Aplin's timely hitting keeps Chukars alive

Royals prospect plates clutch runs in Game 2 of Pioneer Finals

Rhett Aplin posted a .310/.410/.502 regular-season slash line with 10 home runs in the Pioneer League. (Idaho Falls Chukars)

By Shlomo Sprung / MiLB.com | September 15, 2019 1:10 AM

Facing elimination in the Pioneer League Finals, clutch at-bats from Rhett Aplin gave the Rookie Advanced Chukars the lead not once, but twice Saturday. The second time they kept it.

The Kansas City first-base prospect went 2-for-3 with two RBIs as Idaho Falls defeated Ogden, 6-2, at Lindquist Field. The victory knotted the Championship Series, 1-1, and set up a decisive Game 3.

Gameday box score 

"We kept them close the first game, but missed a few opportunities," Aplin said of the 5-3 loss in Game 1, "and I think we fulfilled those in this game."

The 2018 28th-round pick delivered go-ahead RBIs in the fourth and sixth innings. Down 1-0 in the fourth, Clay Dungan singled, Travis Jones tripled him home and Aplin skied a fly ball to center field for a sacrifice fly off righty Alfredo Tavarez to give the Chukars the lead.

"I just stayed up the middle and found something up in the zone that I could put in the outfield and bring them in," said the 23-year-old designated hitter. "Every opportunity we got, we got them in."

But the Raptors tied the game on an RBI double by Andrew Shaps off right-hander Nathan Webb. That scoreline held until the sixth, when Aplin came through again. With one out, Dungan singled and stole second. Righty Jeronimo Castro walked Jones intentionally to bring up the left-handed hitter, who lined an 0-2 curveball to center for an RBI single to give Idaho Falls a lead that was not relinquished.

"Especially in two-strike situations, it's just about battling and putting the ball in play," Aplin said. "He left the ball hanging and I was able to put a good swing on it and drew it up the middle."

As he stood on first base, the Florida State product could hear the roar from the Chukars dugout.

"I could definitely hear them getting hyped," he said. "That's the way our team is. Any time we can scratch a run on the board, that's what we live for."

Idaho Falls added some insurance in the sixth when Jimmy Govern singled home Jones, who finished 2-for-3 with three runs scored, an RBI and a walk. Jones also crossed the plate in the eighth on a two-run homer by Juan Carlos Negret for the final tallies of the night.

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The Chukars bullpen offered up five hitless innings of relief. Anthony Veneziano (1-0) allowed a walk while striking out five in four frames and and Jonah Dipoto worked around a walk in the ninth with one punchout.

"It was tremendous," Aplin said of the bullpen's effort. "It was huge for them to come in and shut it down. It really gave us a big push."

Marco Hernandez's solo dinger off Webb in the second gave the Raptors their only lead of the game.

Game 3 will be on Sunday in Ogden.

Shlomo Sprung is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @sprungonsports View More