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Chukars claim Pioneer League crown

Royals affiliate brings Idaho Falls its first title since 2000
September 17, 2013

Frank Schwindel delivered for the Idaho Falls on Tuesday, and in more ways than were obvious to the casual observer.

"He had a great game, offensively and behind the plate. You saw what he did offensively," said Chukars manager Omar Ramirez. "But he did a great job calling pitches and helping the pitchers stick to the game plan. He was great behind the plate, absolutely."

Schwindel homered and drove in four runs as the Chukars beat the Helena Brewers, 6-0, in decisive Game 3 of the Rookie-level Pioneer League Championship Series at Kindrick Legion Field. The title was the first for the Chukars but the seventh for Idaho Falls and the first since 2000, when the team was a Padres affiliate.

"They have heart," Ramirez said. "That's what I have to say about them: they have heart."

The Chukars took Game 1 of the series at home on Saturday, 2-1, but fell in Monday's second game, 7-5.

"We lost [Game 2], but offensively, we were better," the Idaho Falls skipper said. "That was missing [earlier in the playoffs]. But we had five runs, 11 hits, so even though we lost, it felt good."

Schwindel got Idaho Falls on the board with a three-run blast in the third inning, going yard off Brewers starter Barrett Astin.

He provided an insurance run with a sacrifice fly in the sixth, an inning before Royals No. 13 prospect Elier Hernandez contributed an RBI single in a two-run seventh.

Jake Junis, who turned 21 on Monday, scattered three hits and two walks while striking out eight over five innings for the win.

"Junis came up big. He didn't know he was going to pitch until last night," Ramirez said. "[Yender] Caramo was supposed to pitch, but he had shoulder issues. So I told Junis he was going to start. I didn't know it was his birthday."

In Junis' last inning of work, the Brewers loaded the bases with two outs for Pioneer League MVP Michael Ratterree.

"Getting their best hitter was huge, with two outs there," Ramirez said. "It was going to be [Junis'] last inning and I think he knew it was his last inning. He threw a good curve and got [Ratterree] to pop up and got out of it with no harm."

Kyle Bartsch struck out six and permitted one hit over three otherwise perfect innings and Glenn Sparkman worked around a hit and a walk in the ninth.

Josh Jackson is a contributor to