Coming up short

Rockies miss chance to move into first alone with loss

Jeff Popick runs down the first-base line after laying down a sacrifice bunt in the fifth inning of the Grand Junction Rockies’ 12-11, 10-inning loss to Taylor Wrenn and Billings at Suplizio Field. The ball hit Popick, resulting in an error and allowing a run to score and Popick to advance to second base.

A chance to leave Suplizio Field in first place of the Pioneer League South came up one hit short Wednesday for the Grand Junction Rockies.

Instead, Billings got the big hit in a wild 12-11 victory in 10 innings.

Designated hitter Robert Maddox crushed a solo home run deep to right field in the top of the 10th inning to lift the Mustangs on getaway day.

“It was definitely one of those dogfights,” Grand Junction manager Tony Diaz said. “I’m very proud of the effort, though. We fell behind 5-1, and every time they scored, we scored and answered back. It was just one of those days. Nevertheless, to be playing extra innings when you give up 10, 12 runs, it shows the kind of character we have.”

The Rockies (19-17) entered the game tied with Ogden for first place in the South Division and could have had a one-game lead had they been able to shut down the Mustangs in the final three innings. Ogden lost 9-6 to Helena later Wednesday night.

With two games left in the first half, the Rockies need to win the first two games of this weekend’s series in Idaho Falls and hope Ogden loses one to Orem.

If the two teams are tied after Saturday’s game, Ogden wins the first-half title by virtue of its record against Grand Junction.

Grand Junction closer Jesse Meaux gave up two runs in the to top of the ninth to lose a 10-9 lead.

The Rockies, who scored in every inning except the seventh and 10th, took a 10-9 lead when catcher Chris Cowell doubled off the right-field wall, took third on a passed ball and came home on Juan Ciriaco’s sacrifice fly.

But Meaux couldn’t close it out, allowing back-to-back singles, a sacrifice fly and a soft, two-run single to shallow center to the Mustangs’ No. 9 hitter, Zach Vincej, for an 11-10 Billings lead before getting out of the inning.

True to their nature, though, the Rockies responded in the bottom of the ninth.

Matt Wessinger lined a single to center and stole second. Jeff Popick fouled out, but a wild pitch sent Wessinger to third. After Julian Yan grounded out, another wild pitch sent Wessinger home with the tying run. Ryan Garvey grounded out, but again, the bullpen couldn’t get the job done.

Jordan Mejia, who picked up his first win of the season earlier in the home stand, gave up the no-doubt home run to Maddox with one out, then got two ground balls.

Grand Junction didn’t have another comeback, despite getting runners on first and second. Ben Waldrip walked, and Jason Stolz chopped a single to third. Ciriaco, the Rockies’ second-leading hitter, grounded into a rare game-ending double play.

“It didn’t work out,” Diaz said. “We still had a runner on second base and one of our best hitters at the plate. We had runners at first and second, 2-0 (in the count), and the guy got it in on him.”

Grand Junction, which leaves this afternoon for Idaho Falls, fell behind 5-1 after 1½ innings, but by scoring in each of the first six innings, it was able to stay in the game. Ryan Warner lasted four innings in his third start of the season, allowing six runs on seven hits. He walked two and struck out five.

A three-run fifth gave the Rockies their first lead, 8-6, when David Dahl singled and Wessinger reached on an error. Popick’s sacrifice bunt was thrown away by Billings pitcher Jon Moscot, scoring Dahl. Yan followed with a two-run double to left-center.

Billings center fielder Beau Amaral doubled three times in the leadoff spot, going 3 for 5 with two RBI. He had one double on Tuesday. Billings had 14 hits and overcame five errors, four wild pitches and a passed ball to salvage one game in the three-game series, its first in Grand Junction.

The Rockies had 13 hits and one error, and Warner threw three wild pitches.

Seth Mejias-Bream hit a solo home run in the eighth for Billings (19-17), which was eliminated from contention for the first-half title in the North Division with its 4-3 loss Tuesday.

Alejandro Chacin had a rare pitching stat — he had a blown save and got the win, his third of the season. He threw the final two innings on what ended up being a staff day for both clubs, with each using six pitchers.

Chacin allowed the tying run in the ninth, which caused his blown save, but was sent back out for the 10th and got the ground ball the Mustangs had to have.

Three Grand Junction pitchers were unable to hold leads — Rayan Gonzales, Raul Fernandez and Meaux — and Mejia (1-2) took the loss.

“Our pitching was unable to put the foot down,” Diaz said. “We had a few leadoff walks (two) that ended up scoring, a ton of batters 0-2, 1-2 that ended up getting base hits. We were unable to finish them off. That was the deal from a pitching standpoint.”


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