Hunter Dozier was returned to Rookie-level Idaho Falls last week to aid the Chukars in their pursuit of a Pioneer League playoff spot. The move worked wonders Wednesday night.
The Royals' No. 7 prospect went 2-for-4 with a homer, a double, three RBIs and two walks as Idaho Falls defeated Orem, 12-7, to clinch the Pioneer League South Division second-half title.
The win pushed the Chukars (21-13) 4 1/2 games ahead of the Owlz (16-17) with only four games remaining on the schedule for both teams. The win ensured Idaho Falls' first trip to the postseason since 2007.
It didn't take long for Dozier to get going in Wednesday's run-filled affair. After walking in his first plate appearance during a scoreless first inning, he stroked an RBI double to complete the Chukars' four-run second frame. He lifted a solo homer in his next at-bat in the fourth, and his free pass in the top of the fifth directly preceded Cody Stubbs' grand slam that gave Idaho Falls a 12-0 lead at the halfway mark.
Since being selected eighth overall by Kansas City in last June's Draft, Dozier owns a .300/.404/.514 line with seven homers and 42 RBIs in 52 Pioneer League games. Despite moving up to Class A Lexington for a 15-game spell in August, his 24 doubles continue to lead the Rookie-level circuit.
The 22-year-old shortstop was no slouch in the South Atlantic League either, putting together a .327/.373/.436 line with six doubles and nine RBIs in those 15 contests for the Legends before being returned in time for the playoff push.
Since he was reinserted into the Idaho Falls lineup last Saturday, the Chukars are 4-1, including three wins in a sweep of the Owlz, who are 1-9 in their last 10 games, to take the division crown. It should be noted, though, that the Chukars were also 4-1 in their previous five games before Dozier's return.
Third baseman Mauricio Ramos went 3-for-5 with two doubles, an RBI and three runs scored in the win. Left fielder Dominique Taylor chipped in a 3-for-5 showing of his own with an RBI and two runs scored from the ninth spot in the lineup.
Left-handed starter Patrick Conroy improved to 6-2 after allowing two runs on eight hits and a walk in five innings. The Owlz added two runs in the sixth and three in the bottom of the ninth, but it wasn't enough to overcome the Chukars' large early advantage.
Idaho Falls will host first-half champion Grand Junction in the first round of the Pioneer League playoffs, starting next Tuesday.
In other Pioneer League clinchings:
Great Falls 9, Missoula 6 (10 innings)
After going down 5-0 in the first four innings, the Voyagers clawed back to win in extra frames and clinch the North Division second-half title. Jacob Morris started the scoring with his 12th homer of the season -- a solo shot -- in the fifth. Corey Thompson played the role of hero in the 10th by smacking a two-run triple and coming around to score the frame's third run for insurance purposes. Box score »