IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — The Idaho Falls Chukars lost only once in their first 14 games of this Pioneer League Baseball season. But the Missoula Osprey have suddenly found a way to cool off the hot bats of the North Division leaders.
Missoula beat the Chukars for a third straight night, this time in Idaho Falls by a score of 5-4. It also marked the third straight one-run pitchers’ duel between the two, after the Os won 2-1 and 4-3 in Missoula on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Patrick McGuff made the biggest difference in the Independence Day late-afternoon contest. The second-oldest Osprey, at 25 years old, tossed seven innings with nine strikeouts, while only giving up a single run and four hits.
Missoula jumped out right away in the top of the first inning on an RBI double to the wall in center by Tristen Carranza. After a Chukars sac fly and an Osprey run on a wild pitch, the biggest hit came in the top of the fifth. Suddenly hot Dominic Canzone doubled to center with the bases loaded, bringing in three runs and giving Missoula a 5-1 lead.
Once McGuff left the game, Idaho Falls did start a rally. The Chukars scored twice in the bottom of the eighth. Then down to their final out, Kember Nacero doubled in a run on a line drive to right field. The next batter was hit by a pitch, putting the tying run on second and the winning run on first. But Mailon Arroyo forced Ismaldo Rodriguez to ground out to catcher Luvin Valbuena.
The 10-9 second-place Osprey have now climbed within four games of the 13-4 Chukars, who earlier this week looked well on their way to running away with the first-half division title. The two will wrap up the short series in Idaho Falls with one more game Friday night.