The Idaho Falls Chukars celebrated the 50th game of the 2014 season with another solid win Friday, dispatching the Missoula Osprey 11-2 at Melaleuca Field.
The win gives Idaho Falls three straight wins, taking some of the sting out of a tough 1-3 road trip to Grand Junction.
“We are pitching better, our defense is OK, and our timely hitting has been big the last three game,” Idaho Falls manager Omar Ramirez said. “We ask the pitchers to keep the game close because we can score some runs, and you saw that tonight.”
Idaho Falls sent 11 batters to the plate in a six-run third, putting the hammer to Arizona Diamondbacks 2014 first-round pick Touki Toussaint.
Toussaint, a righty whose fastball gets as hot as 98, gave up seven earned runs in his Pioneer League debut before leaving with two outs in the third.
Staked to a 7-1 lead to start the fourth, Idaho Falls catcher Kyle Pollock started calling for fastballs.
And when Pollock wants heat, Pollock gets heat.
“When you’ve got a big lead like that you can attack more with the fastball,” he said. “Tonight they were helping us out, hitting pop-ups and swinging through pitches.”
Pollock helped make that early lead stand with his bat as well, finishing 3 for 4 with two doubles and three RBIs. He credited the home fans for both the team’s hitting and the three-game winning streak.
“It’s fun when we get a big knock, and you can really feel the energy here,” he said. “Those fans make it a lot of fun.”
Idaho Falls starting pitcher Eric Skoglund left after three no-hit innings. The 6-foot-7 lefty gave up one unearned run and struck out four of the first batters he faced.
“I was able to establish the fastball early, and that sets hitters up when you see them a second time,” Skoglund said.
Ever been yanked after three no-hit innings before?
“No, not really,” Skoglund said with a laugh. “But that’s something they have to do just because I threw so much in college.”
With three more hits Friday, Idaho Falls outfielder Robert Pehl now has three consecutive three-hit games and nine three-hit games this season.
Ryan O’Hearn and Mike Hill both had a pair of hits for the Chukars, combining for five runs and four RBIs.
The win lifts Idaho Falls to 26-24 on the season and 6-6 in the second half, just one game out of first place.
The Chukars and Osprey play again tonight at Melaleuca Field with first pitch scheduled for 7:15.
Idaho Falls righty Torey Deshazier (3-1, 3.38 earned run average) will get the ball for the Chukars and Dallas Newtown (2-2, 2.90 ERA) will pitch for Missoula.
CHUKARS CHATTER: Former Kansas City Royals catcher and five time MLB All-Star Mike Sweeney gave the Chukars players a pre-game pep talk Friday. Sweeney, who spent three seasons at short-season single A, told the team “Never give up. If you do something special here, they’re going to hear about it in Kansas City.” … Sweeney’s father played for the Idaho Falls Athletics in 1972.