Tag: Yeison Melo

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.

Wild night: Chukars inch closer to first place with an 11-10 win over Ogden

Idaho Falls Chukars second baseman Jordan Ebert rounds third base in the first inning of the game aganist the Ogden Raptors on Tuesday night at Melaleuca Field. (Taylor Carpenter / tcarpenter@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls Chukars second baseman Jordan Ebert rounds third base in the first inning of the game aganist the Ogden Raptors on Tuesday night at Melaleuca Field. (Taylor Carpenter / tcarpenter@postregister.com)

The Idaho Falls Chukars and Ogden Raptors began Tuesday’s game in almost comedic fashion, peppering the first inning with errors and poorly located pitches.

The first inning ended with 11 unearned runs, a fitting start to a three-and-a-half-hour game (I.F.’s 18-7 win on Monday also lasted that long). The Chukars waded through the mess and prevailed 11-10 at Melaleuca Field. I.F. has now taken the first three games of the four-game series, and sits 2.5 games behind Grand Junction for first place in the Pioneer League South Division. Nine games remain.

Wild first inning

The the first inning began with an error from shortstop Ricky Aracena. The inning ended 45 minutes later.

The intervening minutes were filled with three additional errors, eight hits and 11 runs.

Ogden scored the first five of those runs thanks in large part to Aracena’s boot on a sharp ground ball. In fact, four of the Raptors’ runs came with two outs, and none of the runs against starter Matt Portland were earned.

Idaho Falls Chukars pitcher Matt Portland pitches during the first inning of the game aganist the Ogden Raptors on Tuesday night at Melaleuca Field. (Taylor Carpenter / tcarpenter@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls Chukars pitcher Matt Portland pitches during the first inning of the game against the Ogden Raptors on Tuesday night at Melaleuca Field. (Taylor Carpenter / tcarpenter@postregister.com)

But just because Portland’s ERA went down doesn’t mean he pitched well. The left-hander fell behind seven of the eight batters he faced, and 20 of his 41 pitches were balls. Aracena’s error and a couple of bloop singles turned a rough inning into a short outing. Portland was relieved by Nick Andros with two outs in the top of the first.

Portland’s final batter was Jordan Paroubeck, who hit a bloop double that resulted in a collision between second baseman Jordan Ebert and right fielder Nick Heath. Ebert was fine, but Heath was shaken up and left the game.

The Raptors helped the Chukars get back into the game in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Meibrys Viloria and Yeison Melo each reached on fielding errors by Ogden’s middle infield. Joe Dudek and Angelo Castellano followed with RBI hits, and Dudek scored on a wild pitch to cut the deficit to 5-4.

With two outs, Ebert doubled to drive in Castellano. Rudy Martin drove in Ebert with a single up the middle, and he nearly scored after center fielder DJ Peters allowed the ball to roll past him. Martin ended up on third base, where he was stranded to end the inning. The Chukars led 6-5.

Ogden finished the game with six errors.

Back-and-forth they go

The Raptors responded to the turbulent first with three runs in the second, and they increased the lead to 10-6 lead in the fifth. The Chukars scored two in the bottom half and had a good chance to tie it. But they couldn’t plate runners on second and third with no outs.

The Chukars promptly tied it up in the sixth inning, but they again left something on the table. With two outs and runners on first and second, Martin singled up the middle. Manny Olloque had an easy path home, but Ebert complicated matters by trying to reach third. Peters’ throw beat Ebert to the base, and the umpire ruled that he was tagged out before Olloque touched home plate. So the score remained 10-10.

Luckily for the Chukars, the lineup stayed hot in the seventh. Luke Willis singled and reached second on an error to open the inning. Aracena bunted him over, and Viloria drove him in with a sacrifice fly to left field.

Cole Way pitched 3.1 scoreless innings out of the bullpen, and Richard Lovelady earned his fourth save with a scoreless ninth.

Player of the game

Chukars first baseman Joe Dudek

Dudek’s hot streak continued on Tuesday, when he went 3 for 5 with a double and a solo home run. Dudek is now 10 for 19 (.526) with three home runs and three doubles in his last six games.

Up next

The Chukars (35-32 overall, 13-16 second half) will try to sweep the Raptors (32-35, 15-14) at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday. Righty Alex Luna (2.62 ERA) will make his first start for I.F. since he strained his oblique on July 26 (he’s made two relief appearances in the last week).

Bats come alive in Chukars’ 18-7 win

Castellano
Castellano

The Idaho Falls Chukars took out a month’s worth of frustration Monday night at Melaleuca Field.

The Chukars, winners of just eight games in August entering Monday, used an eight-run seventh inning and 21 hits overall to crush the Ogden Raptors 18-7 in front of 1,424 fans. The win, combined with Grand Junction’s 12-inning loss to Orem, left Idaho Falls three games back in the Pioneer League South Division second-half standings with 10 games left in the regular season.

Who needs defense?

Idaho Falls kicked the ball around early Monday, committing four errors and pushing their season total to a league-high 151. Those miscues, along with 15 Ogden hits, led to plenty of runs, but they weren’t enough to overcome the Chukars’ relentless offense.

Idaho Falls matched its season high for runs and fell two hits short of its season-best total of 23. All nine Chukars batters had a hit, with all but Manny Olloque and Ryan Dale getting at least two knocks.

Even with all that offense this was a close game entering the seventh. Idaho Falls briefly lost its lead in the top of the fourth, but scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth and single runs in the fifth and sixth to go ahead 9-7. Then the Chukars went crazy in the seventh, riding 10 hits and two errors to score eight runs and put the game away.

Idaho Falls reliever Jason Freeman was an overlooked hero Monday. The right-hander entered with two outs in the fifth and worked the next three innings, allowing four hits but no runs while striking out six.

Meibrys Viloria was one of many offensive heroes, going 3 for 5 with two doubles, two runs and four RBIs. Viloria needs just four doubles to tie the Pioneer League single-season record. Angelo Castellano and Nick Heath each had two runs and three RBIs.

Player of the game

Chukars second baseman Angelo Castellano

Castellano entered the game on a day off, and he looked plenty rested. The right-handed hitter went 4 for 4 with a triple, two runs and three RBIs to push his season average to .284.

Up next

The Chukars and Raptors play the third game of their four-game series today, with Matt Portland (4-3, 5.57 ERA) scheduled to start for Idaho Falls.

Sunday’s game

CHUKARS 2, RAPTORS 1: Idaho Falls got a dominating start from Andres Machado and a game-winning hit from Yeison Melo in the bottom of the eighth to earn a win over Ogden in front of 1,352 fans at Melaleuca Field.

Machado was overpowering from the start, striking out six of the first nine batters he faced, finishing with nine over six shutout innings. He allowed just a harmless single in the fourth.

Melo gave the Chukars a 1-0 lead in the fourth with a solo homer, his fifth of the season. But the Raptors tied the game in the top of the eighth with a solo homer from Brock Carpenter.

Idaho Falls quickly regained the lead, getting a leadoff walk from Manny Olloque and a fielder’s choice from Meibrys Viloria. Joe Dudek followed with a groundout, pushing Viloria to second. Melo then singled to deep short and Viloria raced home with the go-ahead run.

Melo finished 3 for 4. Richard Lovelady got the final three outs to earn his third save.

Chukars move closer in the playoff race with an 8-6 win over Orem

Castellano
Castellano

The Idaho Falls Chukars rallied late and then had to hold on to beat Orem 8-6 on Friday night at Melaleuca Field, moving them a game closer to Grand Junction in the Pioneer League South Division second-half standings.

Pressure’s on

The Chukars were sitting 5.5 games behind Grand Junction in the second-half standings when Friday night began. But I.F.’s win, combined with Grand Junction’s loss to Ogden, cut the margin to 4.5.

But it wasn’t easy.

Idaho Falls led 2-1 after two innings and 4-1 after four before the Owlz tied the game with two runs in the fifth and one in the sixth. But the Chukars pulled ahead with a three-run seventh. Meibrys Viloria got things starter with a walk, and after Joe Dudek flied out, Yeison Melo reached on an infield error. Angelo Castellano followed with a two-run triple to right field. Ryan Dale singled two batters later to score Castellano.

Orem scored single runs in the eighth and ninth, but Richard Lovelady got the final four outs to secure the win.

Dudek went 2 for 3 with two doubles, a run and an RBI while Nick Heath was 2 for 5 with a run scored. Starter Arnaldo Hernandez pitched well, allowing three runs on six hits with three walks and three strikeouts in five innings.

Player of the game

Idaho Falls shortstop Angelo Castellano

Castellano had a big game from the sixth spot in the order, going 2 for 4 with a triple, two runs and two RBIs. He pushed his season average to .275 and increased his RBI total to 39.

Up next

The Chukars and Owlz play the final game of their quick two-game set at 7:15 tonight. Igol Feliz (2-2, 5.93 ERA) is scheduled to start for Idaho Falls.

Dudek, pitching come through in the Chukars’ 3-2 win over Orem

Viloria
Viloria

The Idaho Falls Chukars headed into Wednesday with a 1-11 record in one-run games on the road. That mark improved Wednesday night at Orem.

The Chukars prevailed 3-2 over the Owlz thanks to strong pitching and some two-out thunder from their lineup. Ogden’s extra-inning win over Grand Junction put I.F. 4.5 games out of first place in the Pioneer League South division second-half standings.

The Dudek abides

The Chukars got on the board in the top of the first inning after the first two batters were retired. Manny Olloque delivered a two-out single, and Meibrys Viloria drove him home with a double.

The sixth inning began equally mundane, with Nick Heath and Olloque providing two quick outs. Then Viloria stepped up and singled in front of Joe Dudek. On a 1-1 count, the first baseman drove a Greg Belton pitch over the wall in left-center field.

Dudek’s home run proved to be the difference, giving I.F. a 3-1 lead.

Portland stays sharp

Matt Portland is still issuing walks, but he’s managed to suppress the hits and runs over his last three starts, including Wednesday’s.

The left-hander went six innings against the Owlz. He allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits and two walks, and he struck out five.

Portland has allowed one earned run in each of his last three outings, which all lasted five or more innings. The opposing lineups in those three games averaged 3.7 hits and three walks against him. Portland also struck out five batters per game in that span.

Player of the game

Chukars catcher Meibrys Viloria

Dudek wouldn’t have hit the big fly if Viloria didn’t single in front of him. Plus, Viloria doubled in the first run. Overall, the catcher went 3 for 4, upping his batting average to a league-best .398.

Edwards named player of the week

Chukars infielder David Edwards was named the Pioneer League player of the week for his performance from Aug. 15 to Aug. 21.

Edwards went 9 for 18 with two doubles, two home runs (both on Sunday) and three stolen bases over the course of five games. He now leads the team with eight homers on the season.

Edwards joined Manny Olloque and Yeison Melo as Chukars with 2016 player of week honors. Andres Machado also earned a pitcher of the week honor, and Meibrys Viloria was July’s player of the month.

Up next

The Chukars (31-30 overall, 9-14 second half) and Owlz (32-29, 10-13) conclude their two game-series on Thursday at 7 p.m. Lefty Reinaldo Cepin will start for I.F.

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).

Chukars muster three hits in 7-4 loss to Mustangs

Olloque
Olloque

The Idaho Falls Chukars’ bats stayed cold and their road woes continued Monday night at Dehler Park in Billings, Mont.

The Chukars managed just one run on two hits over the first eight innings before finishing with a mini rally in the ninth while losing 7-4 in the first of three games against the Billings Mustangs. It was the fourth loss in five games for Idaho Falls, which doesn’t play another home game against until Friday. Idaho Falls fell to 8-16 away from Melaleuca Field this summer.

Where’s the offense?

Idaho Falls was handed its first shutout loss Friday night in Great Falls, and appeared headed for another blanking Monday. Billings starter Andrew Jordan, a 6-foot-3, 180-pound right-hander who was a 13th-round draft pick in 2015, limited the Chukars to one hit and one walk while striking out five over the first five innings.

The Mustangs built a 4-0 lead during that stretch, which seemed more than enough against a scuffling I.F. offense. Idaho Falls finally got on the board in the seventh on an RBI groundout from Yeison Melo. But Billings pushed the lead to 7-1 before Idaho Falls finished with three runs in the top of the ninth.

Manny Olloque, who had two doubles, belted a two-run double and Meibrys Viloria added an RBI sac fly to account for the runs.

Player of the game 

Billings catcher Morgan Lofstrom

Lofstrom entered Monday hitting just .118, but he got the Mustangs off to a strong start with a two-run homer to right-center in the bottom of the second inning. He finished 1 for 3, but his homer set the tone.

Up next

Idaho Falls (26-21 overall, 4-5 second half) and Billings (28-18, 5-3) play the second of three games Tuesday at Dehler Park. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.

Sunday’s game

CHUKARS 8, VOYAGERS 6: At Great Falls, Mont., newcomer Joe Dudek had a breakout game, belting two homers and driving in three runs to help Idaho Falls avoid a four-game series sweep against Great Falls.

And he did it in dramatic fashion.

The Chukars, scuffling coming out of the all-star break, coughed up a 6-0 lead by allowing two runs each in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. But Angelo Castellano led off the top of the ninth with a double to left, and Dudek followed with a home run over the fence in right-center field. Brian Bayliss pitched a perfect ninth inning to secure the win.

Meibrys Viloria continued his rampage through the Pioneer League, going 2 for 4 with a run and two RBIs, while Castellano was 2 for 4 with two doubles and two RBIs and Manny Olloque was 2 for 5 with two runs scored.

Northwest League pounds Pioneer League 11-5

Viloria
Viloria

OGDEN, Utah Last year’s inaugural Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star Game concluded in walkoff fashion. The Northwest League won again this year, but the score was not nearly as close.

The Northwest League followed up last year’s 6-5 win in Spokane, Wash. with an 11-5 victory Tuesday at Lindquist Field in Ogden. All four Idaho Falls Chukars who represented the Pioneer League played, but they had quiet performances.

The Pioneer League answered the Northwest’s three-run top of the third inning with a four-run bottom half. Ogden’s DJ Peters tied it at 3-3 with a 445-foot two-run home run to left-center field.

The home team’s lead was short-lived. The Northwest League hit for the cycle in the top of the fourth and scored seven runsto take a commanding 10-4 lead. Home run derby champion Gio Brusa of Salem-Keizer capped the inning with a two-runblast to right field.

Olloque
Olloque

The Northwest League finished with 19 hits in the game, and the Pioneer League had seven.

Third baseman Xavier Turner of the Spokane Indians won the game’s Most Valuable Player award. He went 3 for 3 with a solo home run.

Peters’ home run was his only hit in three at-bats, but it was enough to earn him the Pioneer League’s Top Star honor.

I.F.’s Meibrys Viloria was the Pioneer League’s starting catcher, and fellow Chukar Manny Olloque started at third base. Viloria finished 1 for 3 with a single, and Olloque went 0 for 2 with a strikeout and a deep flyout to right.

I.F.’s Yeison Melo replaced Peters in right field in the top of the sixth. He went 0 for 2 with a lineout to left and a game-ending groundout to second.

Chukars reliever Brian Bayliss pitched the sixth inning. The right-hander allowed one earned run on three hits while striking out one.

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.”