Osprey Tuesday evening, 6-1, to finish Idaho Fall’s seven-game home stand. The Chukars’ Tuesday night win means they split their four-game series with the Osprey, 2-2, and push their record to 13-16 on the season. Missoula falls to 15-14.
The Chukars almost registered their third shutout out all season (it would’ve also been their second in three days), but a Francis Martinez home run in the top of the ninth ruined the Chukars’ potential shut out.
It was the second time that dang Martinez caused problems for the Chukars.
Still, Tuesday’s win showcased one of the Chukars’ best pitching performances all season.
From the opening frame, it was all Capps (1-0) — the Royals’ 8th round pick in the 2017 draft. He struck out four batters, walked one and allowed just four hits in five innings pitched. He has yet to allow a single run in his two games pitched in the Pioneer League.
Jeremy Gwinn provided relief for Capps, striking out three batters, allowing six hits and a home run for his second save of the season.
On offense, Robby Rinn, Cristhian Vasquez and Amalani Fukofuka helped Idaho Falls to its fourth win in seven games. The three combined for five hits, three triples, and four RBIs.

What’s important:

The Chukars’ pitching controlled Tuesday’s game, winning 6-1 and splitting their series with the Osprey 2-2.

Player(s) of the game:

Holden Capps and Robby Rinn. Capps was dominant on the mound, not allowing a run in his second start on the mound for Idaho Falls. Rinn went 2 for 4, one being a two-RBI triple.

Notables:

– Robby Rinn has now registered two hits in four of his previous five games.

– Amalani Fukofuka has had five RBIs in the past four games.

– Capps, the Royals’ 2017 8th round pick, pitched five scoreless innings for the second time this season. His first start came on July 13 against Helena.

– Tuesday was the Chukars’ shortest game all season: two hours and 18 minutes.

Up next:

The Chukars earn their second day off this season on Wednesday. They will travel to Helena Thursday start a seven-game road trip.

Missoula hits late home run to beat I.F. 7-5

By Luke O’Roark | Post Register | @Lukeoroark
A Francis Martinez home run changed Monday’s game completely.
Martinez smacked a Damon Olds’ pitch over Melaleuca’s center field wall, breaking a tie and giving Missoula a 7-5 win over Idaho Falls at Melaleuca Field.

Idaho Falls’ Julio Gonzales makes the throw to first base after getting the force-out on Missoula’s Dominic Miroglio at second base during Monday night’s game at Melaleuca Field. The double play ended the sixth inning.

The Osprey’s record extends to 15-13. The Chukars fall to 12-16.
“They’ve been competing all year,” Chukars manager Justin Gemoll said. “We just came up a little short tonight on one pitch.”
Before Martinez hit a home run in the top of the eighth, Monday’s back-and-forth affair saw three lead changes and the Chukars-Osprey’s offenses almost mimic the other.
Missoula had seven hits and two errors. Idaho Falls had 10 hits and two errors. The only real difference was Martinez’s home run.
“There’s a lot of good hitters, especially in this league,” Amalani Fukofuka said after Monday’s game. “The ball flies. You just got to keep playing.”
It took just two batters to get the first run of the game: Ernie De La Trinidad hit an RBI-triple to set the pace early and go up 3-0.
Logan Gray hit an RBI-triple in the bottom of the second to get the Chukars on the board. Jake Wakamatsu added a run when his right-field long ball hit the top of a Melaleuca’s back wall. The double scored Gray to cut into Missoula’s lead, 3-2.
The Chukars then took the lead with two runs in the bottom of the third, 4-3.
The Osprey responded with two runs of their own in the top of the fifth. Finally, the Chukars tied the game in the bottom of the seventh when Robby Rinn scored Fukofuka for the second time Monday. Back-and-forth the bout continued.
That was until Martinez blasted a home run over the center wall, quieting Melaleuca and giving the Osprey’s their second win of the four-game series.
The Chukars’ attempted to rally, but Abraham Almonte closed the door. He finished with one strikeout, no hits or runs allowed and a save in two innings pitched.
“I like the way they compete,” Gemoll said. “We’re striving for consistency on all three facets of the game: pitching, hitting and defense.”

What’s important:

In a back-and-forth game Monday night, Missoula hit a late home run to beat Idaho Falls.

Players of the game:

Amalani Fukofuka and Robby Rinn. Fukofuka went 2 for 3 and had two runs. Rinn went 2 for 4 and had two RBIs.

Quotable:

“The more you play, the more that happens. So, it’s not a big surprise. It’s not like it’s a playoff game. We play everyday.” — outfielder Amalani Fukofuka after being asked aboutMonday’s late home run.

Notables:

• Attendance was announced as a season-high 3,223.

• The Chukars are 1-2 when tied after the seventh inning. They are 5-11 when an opponent hits a home run.

• Fukofuka had his 11th multi-hit game this season. Rinn’s two RBIs give him 26 on the season.

Upnext:

Idaho Falls returns home Tuesday to conclude a seven-game home stand against Missoula. First pitch is at 7:15 p.m.

Sunday’s game:

The Chukars shutout the Osprey 6-0 in front of 1,412 fans at Melaleuca Field Sunday.

Julio Pinto (2-4) controlled the Ospreys, striking out 11 batters and allowing just six hits just a day after Missoula hit five home runs off the Chukars’ bullpen.

On the offensive end, Chukars’ outfielder Jonathan McCray went 2 for 4 and hit his fourth home run of the season to help Idaho Falls win its third game in five days.

Tyler Straub also went 2 for 4 and hit a 415-foot home run in the 8th inning — his third this season.

Osprey bombard Chukars with five dingers

By Luke O’Roark | Post Register | @Lukeoroark
If you missed the MLB home run derby, it’s O.K. There were plenty of home runs Saturday evening at Melaleuca Field.

Missoula bombarded Idaho Falls with five home runs en route to a 15-11 slugfest win. The win pushes the Osprey to 14-12. The Chukars fall to 11-15 on the season.

Every inning between the first and seventh frames had runs scored, until Chukars Michael Silva held off the Osprey’s hot bats.

But by the time Silva came in, the damage had already been done.

Missoula scored all of its runs between innings two through six, blasting Chukars starting pitcher David McKay for 11 earned runs and four home runs in five innings pitched.

“If you look at the scoreboard, they scored, we scored,” Hudgins said. “So we didn’t give up. We battled back.”

The Osprey worked McKay early, hitting into the left gaps twice before a Francis Martinez two RBI-double gave them a 2-0 lead in the top of the second.

Robby Rinn and Tyler Straub would respond, crossing home plate after the Chukars notched three hits in the bottom of the frame.

Joey Rose answered those runs with a dinger over center field to give the Osprey the lead, 4-2.

But then, the floodgates really opened in the top of the fourth. It began when Chukars’ Chris Hudgins committed his second error to allow an Osprey run, after Missoula stole two bases. The Opsrey then hit their second home run of the game after Keshawn Lynch blasted a 2-0 pitch off McKay to go up 8-2.

The Chukars scored three runs in the bottom of the inning, blowing the game into an offensive onslaught — seriously. Freddy Fermin hit a line drive that knocked Missoula pitcher Jimmy Johnson’s glove off his hand. He would recover and get Fermin out at first, but the Chukars were able to get three runners home (McCray, Rinn and Straub).

But the Osprey kept smashing home runs, hitting two in the bottom of the fifth.

“We put up a four-spot in the eighth inning, so we didn’t give up,” Hudgins said. “We battled back.”

Amalani Fukofuka and Jonathan McCray notched RBI to cut into Missoula’s 11-5 lead. But their efforts to negate Missoula’s hot hitting was negated.

The Chukars garnered four runs in the bottom of the eighth, but came up short in the bottom of the ninth.

What’s important:

After holding Helena in check Thursday and Friday, Idaho Falls allowed Missoula to hit five home runs Saturday night at Melalaueca Field.

Player(s) of the game:

Fermin (Via Chukars media)

Chris Hudgins, Freddy Fermin and Michael Silva. Hudgins went 3 for 5 at-bat, hitting one RBI and crossing home once. Fermin went 2 for 4 and three RBIs. Silva, one of the Chukars’ strongest relievers, struck out two batters and didn’t allow a single hit in three innings pitched.

Quotable:

“I feel like we try to do way much. Guys are going up there trying to hit 500-foot home runs sometimes and, unfortunately, that’s not how the game works. Now we’re getting them on, getting them (home) and we’re doing that well.” — catcher Chris Hudgins on how the team’s offense has improved as of late.

Notables:

– Vance Vizcaino, one of the Chukars’ best players, was called up to Lexington Saturday morning. Vizcaino batted a .287 in 22 games for the Chukars. He was second on the team for runs scored (17), fourth in hits (25), tied for second in RBIs (16) and registered a hit in eight-straight games at one point this season.

– Saturday was the first meeting this year between Idaho Falls and Missoula.

– Freddy Fermin hit a line drive in the bottom of the fourth that knocked Missoula pitcher Jimmy Johnson’s glove off his left hand. He would recover and throw Fermin out at first.

– Missoula entered Saturday’s game ranked second to last in the Pioneer League in home runs (17).

– Broken bat update: two were snapped Saturday.

Up next:

The Chukars return home Sunday to play game two of a four-game series against Missoula. First pitch is at 4 p.m.

Chukars mash their way to a 13-3 win over Grand Junction

Hernandez
Hernandez

The Idaho Falls Chukars began their six-game road trip close to must-win territory.

The Chukars entered Saturday 3.5 games out of first place in the Pioneer League South Division’s second half standings. The team they were chasing: the Grand Junction Rockies, who were preparing to host I.F. for a four-game series.

On Saturday, the Chukars declared themselves alive in the playoff race with a 13-3 win over the Rockies at Suplizio Field. I.F.’s lineup caught up to its pitching staff, and its win streak improved to three games.

Nocturnal bats

Pitching phenom Riley Pint made his professional debut against the Chukars on July 1, when he pitched two scoreless innings. The No. 4 overall pick in June’s MLB draft did not fare so well Saturday.

Pint allowed three hits, walked five and struck out three in three innings. All five of the runs he allowed (four earned) scored in the second inning. The Chukars tallied three hits and three walks in the frame.

The outburst in the fifth was all the Chukars would need, but they were unsatisfied. I.F. scored once in the fourth, twice in the sixth, thrice in the seventh and twice against in the eighth. The team compiled 14 hits (five doubles) and six walks.

Saturday was I.F.’s highest scoring game since its 17-7 win over Missoula on July 25. The Chukars hadn’t scored more than nine runs in a game since that date, either.

Arms stay sharp

Make that eight straight effective starts by I.F. pitchers. Arnaldo Hernandez pitched five efficient innings, in which he allowed three runs (one earned) on five hits and no walks. The right-hander struck out six Rockies, too.

Olloque
Olloque

The bullpen was even better. Jason Freeman, who allowed seven runs in 2.2 innings Monday against Billings, pitched two scoreless innings Saturday. The righty allowed one hit and one walk, and he struck out one.

Nick Andros, who entered Saturday’s game with an 8.18 ERA, didn’t allow one baserunner (who reached on an error) in two innings. The lefty struck out four, as well.

Player of the game

Chukars third baseman Manny Olloque

An easy choice nearly made easier. Olloque went 4 for 6 with two doubles, both of which hit off the right field wall, according to Chukars broadcaster Andrew Haynes.

Chukars first baseman David Edwards would have nabbed this honor on most other nights. He went 3 for 3 with a double and two walks.

Up next

The Chukars (30-27, 8-11) and Rockies (26-30, 10-8) return to Suplizio Field on Sunday at 7:05 p.m. I.F.’s Igol Feliz (5.40 ERA) faces fellow righthy Yohander Quintana (8.15).

Chukars return from the all-star break with a 7-3 loss at Great Falls

Vines
Vines

The Idaho Falls Chukars took three days off for the Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star break, but they continued to struggle on the road.

Chukars starting pitcher Jace Vines had his worst start of the season, and the bats produced one hit with runners in scoring position. Those factors led to a 7-3 loss to Great Falls on Thursday night at Centene Stadium at Legion Park.

I.F. fell to 7-13 on the road this season.

Stranded

Hits weren’t the problem for I.F. on Thursday. Timing was.

The Chukars outhit the Voyagers 9-8, but they went a measly 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men on base. Great Falls went 4 for 16 with RISP and left six on base.

Jordan Ebert and Nick Heath both singled to lead off the third inning, putting runners on the corners for Angelo Castellano. I.F.’s second baseman grounded out to score Ebert, cutting Great Falls’ lead to 3-1. Leadoff hitter Rudy Martin struck out and Ricky Aracena grounded out to strand Heath at second.

Down 7-3 in the top of the seventh, the Chukars got two on with one out and loaded the bases with two outs. None of those runners crossed the plate.

Tangled Vines

Vines was nothing if not consistent in his previous three starts, allowing three runs and lasting five innings in each. None of the three runs he allowed last Wednesday at Missoula were earned.

Vines took a hop back Thursday.

The Voyagers hit for the cycle against Vines, who lasted 4.2 innings. The right-hander allowed seven earned runs on eight hits, four walks and four strikeouts.

Vines now has a 6.39 ERA, 24 strikeouts and 11 walks.

Viloria’s streak continues

Chukars catcher Meibrys Viloria extended his hitting streak to 18 games (19 counting Tuesday’s all-star game). He went 1 for 3 with an RBI single and a walk against the Voyagers.

Viloria’s .445 batting average is No. 1 in the Pioneer League by 45 points.

Player of the game

Voyagers catcher Casey Schroeder

In addition to handling four pitchers, Schroeder went 2 for 4 with a two-run triple and an RBI double.

Up next

The Chukars (25-18, 3-2 second half) and Voyagers (23-19, 2-2) return to Centene Stadium Friday at 7 p.m. Left-hander Matt Portland (7.11 ERA) is scheduled to start for I.F.

Chukars’ all-stars took giant leaps this season

Chukars third baseman Manny Olloque grabs a foul ground ball during the game against the Orem Owlz on June 22 at Melaleuca Field. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)
Chukars third baseman Manny Olloque grabs a foul ground ball during the game against the Orem Owlz on June 22 at Melaleuca Field. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)

Last Wednesday, the Chukars lost to Missoula on a walkoff home run. The man who served up the homer was Brian Bayliss, who discovered he was a Pioneer League All-Star hours earlier.

Bayliss’ all-star selection couldn’t fully neutralize the sting of the walkoff, but it softened the blow. The second annual Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star Game is a good reminder to Bayliss and the Chukars’ other four all-stars Alex Luna, Yeison Melo, Manny Olloque and Meibrys Viloria of the larger picture. They’ve taken strides toward the higher levels of affiliated baseball over the last month and a half.

“It’s an honor,” Olloque said. “Just keep going. We’ve got plenty of season left. Improve on it.”

All five of I.F.’s All-Stars have gone through some version of the same story: they’ve broken through this season afterlackluster 2015 campaigns. Viloria might be the most glaring example.

The 19-year-old catcher leads the Pioneer League in batting average (.448), slugging percentage (.776), OPS (1.269), doubles(17) and total bases (97). Viloria has drawn only 10 walks, but that does not mean he’s impatient.

“He knows what he’s looking for,” Chukars hitting coach Andre David said. “If there’s a fastball on the outer half, and hedoesn’t like it, he’d rather be 0 and 1 than 0 for 1. Taking nothing away from his aggressiveness. It’s a controlledaggressiveness.”

Why take a walk when you get a pitch you can crush?

Viloria has 20 extra-base hits, including the six home runs that landed him in Tuesday’s home run derby and in the starting lineup for the game to follow. He had 39 hits last year with Burlington. None went for extra bases.

“I was working hard last year,” Viloria said in Spanish through I.F. bench coach Ramon Castro. “I tried hitting the ball (hard)but I couldn’t do it last year. I wasn’t focused. This year, I’m more focused, relaxed, I see the ball better and I have moreconfidence.”

Olloque hit .169 with a .438 OPS in 18 games with the Arizona League Royals that summer after battling a thumb injury. Hehas been plenty healthy this summer.

Olloque’s .342 batting average and .895 OPS netted him the start at third base for Tuesday’s game.

“He recovers really well,” David said. “If the pitcher makes a good pitch or a good couple pitches, it doesn’t phase him.”

Melo had the best 2015 season of I.F.’s all-stars, hitting .318 in 43 games for the Arizona League Royals. His OPS, however, was .772. That number is .919 this season, thanks in large part to 12 doubles, four triples and three home runs. Melo leads the Pioneer League in hits (58) and RBIs (39).

“We have done some things that have allowed him to be more in a position to see the fastball,” David said. “If it’s a breaking ball that he can get to or they hang, he’s in a better position to (hit) that, but he’s also recognizing, for the most part, the ones he can’t handle.”

Luna had a 4.54 ERA in 41.2 innings with Burlington last year. In 40 innings this season, he leads the Pioneer League in ERA (2.48) and the team in strikeouts (42). He’s issued just seven walks.

“We want to fill up the strike zone, and he’s able to do that,” Chukars pitching coach Jeff Suppan said. “It makes the hitters more aggressive. Then he can pick, he can change speeds, and he does that well.”

Luna will miss the game due to a strained oblique, and Bayliss filled his vacancy. Bayliss played for the Chukars last year and finished with a 6.39 ERA in 25.1 innings. His ERA is 3.24 in 16.2 innings this year, and he allowed only one earned run his first 10 innings. Suppan said Bayliss has been effective in throwing his changeup off his sinking fastball, and he tries to get hitters to chase his curveball.

The five all-star Chukars aren’t close to their major goal, but Tuesday’s game validates the progress they’ve made.

“I continued working hard,” Melo said. “I want to make the next level next year.”

Chukars Notebook: A heartbreaking end to a strong first half

Bayliss
Bayliss

In the ninth inning of the final game of the first half, the Idaho Falls Chukars didn’t know what their audience did: the Orem Owlz had lost.

Orem’s loss to Billings gave the Chukars an opening. If they came back to beat Missoula, they’d be the Pioneer League South Division first half champions.

As Orem’s game was concluding, the Chukars staged a comeback. A 4-1 deficit turned into a 4-4 tie, and it was feet away from a 5-4 lead. Angelo Castellano hit a double high off the wall to tie it up.

I.F.’s joy soon turned into anguish. Jacy Cave hit a walkoff home run off Brian Bayliss to put a disappointing end to an otherwise successful first half for the Chukars.

“It was a tough loss, especially when the game’s over and you find out that Orem lost,” Idaho Falls manager Justin Gemoll said. “Still, (we) accomplished a lot. I think a lot of our losses were by one or two runs. A lot of close games. With those close games, it just makes you focus on doing the little things right because a bunch of little things add up to a win.”

In some ways, Bayliss symbolized I.F.’s strong first half and its dispiriting end. Bayliss is a Pioneer League All-Star. The right-hander finished the first half with a 2.87 ERA, 13 strikeouts and three unintentional walks. Cave’s home run was one negative moment in a half full of positive ones.

“It’s baseball. It happens,” Bayliss said. “You’ve got another half season, and you just have to move on.”

The Chukars haven’t won a first half title since 2007, and they went a league-worst 13-25 in the first half of 2015. Bayliss was on last year’s team, and the playoff race this week didn’t feel new to him. It felt like the second half of last year, when the Chukars won the South Division.

The biggest goal for Gemoll and company, of course, is to develop their players. The coaching staff wants all 29 players to improve, wins and losses be damned to some extent.

Not every aspect of development is mechanical. Close games and tight playoff races can also prepare the players for the next level, even if Pioneer League contests feel light years away from the World Series.

“To get to that next level, you’ve gotta be a little bit sharper up top,” Gemoll said. “That’s what the good big league players do.”

One positive from finishing second in the first half title chase: the second half has stakes. The Chukars have another playoff race to look forward to.

LUNA’S STATUS

Chukars starting pitcher Alex Luna strained his left oblique Tuesday at Missoula. The injury will force Luna to miss Tuesday’s All-Star game, but neither he nor Justin Gemoll expect him to miss much time. Luna isn’t exactly sure when he’ll be back, but he hopes to throw again by Tuesday.

Luna leads I.F. with 42 strikeouts, and he’s issued seven walks in 40 innings pitched. The right-hander also leads all Pioneer League starters with a 2.48 ERA.

MONDESI CALLED UP

Kansas City called up former Chukar Raul Mondesi on Tuesday. The 21-year-old has started at second base the previous five games for the Royals and has gone 6 for 17 (.353) at the plate. He recorded his first MLB hit Wednesday, a bunt single against the Los Angeles Angels.

Mondesi, widely considered the Royals’ top prospect, was added to Kansas City’s 2015 World Series roster and made one plate appearance in Game 3. He started this season in Double-A Northwest Arkansas but was suspended 50 games in May after testing positive for Clenbuterol, a performance-enhancing drug. He returned to Advanced Single-A Wilmington on June 25, moved up to Northwest Arkansas on July 4 and ascended to Triple-A Omaha on July 9.

Mondesi played for the Chukars in 2012 at the age of 16. He hit .290 with a .733 OPS in 232 plate appearances.

FORMER CHUKARS LITTER TOP 30 LIST

MLB.com released its updated overall and team prospect lists this week. The Royals’ new top 30 looks similar to their preseason list, but several players have moved around.

Below are the former and current Chukars who made the Royals’ list:

1. SS/2B Raul Mondesi (preseason: No. 1) Was a Chukar in 2012; No. 54 on MLB.com’s top 100 list

2. 3B/OF Hunter Dozier (preseason: No. 15) Chukar in 2013

4. LHP Matt Strahm (preseason: No. 10) Chukar in 2012, 2014

6. RHP Kyle Zimmer (preseason: No. 2) Chukar in 2014

8. 1B/OF Ryan O’Hearn (preseason: No. 13) Chukar in 2014

9. RHP Alec Mills (preseason: No. 15) Chukar in 2012, 2014

10. RHP Jake Junis (preseason: unranked) Chukar in 2013

11. RHP Josh Staumont (preseason: 18) Chukar in 2015

14. SS Marten Gasparini (preseason: 8) Chukar in 2014, 2015

23. RHP Brooks Pounders (preseason: 29) Chukar in 2014, 2015

24. LHP Eric Skoglund (preseason: 28) Chukar in 2014

29. SS Ricky Aracena (preseason: 26) Current Chukar

30. 2B/SS Corey Toups (preseason: unranked) Chukar in 2014

Former Chukars who dropped out of the top 30: OF Amalani Fukofuka (preseason: 20; Chukar in 2015), OF Brandon Downs (preseason: 24; Chukar in 2014)

WHO’S HOT (FIRST HALF)?

C Meibrys Viloria

Alex Luna, Manny Olloque, Yeison Melo and others had excellent halves, but Viloria is the indisputable choice for this award. In the first 38 games, Viloria led the Pioneer League in batting average (.457), on-base percentage (.504), slugging percentage (.793), hits (53), RBIs (36), doubles (15) and total bases (92).

WHO’S NOT (FIRST HALF)?

LHP Nick Andros

Andros finished the first half with a 10.80 ERA in 13.1 innings pitched. He allowed 27 hits, seven walks (11 strikeouts) and a team-high six home runs.

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.

Osprey dash Chukars’ division title hopes with walkoff home run

Bayliss
Bayliss

The first half of the Pioneer League season couldn’t have ended more dramatically. Or with more heartbreak for the Idaho Falls Chukars.

The Chukars rallied in the ninth inning to force a tie with the Missoula Osprey and restore life into their first-half title chances. But before the buzz from the three-run top half of the ninth wore off, Missoula walked off with a 5-4 win Wednesday at Ogren Park Allegiance Field.

I.F.’s loss handed Orem its third straight Pioneer League South Division first-half title.

Wild ninth

The Chukars were the Pioneer League’s best scoring team in the first half, and it wasn’t particularly close. They scored 303 runs (7.97 per game) over their first 38 contests, good for 42 more than Orem, the league’s second most prolific team.

But I.F.’s dynamic offense was nowhere to be found for most of its final two games against Missoula. The Chukars lost to the Osprey 2-1 in 10 innings on Tuesday and trailed 4-1 heading into the ninth on Wednesday.

With a title on the line, the offense woke up.

Orem and I.F. both had 22-15 records heading into Wednesday. Since the Owlz owned the tiebreaker, the Chukars had to beat Missoula, and Billings had to beat Orem in order for I.F. to claim the first-half title.

The Orem-Billings game ended as the Chukars were batting in the ninth. The Owlz lost 7-5.

Almost on queue, the Chukars began to rally. Yeison Melo walked and Meibrys Viloria singled to lead off the inning. With one out, Jordan Ebert singled home Melo.

4-2.

Viloria scored a batter later on a fielder’s choice groundout by Nick Heath. If not for Heath’s speed, the Osprey would have turned a double play and the game would have ended.

4-3.

Angelo Castellano came up next and crushed an Erbert Gonzalez pitch to center field. The ball was feet away from clearing the fence, according to Chukars broadcaster Andrew Haynes, but I.F. wasn’t complaining. Heath came all the way around from first to score.

4-4.

Rudy Martin grounded out on a close play, according to Haynes, to end the inning.

Gonzalez had allowed three earned runs in his previous 14 innings pitched (1.93 ERA). The Chukars saddled him with three earned runs in the ninth, alone.

All-Star reliever Brian Bayliss returned for his second inning of work in the bottom of the ninth. He struck out Billy Endris to bring up Jacy Cave with one out and nobody one. In a 1-0 count, Cave drove a Bayliss pitch toward left-center field. It cleared the wall, giving Missoula its second straight walkoff win.

The Chukars have not won a first-half South Division title since 2007.

Player of the game

Missoula right fielder Jacy Cave

Cave did more than launch the game’s biggest hit. He also hit a triple and went 4 for 5 on the night.

Up next

The Chukars (22-16) begin the second half at Melaleuca Field Thursday at 7:15 p.m. against the Grand Junction Rockies (16-22). Lefty Matt Portland (6.43 ERA) will get the start for I.F. against righty Mike Nikorak (2.89).