Chukars outlast Raptors to win Pioneer League title
OGDEN, Utah — In the biggest game of the year, the Idaho Falls Chukars jumped out to a big lead early, but got a gigantic response from their opponents, the Ogden Raptors. With a seven-run lead widdled down to one, the Chukars got a key insurance run in the seventh inning and hung on, downing Ogden 10-8 to win their first Pioneer League title since 2013.
Ogden starter Elio Serrano faced one over the minimum through his first two innings, but the Chukars got to him right away in the third. Isaiah Henry started the inning with a double off the batters eye, and Stephan Vidal followed with a double to right-center, easily plating Henry. Serrano picked to second with Tyler Tolbert up, and the throw went into center field, moving Vidal to third. Tolbert then whacked a single to center, scoring Vidal to make it 2-0. Jose Marquez then followed with a doubled to right center, easily scoring Tolbert to extend the lead to three.
Alec Marsh gave up single hits in each of the first three innings, but kept Ogden off the scoreboard. In the fourth inning though, he ran into trouble as Jon Littell doubled with one out and Andrew Shaps followed with a bloop single to right, moving Littell to third. Marsh though got a clutch ground ball, as Ramon Rodriguez hit into a 5-4-3 inning, ending double play.
The twin killing spring boarded the Chukars into the fifth inning, as Tolbert started the inning with a double. Marquez then put a bunt down that pitcher Reza Aleaziz threw to third. The throw sailed wide and down the left-field line, scoring Tolbert and getting Marquez to second. That ended the day for Aleaziz, who departed in favor of lefty Jacob Cantleberry. After getting Clay Dungan to pop out, Travis Jones followed with a double to deep left-center, plating Marquez to make it 5-0. Rhett Aplin popped out for the second out of the inning, but the strange decision was then made to walk Juan Carlos Negret intentionally, and Jimmy Govern made them pay for the decision with a two-RBI double down the third baseline, making it 7-0 Chukars.
However, the Raptors charged back with a thunderous fifth inning. Marsh issued back to back walks to Jeremy Arocho and Andy Pages to start the inning, and after Marsh punched out Sauryn Lao, Zac Ching hit a three-run homer to right, ending the day for Marsh. Derrick Adams then entered and surrendered back to back bloop singles. Littell then hit into a fielders choice for the second out of the inning, but Shaps then doubled off the right-center field wall, plating two to make it a two-run game.
In the top of the sixth, the Chukars responded with a pair, as the inning started with a single from Vidal and a double from Tolbert. Marquez struck out, but with the infield in Dungan grounded a ball to first that Marco Hernandez booted, scoring Vidal. Two batters later Aplin hit a sacrifice fly that scored Tolbert, extending the lead back to 9-5.
Ogden though roared back once again in the sixth. Adams got the first two that he faced, but was pulled after a single from Lao. Brady Cox entered and walked the next two, loading the bases for Jimmy Titus, who drilled a ball to center, scoring two, with a third scoring on an error, making it 9-8 Chukars. Brad Bonnenfant then came in and got Littell to fly out to left, keeping it a one-run game.
Idaho Falls got a key piece of insurance in the seventh, as Henry hit a one-out solo shot to put Idaho Falls up 10-8. From there, Bonnenfant pitched a scoreless seventh, and Jonah Dipoto came on in the eighth and recorded a six-out save to clinch the Chukars their second title as a Royals affiliate and the eighth in the history of Idaho Falls baseball.