The sliver of progress the Idaho Falls Chukars made on Wednesday was negated on Thursday.
Orem cruised past the Chukars 8-0 Thursday to split the two-games series in Utah. Pioneer League South Division leader Grand Junction, meanwhile, pounded Ogden 12-3. So I.F. gave back the game it gained Thursday, and it sits 5.5 games out of first place with 14 games to play.
The Chukars have now been shut out two times this season.
Open and shut
The 8-0 score exaggerated the distance between I.F. and Orem on Thursday. The Owlz led 3-0 going into the eighth inning, when they scored five runs to put it away. And their pitching staff was hardly untouchable.
The Chukars tallied eight hits, three walks and one hit-by-pitch on the night. They couldn’t, however, string the baserunners together or hit one over the outfielders’ heads.
All eight hits were singles, and only three runners reached scoring position. I.F.’s hitters went 0 for 3 with runners in scoring position, dropping them to 3 for 24 (.125) in those situations the last four games. The Chukars also left nine runners on base Thursday.
First baseman Joe Dudek was one of the few bright spots, going 2 for 2 with two walks. Dudek, who hit the decisive homer Wednesday, is batting .297 with a .916 OPS in 64 at-bats with the Chukars.
Another solid start wasted
In the 12 games before Thursday’s, only one of I.F.’s pitchers (Igol Feliz on Sunday) had allowed more than three runs in a start. Reinaldo Cepin extended that streak to 13 with five serviceable innings against the Owlz. The left-hander allowed three earned runs, seven hits and two walks while striking out two.
But Cepin had no chance to avoid the loss. The lineup never seriously threatened to close the gap, and the bullpen struggled. Nick Andros relieved Cepin and allowed four earned runs in two innings. Enmanuel Camacho allowed one earned run in his inning of work.
Player of the game
Owlz right fielder John Schukneckt
Schukneckt entered Thursday’s game with two home runs in 135 at-bats on the season. On Thursday, he hit two bombs in consecutive at-bats. The first was a solo shot in the bottom of the third that opened the scoring. His second was a two-run blast in the fifth to give Orem a 3-0 lead.
Schukneckt finished 2 for 5.
The Chukars (31-31 overall, 9-15 second half) and Owlz (33-29, 11-13) begin another two-game set on Friday at Melaleuca Field. I.F righty Arnaldo Hernandez (5.53 ERA) will get the start against lefty Nate Bertness (3.64). First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.