Tag: Ty Culbreth

Chukars go quietly in series finale at Grand Junction

Willis
Willis

Perhaps the Idaho Falls Chukars’ toughest second-half loss occurred Monday, when an eighth inning home run lifted the Grand Junction Rockies to a 5-4 win.

Tuesday’s loss looked more garden variety, but the Chukars squandered good chances to take the game, split the series and remain within striking distance of first place.

The Rockies earned a 5-1 win Tuesday at Sam Suplizio Field. The Chukars lost the final three games of the four-game series, and they now sit 5.5 games behind Grand Junction in the Pioneer League South Division second-half standings.

Pivotal seventh

I.F.’s offense was quiet for most of Tuesday night, but it perked up in the top of seventh inning, down 3-1.

With one out, Nick Heath walked, Jordan Ebert reached on an error and MJ Sanchez was hit by a pitch. That set the table for leadoff hitter Luke Willis, who had gone 2 for 3 heading into the at-bat. He struck out looking. Manny Olloque came up next and flew out on the first pitch.

The Chukars finished 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position.

Drew Milligan came out for his second inning of work in the bottom of the seventh, and he notched a strikeout and a groundout to start the frame. The next four batters went walk, single, walk, single. Two runs scored, and the Rockies led 5-1.

Opportunity dropped

The Chukars couldn’t have planned a better way to open their four-game series at Grand Junction. They won 13-3 and climbed to 2.5 games behind the Rockies (3.0 behind then-first place Ogden).

A series split would have put I.F. 3.5 games behind the Rockies and two behind the Raptors (Orem won the first-half title, so it cannot win the second half title). Winning three out of four or sweeping the series would have been gravy for the Chukars.

Instead, I.F. lost the final three games in eclectic fashion. Sunday’s loss stemmed from a poor start by Igol Feliz. Monday’s was a back-and-forth back-breaker. Tuesday’s fell at the feet of the lineup.

The Chukars have 16 games left to erase a 5.5-game deficit and jump two teams in the South standings.

Player of the game

Rockies starting pitcher Ty Culbreth

The left-hander pounded the strike zone throughout his five innings of work. That cost him in some cases (seven hits, including three doubles), but he escaped his few pickles. Culbreth allowed one earned run, walked none and struck out five on 70 pitches (52 strikes).

Up next

The Chukars (30-30 overall, 8-14 second half) travel to Orem (32-28, 10-12) Wednesday for a two-game series to finish the road trip. I.F. lefty Matt Portland (6.08 ERA) faces righty Travis Herrin (6.41) at 7:05 p.m.

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.