Tag: Nick Dini

Chukars Notebook: Meibrys Viloria reflects on MVP season

Idaho Falls Chukars catcher Meibrys Viloria connects for a single during the Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star game on Aug. 2 in Ogden, Utah. (Photo courtesy of Steve Thayer)
Idaho Falls Chukars catcher Meibrys Viloria connects for a single during the Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star game on Aug. 2 in Ogden, Utah. (Photo courtesy of Steve Thayer)

Barring a major slump, the Pioneer League MVP was Meibrys Viloria’s to lose at the end of the first half.

Viloria, 19, tailed off a bit in the second half, but it didn’t cost him. The catcher became the third Idaho Falls Chukar since 2007 to win the Ralph Nelles Award. The league announced his MVP honor on Tuesday.

“I was working hard since spring training to right now, so I’m very excited,” Viloria said Thursday through I.F. bench coach Ramon Castro.

In the first 38 games, Viloria led the league in almost every major category: batting average (.457), on-base percentage (.504), slugging percentage (.793), hits (53), RBIs (36), doubles (15) and total bases (92). Most of those leads evaporated in the second half, but he still remained near the top.

His numbers look especially impressive compared to 2015. In 150 at-bats with Burlington last season, Viloria did not record single extra-base hit. He had 37 in 226 at-bats this season (28 doubles, three triples and six home runs).

“I’ve been working hard, working with Andre (David) in the cage every day, Viloria said. “That’s part of why I had a great season.”

Viloria still saw parts of his game that need improvement. Defense was his biggest weakness, he said, especially throwing outbase stealers. Viloria did, however, throw out 34 percent of all runners who tried to steal on him this season. That number would land him well within the top 10 of MLB catchers, and it was near the middle among regular Pioneer League catchers this season.

David, the Chukars’ hitting coach, said Viloria is mechanically sound as a hitter. One of the big things David worked on with Viloria was improving the position of his back elbow. That area has improved, David said, but there’s still room to grow.

David also praised Viloria’s hitting approach.

“When there were days that weren’t going well, which weren’t very many, he seemed to maintain a positive approach and knew that his plan and daily routine would carry him over into good things,” David said. “He understands what it takes on daily basis.”

DINI’S BUMPY ROAD TO I.F.

Nick Dini played 42 games for the Chukars last season. The catcher returned to I.F. for nine more this summer.

Dini, 23, began the 2016 season with Single-A Lexington, where he played one game. He moved up to Class A Advanced Wilmington for seven games, then returned to Lexington on June 30. In his first at-bat back on July 2, a pitch hit Dini in the hand, forcing him to exit the game. He later found out that his hand was broken, and he was placed on the 7-day disabled list.

Dini returned to action in the Arizona League on Aug. 16 and was moved up to I.F. on Aug. 22. He hit .378 with an .843 OPS in 39 plate appearances for the Chukars.

The constant shuffling and limited playing time this summer has frustrated Dini. But he put his struggles into perspective after seeing so many of his former teammates get released.

“Every opportunity you get, you’ve gotta take advantage of it,” Dini said. “The harsh reality is, if you don’t, you’ll be out of job. It sucks seeing guys go, but you understand that that’s part of it.”

STRAHM’S STRONG SEASON

Former Chukar Matt Strahm has thrived during his brief action with the Kansas City Royals this season. The left-handed pitcher owns a 0.54 ERA, 22 strikeouts and six walks in 16.2 innings pitched for the big league club this year.

Strahm, 24, was called up on July 31. He made his MLB debut that day and allowed one earned run in 0.1 inning against the Texas Rangers. He hasn’t allowed a run since.

Strahm made his professional debut with the Chukars in 2012. He returned to I.F. in 2014 after undergoing Tommy John surgery the year before, according to the Kansas City Star.

MLB.com’s most recent prospect rankings has Strahm at No. 4 in Kansas City’s system.

FOLLOW THE LEADERS

Multiple Chukars led the Pioneer League in various statistical categories this season. Here they are:

Batting average Meibrys Viloria (.376)

Doubles Viloria (28)

RBIs Viloria (55)

Stolen bases Nick Heath (36)

Errors Ricky Aracena (38)

Hits allowed Arnaldo Hernandez (99)

Walks issued Matt Portland (37)

THE “WHO’S HOT?” PLAYER OF THE YEAR

C Meibrys Viloria

Apologies to Joe Dudek, Nick Heath, Alex Luna, Yeison Melo, Manny Olloque and Luke Willis, but this honor clearly belongs to the MVP.

THE “WHO’S NOT” PLAYER OF THE YEAR

LHP Nick Andros

Andros finished the season with a 9.20 ERA, 48 hits allowed, 31 strikeouts, 14 walks issued and seven home runs given up. On Monday at Orem, the Chukars had a 9-8 lead in the 10th inning when Andros entered the game. The Owlz scored two runs off Andros to walk off and eliminate I.F. from playoff contention.

Chukars beat Orem 10-6 in the second-to-last game of 2016

Chukars catcher Mark Sanchez (15) tries to slide by Owlz infielder Franklin Torres (6) during  Wednesday's game at Melaleuca Field. (Taylor Carpenter / tcarpenter@postregister.com)
Chukars catcher Mark Sanchez (15) tries to slide by Owlz infielder Franklin Torres (6) during Wednesday’s game at Melaleuca Field. (Taylor Carpenter / tcarpenter@postregister.com)

The Idaho Falls Chukars overcame some shaky pitching and three errors from the defense to pull out a 10-6 win over the Orem Owlz in front of 1,321 fans Wednesday at Melaleuca Field.

Idaho Falls overcame the sloppy play with an offensive performance that brought back memories from the first half of the Pioneer League season, when Chukars bashed their way to 22 wins. Idaho Falls finished with five extra-base hits and 15 hits Wednesday.

Four times two

The Chukars were muddling through the first four innings, trailing 4-2 before coming alive with four runs in the fifth. Nick Heath started the surge with a walk and a stolen base, and he moved to third on a throwing error.

Ricky Aracena then struck out, but reached first on a wild pitch. Manny Olloque followed with a two-run double to left and moved to third on the the throw. After Yeison Melo struck out, Nick Dini doubled in Olloque. And with two outs, MJ Sanchez drove in Dini with a single to right.

Idaho Falls added another four-spot in the seventh, the first coming home on another Sanchez RBI single. Jordan Ebert tripled to score Sanchez and Olloque, and then came home on a throwing error.

Orem cut the deficit to four with a run in the eighth and had the bases loaded in the ninth before Drew Milligan got a ground ball to end the threat.

Olloque was 3 for 5 with a double, two runs and two RBIs while Ebert was 2 for 4 with a double, a triple, a run and two RBIs.

Jason Freeman earned the win in relief, allowing two runs (one earned) on two hits with one walk and five strikeouts.

Player of the game

Idaho Falls catcher MJ Sanchez

It’s been a tough year for Sanchez, a 2015 35th-round draft pick who has been stuck behind league MVP Meibrys Viloria at catcher. Sanchez has played in just 21 games and had 70 at-bats, and Wednesday’s game was his best. The Corono, Calif., native went 4 for 4 with a double, two runs and two RBIs.

Up next

Idaho Falls (39-36 overall, 17-20 second half) wraps up the 2016 season with a final home game against Orem. There will be a fireworks display following the game.

Chukars’ playoff hopes end a with loss in 10th at Ogden

chukars-logo-125x125

A season of near-misses and just plain miscues were summed up perfectly in Monday’s 10-9 loss to the Orem Owlz.

Idaho Falls repeatedly grabbed the lead only to give it back with sloppy defense and pitching, eventually coughing up a one-run lead in the bottom of the 10th inning to fall 10-9 to the Owlz and end their playoff hopes. Idaho Falls was eliminated with three games remaining in the regular season.

Blown chances

Idaho Falls held leads of 5-1, 6-5, 8-6 and finally 9-8, but gave up the advantage each time.

The last two innings were particularly painful. The Chukars scored twice in the top of the ninth to take an 8-6 lead, sparked by RBI singles from Nick Dini and Ryan Dale. But the Owlz answered with two in the bottom of the ninth, with runs scoring on a bases-loaded walk and a wild pitch.

Idaho Falls once again took the lead in the top of the 10th, loading the bases with nobody out before Luke Willis grounded into a double play that plated a run. But Orem had a final answer, getting back-to-back one-out doubles from L.J. Kalawaia and Cody Ramer and a game-ending single from Nick Flair.

The Chukars got a good start from Matt Portland, who didn’t make it out of the first inning in his last start. The left-hander allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits with two walks and six strikeouts.

And the I.F. offense, which has struggled in the second half, pounded out 19 hits and drew three walks. But only four of those hits went for extra bases, and the Chukars stranded 11 runners on base while going 7 for 21 with runners in scoring position.

The Chukars fell to 2-5 in extra-inning games this season, going 0-5 on the road and 2-0 at home. I.F. fell to 5-13 on the road in the second half and 12-25 overall.

Player of the game

Idaho Falls right fielder Yeison Melo

Melo mashed Orem pitching Monday, going 5 for 6 with two doubles and three runs. He pushed his season batting average to. 326.

Up next

Idaho Falls finishes its road schedule today with a game against Orem at 7:05 p.m. The teams then head north on I15 to complete the regular season with games at Melaleuca Field on Wednesday and Thursday. First pitch both nights is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. There will be fireworks following the final game Thursday.

Sunday’s game

CHUKARS 8, RAPTORS 7: At Ogden, Utah, Idaho Falls scored four times in the top of the ninth inning and rallied for a season-saving victory at Lindquist Field.

Ogden led 7-4 entering the ninth, but Idaho Falls scored four times with the help of two Raptors’ errors. Jordan Ebert reachedon a error to lead off and Rudy Martin followed with a double. Nick Heath drove in the first run with a single to center.

After a pitching change, the Chukars pulled out a double steal, with Martin coming home and Heath moving to second. After Ricky Aracena’s fielder’s choice wiped out Heath, Meibrys Viloria reached on second error. Joe Dudek brought Aracena home with a looper to center, and Manny Olloque drove in the winning run with a sac fly to right.

Jason Freeman pitched a perfect ninth to close out the win.

Olloque led the Chukars, going 2 for 4 with his seventh homer of the year. Martin was also 2 for 4 with his second homer.

Rockies’ rally makes Chukars’ playoff chase tougher

Viloria
Viloria

One swing of the bat in the bottom of the eighth inning led to a two-game swing in the Pioneer League South Division standings for the Idaho Falls Chukars on Monday night.

Moments after the Chukars rallied to take the lead with a four-run seventh inning, Colton Welker reached on a third strike passed ball and Hunter Melton followed with a two-run homer to right-center to lift the Grand Junction Rockies to a 5-4 win at Sam Suplizio Field.

The loss dropped the Chukars 4.5 games behind the Rockies in the South Division second-half standings.

Get him outta here

Idaho Falls bats were invisible over the first six innings against Grand Junction starter Bryan Baker. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound right-hander, whose ERA is hovering near 6, limited the Chukars to three hits and two walks while striking out six in six scoreless innings.

But the Chukars pounced when Baker hit the showers, scoring four runs on four hits and a walk against relievers Ryan Luna and Heath Holder in the seventh. Alex Luna did his job in the sixth and seventh, allowing just one hit while striking out three to give I.F. the lead entering the bottom of the eighth.

Idaho Falls reliever Cole Way got Vince Fernandez to line out leading off the inning, and appeared to have the second out with a strikeout of Welker. But Nick Dini, making a return to the Chukars lineup on his way back to Advanced-A Wilmington following an injury, let the pitch get by him and sending Welker to first. Melton followed with his fifth homer of the year.

Matt Dennis worked a perfect ninth inning to close out the win.

Dini, a member of Idaho Falls 2015 Pioneer League championship team, went 2 for 4 with a run to lead the Chukars. Meibrys Viloria added a two-run double for Idaho Falls.

Up next

The Chukars (30-29, 8-13 second half) and Rockies (28-30, 12-8) wrap up their four-game series tonight in Colorado. Idaho Falls then hits the road for two games in Orem beginning Wednesday.

Sunday’s game

ROCKIES 10, CHUKARS 6: At Grand Junction, Colo., Jose Gomez belted a pair of home runs and Grand Junction held off Idaho Falls in a game that featured five round-trippers.

David Edwards hit his seventh and eighth home runs of the season, but the Chukars couldn’t keep up. After taking a 2-0 lead in the top of the second, Grand Junction scored three runs in the third and three in the fourth. Idaho Falls kept chipping away, but couldn’t catch up.

Edwards finished 2 for 4 with two runs and three RBIs to lead Idaho Falls. Ricky Aracena went 2 for 4 with a triple, a run and an RBI while Rudy Martin was 2 for 5. The Chukars were hurt by four errors. Igol Feliz took the loss after giving up six earned runs on eight hits in four innings.

Gomez was 4 for 5 with three runs and four RBIs while Tyler Bugner went 2 for 4 with four runs scored for the Rockies.

Dini’s hit in extras sends Chukars to Pioneer League championship

The second-half magic continued in the postseason for the Idaho Falls Chukars.

Nick Dini hit an RBI single in the top of the 10th inning, Jacob Bodner tossed a perfect bottom of the 10th and the Chukars beat the Orem Owlz 4-3 in the decisive third game of the Pioneer League South Division playoff series Friday at Brent Brown Ballpark in Orem, Utah.

Dini
Dini

The win sends Idaho Falls into the championship series for the second time in three years. Game 1 of the series is scheduled for 4 p.m. Sunday against North Division champion Missoula at Melaleuca Field. Idaho Falls went 3-4 against the Osprey this year, losing four straight in Montana before taking the next three games at Melaleuca.

Friday’s game was close throughout, with neither team holding more than a one-run lead.

Orem, which won the first-half South Division title, grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first on a one-out double by David Fletcher and an RBI single from Jeff Boehm.

Idaho Falls answered in the third when Jose Martinez singled with one out, moved to second on a groundout and scored on D.J. Burt’s triple to center field. The hit extended Burt’s on-base streak to 57 games.

The Chukars grabbed a 2-1 lead in the fourth when Josh Banuelos led off with a single, moved to second on Marten Gasparini’s single and scored on Roman Collins’ two-out single to center.

Orem came back to tie it in the fifth on a leadoff walk and stolen base from Fletcher and a single from Boehm. The Owlz went back ahead in the seventh when Kenny Towns belted a one-out double to score Brandon Sanger.

Banuelos
Banuelos

Pioneer League RBI leader Banuelos tied the game back up, smacking the first pitch he saw over the fence in right leading off the eighth.

Tripp Davis got out of a jam in the bottom of the ninth, striking out Jared Walsh with runners on first and third.

Idaho Falls took advantage of the chance when Brandon Dulin reached on a wild-pitch strikeout with one out. He was replaced by Rudy Martin, who stole second. After Gasparini struck out, Dini smacked a line-drive single to center to score Martin with the go-ahead run.

Bodner, a late-season call-up making just his third appearance for the Chukars, pitched a 1-2-3 10th to begin the celebration.

The Chukars’ bullpen was lights out, allowing just an unearned run in five innings on three hits and two walks while striking out three. Banuelos had a big night, going 3 for 5 with two runs scored and an RBI while Dini and Collins each went 2 for 5 with an RBI.

Chukars build division lead to two games with 8-5 win

The Idaho Falls Chukars got one step closer to a playoff berth Thursday night.

The Chukars cruised past the Owlz 8-5 at Orem, Utah, giving them their first winning record of the season. I.F. now has a two-game lead in the Pioneer League South Division for the second half, thanks to Ogden’s 16-8 loss to Grand Junction. Five games remain.

I.F. fell behind 1-0 after the first inning, but it took control in the top of the second on a two-out, two-run home run from left fielder Roman Collins.

The Chukars never trailed again. In the top of the fourth, second baseman D.J. Burt cleared the bases with a two-out triple, extending the lead to 5-1. Burt’s extended his on-base streak to 51 games with the hit.

The lead grew to 8-1 the next inning on an RBI double from catcher Nick Dini, an RBI groundout from Collins and an RBI single from Carlos Diaz.

The third baseman Diaz was one of I.F.’s two additions before the game. He and left-handed pitcher Nicholas Andros were promoted from the Arizona League Royals. Shortstop Gabriel Noriega ended his rehab assignment with the Chukars on Thursday, as well, and was promoted to Triple-A Omaha.

Bryan Brickhouse pitched three solid innings for the Chukars, giving up one run (earned) on one hit, one walk and three strikeouts.

Dini and designated hitter Brandon Dulin each went 3 for 5. Collins and first baseman Josh Banuelos each went 2 for 5.

Ogden’s elimination number shrunk to four with the loss and I.F.’s win. That means the Chukars can clinch the second half division title with two wins and two Raptor losses.

The Chukars also own the first playoff tiebreaker due to their 9-7 record against Ogden this season, so their divisional lead is really three games.

I.F. (36-35, 23-10 second half) wraps up its two-game series with Orem (38-33, 14-19) tonight at 7:15.

Umpires frustrate Chukars in 9-8 loss to Grand Junction

Umpire calls carry extra weight right now for the Idaho Falls Chukars, who are battling the Ogden Raptors for the Pioneer League South Division title.

So the frustration ramps up when the umpires, from the Chukars’ perspective, make mistakes.

That frustration was evident Monday night against the Grand Junction Rockies, who benefited from several calls that drew ire from I.F.’s players, coaches and fans. It didn’t help that the Chukars lost the game 9-8 and fell one game behind Ogden in the South Division second-half standings. There are eight games left in the regular season.

Burt
Burt

“We had a couple of bad calls we should’ve gotten,” Chukars second baseman D.J. Burt said. “But that’s baseball.”

The Rockies scored twice off Carter Hope in the top of the first inning, but the Chukars took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the first. Both teams went on to score every half inning until the bottom of the fifth, when the game was tied 7-7.

The Rockies took the lead back in the top of the seventh on a two-out, two-run single by catcher Chris Rabago off left-hander Ian Thompkins.

The Chukars loaded the bases in the eighth with two outs but failed to score. In the ninth, they loaded the bases with no outs and scored a run, but they needed at least one more.

Most of the Chukars’ frustration with umpires Isias Barba (home plate) and Luis Hernandez (field) stemmed from balls and strikes.

In the sixth, Barba called Burt out on a high strike. Burt voiced his displeasure with Barba’s call as he walked back to the dugout.

Melaleuca Field got heated in the bottom of the ninth, too, when Hernandez ruled that third baseman Logan Nottebrok went around while trying to check his swing. Fans were incensed, and the umpires told several Chukars in the dugout to settle down. Nottebrok struck out looking on the next pitch, and that call wasn’t popular, either.

“They’re young, too,” Chukars’ manager Justin Gemoll said of the umpires. “Hopefully they learn from it. Things happened to both sides; it wasn’t like it was only our team. It’s just part of the game.”

Burt made noise in another way when he hit a triple in the first inning. That hit extended his on-base streak to 48 games, which is a 2015 high for affiliated baseball, according to the Chukars. Burt (1 for 3, two walks) passed Matt Holiday of the St. Louis Cardinals.

“It feels good,” Burt said. “At the plate, I didn’t want to think about it too much. I just wanted to stick to my game plan, be patient and be a spark to this team.”

First baseman Josh Banuelos went 2 for 4 with a walk, left fielder Roman Collins went 2 for 5 and center fielder Amalani Fukofuka went 1 for 3 with two walks.

The Chukars (33-35, 20-10 second half) host the Raptors (40-28, 21-9) for a two-game series starting at 7:15 tonight. The teams have a 7-7 record against each other this season. If they have equal second-half records at the end of the season, head-to-head record would be the first playoff tiebreaker, so both teams crave a sweep in their final series.

Valenzuela traded for Gomes

The Kansas City Royals bolstered their lineup Monday night by acquiring outfielder Jonny Gomes from the Atlanta Braves, first reported by Fox Sports. In return for Gomes, the Braves received shortstop Luis Valenzuela, who started the season with the Chukars.

Valenzuela, 21, hit .486/.472/.600 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) in 37 plate appearances for I.F. this season. On July 2, he was promoted to Single-A Lexington, where he hit .339/.368/.483 in 184 plate appearances.

Valenzuela will be assigned to the Single-A Rome Braves, Atlanta announced.

Sunday’s game

Behind a record sixth inning, the Chukars pounded the Rockies 16-7 on Sunday at Meleleuca Field.

The Chukars trailed 6-3 going into the sixth. After the inning, they led 12-6. The nine runs are the most I.F. has scored in an inning this season.

Designated hitter Amalani Fukofuka had one of his best games of the season, going 5 for 6 and finishing a home run shy of the cycle. The five hits are the most by a Chukars’ batter in a single game this season.

Catcher Nick Dini went 3 for 4 with a double, while Banuelos (2 for 4, double, two walks), right fielder Brawlun Gomez (2 for 4, double, walk), center fielder Cody Jones (2 for 6) and shortstop Gabriel Noriega (2 for 5) each had two hits.

Noriega is on a rehab assignment. He transferred from Triple-A Omaha to I.F. before Sunday’s game.

Chukars remain in first after 4-2 win over Grand Junction

The Idaho Falls Chukars lead the Pioneer League South Division second-half standings for another day.

A two-run fifth inning powered Idaho Falls to a 4-2 win over the Grand Junction Rockies on Friday at Melaleuca Field to begin a four-game homestand and give the Chukars their 10th win in the last 11 home games. Coupled with Ogden’s 14-6 win over Orem, the Chukars (32-33, 19-8) remain atop the South Division standings by one game over the Owlz.

Dini
Dini

Nick Dini broke open a scoreless game with a one-out, solo home run in the bottom of the fourth. The Rockies (27-38, 7-20) answered with a solo home run from Jonathan Piron to begin the top of the fifth.

The offensive spark continued in the remainder of the frame, as D.J. Burt put the Chukars ahead again with an RBI-triple that drove in Cody Jones. The hit stretched Burt’s on-base streak to 45 games. The lead was pushed to 3-1 two batters later when Joshua Baneulos scored Burt with a single to right.

Jones, who reached on a fielding error by Grand Junction first baseman Collin Ferguson with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, came home on a wild pitch by James McMahon two batters later for I.F.’s fourth run.

Brendan Rodgers drove in Mylz Jones with a double in the top of the eighth for Grand Junction’s final run.

Dini finished 2 for 3 and Burt went 2 for 5 with a triple, an RBI and a run scored.

Hunter Haynes, who relieved starting pitcher Bryan Brickhouse after three innings, gave up two runs on six hits while walking none and striking out five in five innings. Brandon Thomas earned the save, tossing a scoreless inning while allowing two hits and a walk.

First pitch for game two between the Rockies and Chukars is 7:15 p.m. tonight.

Chukars capitalize on Grand Junction mistakes in 9-5 win

Second baseman D.J. Burt of the Idaho Falls Chukars fields the throw to second base in time to tag Sam Hilliard of the Grand Junction Rockies out as Hilliard tries to steal second during the bottom of the third inning of Tuesday's game at Suplizo Field in Grand Junction.  (Gretel Daugherty / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)
Second baseman D.J. Burt of the Idaho Falls Chukars fields the throw to second base in time to tag Sam Hilliard of the Grand Junction Rockies out as Hilliard tries to steal second during the bottom of the third inning of Tuesday’s game at Suplizo Field in Grand Junction. (Gretel Daugherty / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)

Monday’s game had an odd result for the Idaho Falls Chukars. It was a blowout loss.

Idaho Falls had lost five second half games going into Monday’s 10-2 loss to the Grand Junction Rockies, and its largest defeat was by five runs.

The Chukars rebounded on Tuesday with a 9-5 win over the Rockies at Suplizio Field in Grand Junction, Colo. The win, fueled by several Grand Junctions mistakes, gave I.F. a 3-1 series win.

The Chukars fell behind 3-0 after two innings with Todd Eaton on the mound. But Eaton settled down after that, and his offense caught fire in the top of the fifth.

Second baseman D.J. Burt led off the inning with an infield single, extending his hitting streak to 11 games and his on-base streak to 42. Right fielder Amalani Fukofuka singled the next at-bat, but he reached third base and Burt scored on an error by Rockies center fielder Wes Rogers.

Chukars first baseman Josh Banuelos reached on an error the next at-bat, scoring Fukofuka. Left fielder Roman Collins subsequently walked, and catcher Nick Dini reached on an error, scoring Banuelos and Collins.

The Chukars rounded out the scoring on a single by designated hitter Kyle Pollock, a double by third baseman Ryan Dale and a single by center fielder Cody Jones.

In total, I.F. scored seven runs on five hits and four errors in the fifth, taking an 8-3 lead.

Starting pitcher Todd Eaton of the Idaho Falls Chukars throws to a Grand Junction Rockies batter during the bottom of the second inning of Tuesday's game at Suplizio Field in Grand Junction. (Gretel Daugherty / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)
Starting pitcher Todd Eaton of the Idaho Falls Chukars throws to a Grand Junction Rockies batter during the bottom of the second inning of Tuesday’s game at Suplizio Field in Grand Junction. (Gretel Daugherty / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)

The fifth inning proved to be the difference for the Chukars behind Eaton, who retired the last nine batters he faced. The right-hander went 5.1 innings, allowing three runs (all earned) on four hits, three walks, a home run and two strikeouts.

The Chukars drew 10 walks, tied for the second most in a game this season. Collins led the patient charge, walking in all five of his plate appearances. No I.F. batter has walked more in a game this season. The Pioneer League record for walks in a game is six.

Banuelos and Dini each went 2 for 4 with a walk. Dale went 1 for 4 with a double and a walk.

The Chukars (31-31, 18-6 second half) start one of their biggest series of the year tonight at Ogden, Utah, for a two-game series against the Raptors (34-28, 15-9), who trail I.F. by three games in the Pioneer League South Division. Tonight’s series opener starts at 6:30 p.m. Carter Hope gets the start for the Chukars.

Gasparini named to Team Italy

Chukars shortstop Marten Gasparini was not in Tuesday’s lineup. That’s because he had been selected to play for his home country Italy in the 2015 World Baseball Softball Confederation U-18 Baseball World Cup, the Chukars announced around gametime.

The World Cup runs from Aug. 28 to Sept. 6 in Osaka, Japan, with 15 teams participating, including the United States (ranked No. 2). Gasparini, 18, departed for Japan immediately, according to the Chukars, so he could arrive in time for No. 11 Italy’s opening game against No. 3 Cuba on Friday.

Gasparini might return to I.F. if Italy’s World Cup run is short, and if the Chukars make the playoffs and go deep, Chukars director of broadcasting Alex Cohen said.

Gasparini is hitting .262/.339/.419 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) in 225 plate appearances for I.F. this season. He leads the Pioneer League with 79 strikeouts and 35 fielding errors.

Chukars take opener versus Rockies 6-4

Idaho Falls Chukars left fielder Roman Collins, No. 25, slides into second base safe on an infield out in the second inning as Grand Junction second baseman #2, Jonathon Pinon is late with the tag in a Saturday night game from Suplizio Filed in Grand Junction,CO. (Christopher Tomlinson / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)
Idaho Falls Chukars left fielder Roman Collins, No. 25, slides into second base safe on an infield out in the second inning as Grand Junction second baseman #2, Jonathon Pinon is late with the tag in a Saturday night game from Suplizio Filed in Grand Junction,CO. (Christopher Tomlinson / Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)

The second half continues to get better for the Idaho Falls Chukars.

Idaho Falls got another strong start from Derek Gordon, two three-run innings and balance from the lineup in a 6-4 win over the Grand Junction Rockies at Sam Suplizio Field in Grand Junction, Colo., on Saturday night.

The Chukars improved to 29-30 overall and 16-5 in the second half. They lead the Pioneer League South Division second-half standings by three games over the Ogden Raptors and by five over the first-half champion Orem Owlz.

Outside of allowing two solo home runs to Jonathan Piron, Gordon was nearly untouchable. He allowed the solo shots in the second and fourth innings, but just two other hits and a walk while striking out four in 5.2 innings.

Cruz Guevara got the final out of the sixth, and hard-throwing Josh Staumont allowed two runs over the final three innings but closed it out.

The Chukars wiped out a 1-0 deficit in the third when Jeckson Flores walked and scored on DJ Burt’s one-out double to center. Amalani Fukofuka followed with a triple to right, giving I.F. a 2-1 lead. Fukofuka followed Burt home when the cutoff throw from shortstop Brendan Rogers sailed wide of third to make it 3-1.

Idaho Falls added three more runs in the sixth. Roman Collins led off with a single and Nick Dini followed with a single. After Brawlun Gomez and Ryan Dale Struck out, Flores reached on an error that scored Collins and Dini. Cody Jones then singled in Flores from third.

Jones, Burt, Fukofuka and Collins had three hits each for the Chukars, who outhit the Rockies 11-6.

The Chukars and Rockies (25-34 overall, 5-16 second half) play the second game of their four-game series at 4:05 p.m. today.