(Editor’s note: Billings Mustangs media release)
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — Extra innings was once again the enemy of the Billings Mustangs (1-6), as they fell to the Idaho Falls Chukars (7-0) 4-3 in 10 innings in front of 2,769 at Melaleuca Field to continue the Chukars’ season-opening hot streak.
Miguel Medrano had trouble locating in the first, giving up two walks and allowing two hits in the frame. With the bases loaded, Chris Hudgins would walk to score the first run of the game and give Idaho Falls an early 1-0 lead.
The Mustangs managed to tie things up in the fifth after consecutive singles to start the inning. Victor Ruiz grounded out to short to allow Leonardo Seminati to score from third after his leadoff single. Seminati went 3-for-3 with two walks and two runs to lead the Billings offense.
The tie would not last long, however, as the Chukars bounced back with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth. Kember Nacero led off with a triple and immediately scored when Clay Dungan singled through the left side. Two straight outs to follow from Andrew McDonald, who entered the game in relief in the inning, got Billings an out away from limiting the damage to one run. A fly ball down the left field line dropped in for a two-base error reach for Rhett Aplin and allowed Dungan to score all the way from first, giving the Chukars their largest lead yet at 3-1.
Jake Stevenson impressed for Billings in his pro debut, retiring the side in the sixth with two swinging strikeouts. Stevenson was drafted in the 10th round of the 2019 draft out of the University of Minnesota.
Billings capitalized on two free passes in the top of the seventh to tie the game. Cash Case was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and Seminati was walked right behind him. Both would come in to score later in the inning. TJ Hopkins flew a sacrifice to right to bring in the first run before Victor Ruiz’ game-tying RBI single to right.
The Mustangs’ bullpen was strong on Friday as McDonald, Stevenson, Ryan Dunne and Jerry D’Andrea combined for five shutout, one-hit innings of relief between the fifth and ninth, not issuing a walk and striking out seven.
The top of the eighth yielded an opportunity unrealized for Billings as they stranded the bases loaded. After the first two batters were retired, Eric Yang was hit by a pitch, Case and Seminati each singled to loaded the bases, but a grounder to short ended the frame to leave the go-ahead run at third.
The ninth provided similar frustration as a walk, single and error loaded the bases for the Mustangs with just one out. Chih Wang struck out consecutive batters to leave three board again, keeping Idaho Falls in the game. The Mustangs left eight runners on in the last three innings and 14 total in the game.
Idaho Falls wasted no time getting the winning run across in the bottom of the 10th. Still tied at 3-3, Clay Dungan grounded to short with Kember Nacero at second base. Ranser Amador’s throw to third to try and get the lead runner went high over the head of Claudio Finol and back to the netting, allowing Dungan to score on the error and give the Chukars a walk-off win for the second straight night.
The Mustangs are now 0-3 in extra innings this season.
The Mustangs and Chukars will play in game two of their three-game series Saturday at Melaleuca Field in Idaho Falls. First pitch is set for 7:15 p.m. MDT.