Two of the Pioneer League’s bottom dwellers played Friday night at Melaleuca Field.
One team didn’t play like it, though.
The Idaho Falls Chukars beat the Great Falls Voyagers 6-3 Friday night in front of 2,329 fans to start its seven-game home stand.
In a relatively back-and-forth affair, the Chukars took control thanks to five runs in the final three frames. The win pushed the Chukars to 22-26 (5-5 in the second half) on the season. The Voyagers fall to 19-28 (4-5).
Chukars outfielders Travis Jones and Amalani Fukofuka led the way at the plate, going 2 for 4 and 2 for 3, respectively. They both reached home plate twice.
“Quality at-bats, really,” said Jones, when asked what went right Friday night. “Our at-bats were pretty quality today.”
Jones broke the stalemate first, scoring on a wild pitch during the second inning after hitting a triple to right field to get on base.
It was almost the only run the Chukars needed until Voyagers’ outfielder Tate Blackmon hit a line drive off starting pitcher Janser Lara, and past Amalani Fukofuka, to tie the game at one in the sixth frame.
Lara, a Pioneer League All-Star, pitched well up to that point, finishing the night with one run on two hits while walking three and striking out four in 5.2 innings pitched.
Garrettson Harris relieved him, earning his second win (2-0) on the season in 2.1 innings pitched.
The Chukars answered the Voyagers’ single run with three runs in the bottom of the six when Fukofuka scored off a failed rundown and Freddy Fermin and Brewer Hicklen plated two runs off RBIs.
“You can only hit the ball so hard, and it’s up to God where the ball goes and I think it’s been going in the hole lately,” Jones said.
The Voyagers made it close with two runs in the seventh, but two Chukars — Fukofuka and Robby Rinn — scored with bases loaded to put the game away.
“What really won the game was the good communication between the pitcher, catcher and the infield,” Fermin said through Chukars’ Andrew Scarlata, who translated. “It was superior tonight.”
The Chukars success against the Voyagers this season continued Friday night. Every time Great Falls seemed to score, Idaho Falls answered.
Player (s) of the game:
Travis Jones and Janser Lara. Lara, one of the Chukars best pitchers, showed solid command, not allowing a run until the sixth inning. Jones went 2 for 4 at the plate, including a triple in the bottom of the second.
- Rain briefly hit Melaleuca Field during the first inning, causing some fans to ditch their seats. The rain lasted less than two minutes.
- Right fielder Amalani Fukfofuka registered his 14th hit in 11 games Friday after a line drive was mishandled by Voyagers’ third baseman Craig Dedelow.
- Travis Jones’ recent tear through the Pioneer League continued Friday when he tripled to right field. He later scored on a wild pitch. Jones has garnered nine hits in the previous four games.
Up next: The Chukars will return to Melaleuca Field tonight for game two of three against the Voyagers. First pitch is at 7:15 p.m.