The Idaho Falls Chukars opened the second half of the Pioneer League season the same way they did the first, with a pair of losses.
But for manager Omar Ramirez, it wasn’t that his team lost Monday so much as how his team lost, falling 10-7 to Ogden in an error-filled night at Melaleuca Field.
“We didn’t play defense today, didn’t make the pitches when we had to and things didn’t work out,” Ramirez said. “We’ve got to play better defense.”
The Chukars gave up the tying and winning runs after a two-out error in the seventh, and surrendered a pair of cushion runs in the ninth set up by another error.
All this after taking an early 7-2 lead and scoring runs in each of the first four innings. The Chukars had 11 hits at the end of a four-run fourth, but managed just two hits over the final five.
For Ramirez the loss wasn’t about the Ogden pitching or the 14 Idaho Falls baserunners left on base.
It was all about poor fielding.
“A couple of relievers came in and shut us down, but we’ve got to play better defense,” he said. “We can’t give the other team four or five more outs and come out expecting to win ballgames.”
By the end, Idaho Falls had allowed four unearned runs on four errors and thrown three wild pitches. The Chukars entered the game averaging just over one error per contest with 47 errors over their previous 40 games.
Trailing 10-7, the Chukars threatened in the bottom of the ninth just after the rain started falling.
Idaho Falls loaded the bases with two outs before Brandon Thomasson’s line drive hit A.J. Vanegas squarely in the back. Vanegas found the ball and threw out Thomasson at first to end the threat.
The Chukars jumped all over Ogden relief pitcher Trevor Oaks in the fourth inning, getting five straight singles to start the frame. Idaho Falls converted those singles into four runs and a 7-2 lead, batting around in the inning.
Undaunted, the Raptors came back immediately with four runs of their own in the top of the fifth to make the score 7-6 Chukars, ending starter Torey Deshazier’s night.
Ogden scored two more in the seventh, taking an 8-7 lead on a double by Ivan Vela. That gave the Raptors six of what turned out to be eight unanswered runs.
Raptors manager and former Cy Young winner Jack McDowell used three pitchers in the bottom of the eighth, doing everything he could to preserve Ogden’s narrow advantage.
It worked, and Ogden went to the ninth with a one-run lead, stranding Corey Toups and Ryan O’Hearn.
O’Hearn, who entered the game as the Pioneer League’s top hitter at .405, padded his hitting stats with a perfect 3-for-3 night, finishing a home run short of hitting for the cycle.
Idaho Falls is now 0-2 in the second half, South Division standings, two games back of Ogden. Orem and Grand Junction split their opening two games and are 1-1.
SUNDAY’S GAME: Idaho Falls opened the second half with a 9-3 loss to the Ogden Raptors on Sunday at Melaleuca Field.
Ogden blew the game open with a five-run third, helped by three straight walks from Javier Reynoso. Julian Leon made the Chukars pay for their wildness with a two-run double.
Justin Chigbogu added his league-leading 11th home run for Ogden, which finished in last place in the Pioneer League South Division first-half standings.
Robert Pehl and Ryan O’Hearn both went 2 for 3 to lead the Chukars offense.