No one in professional baseball expected much from San Diego native and first-year Idaho Falls Chukars pitcher Jake Newberry.
That comes with being a 37th-round draft pick, the lowest such pick on the 2014 Idaho Falls roster.
Now entering his third professional season, the 6-foot-2, 195 pounder is outperforming his draft status and then some.
Newberry continued his professional success Wednesday night, allowing two runs (one earned) on six hits and four walks while striking out six in 5.1 innings as the Chukars beat the Orem Owlz 5-3 in front of 1,322 shivering fans at Melaleuca Field to earn their first win of 2014.
Newberry pitched well in his first pro season, posting a 2.81 ERA with 12 strikeouts in 16 innings. Last year in Burlington, those numbers were a 2.68 ERA with 50 strikeouts in 47 innings.
“He’s a competitor,” Idaho Falls manager Omar Ramirez said. “He’s a leader on the mound. He’s going to go after you and that’s it. He was doing that this spring, he was one of the best pitchers there, and I think it carried over here.”
Newberry said he doesn’t worry about where he was drafted, only how he pitches now that he’s in Idaho Falls.
“I get an opportunity like anybody else,” he said. “I’m trying to make the most of it. I go out there and think I’m better than the batter, every batter. That’s my mindset every pitch, every at bat, every inning.”
The Chukars bats had been mostly silent through the first 18 innings of the season, producing just five runs on 13 hits combined.
They broke out in the fifth inning Wednesday, thanks to some sloppy Orem defense (two errors and a wild pitch) and timely RBI singles from Samir Duenez and Pedro Gonzalez. The result was a five-run inning, giving Idaho Falls all of the runs it would need.
Jon Fitzsimmons worked out of a mini jam in the sixth, relieving Newberry with two on and one out. He allowed a sacrifice fly but nothing else, and finished with four strikeouts in 2.2 innings. Cruz Guevara gave up a run in the ninth, but struck out the side to put the finishing touches on the win.
Duenez led the offense, going 2 for 4 with a run scored and an RBI. Leadoff hitter DonAndre Clark went 1 for 4 with a run and an RBI, and Logan Davis was 0 for 0 with three walks and a run.
“Offensively we didn’t do a lot, but we did enough to win the game,” Ramirez said.
The Chukars wrap up their season-opening four-game homestand at 7:15 tonight at Melaleuca Field before hitting the road to start a four-game series against the Grand Junction Rockies.