Just pitching in
Chukars' Caramo ends GJ Rockies' season with solid outing
After the Grand Junction Rockies tipped their cap to their fans Wednesday night, they tipped them to Yender Caramo.
The Idaho Falls starting pitcher beat Grand Junction 5-2 in Game 3 of the Pioneer League South Division playoffs at Suplizio Field, the third time in the past month he’s beaten the Rockies.
The Chukars advance to the Pioneer League championship series starting in Idaho Falls on Saturday against Helena, which swept Great Falls.
The Rockies’ second season ended 36-43.
Caramo allowed two runs on only two hits, striking out six in seven innings.
Both runs came in the first inning on a towering home run just inside the foul pole by Ryan McMahon, the 12th of his first year as a professional.
“Their pitcher was around the zone a lot,” McMahon said. “He wasn’t around the middle of the zone, he was around the corners a lot. We wanted to swing early, and we did. Maybe we gave him too many quick innings swinging early, but my hat’s off to him.”
Caramo’s performance came on the heels of Zach Jemiola’s Game 2 gem that forced Game 3. Jemiola threw 8 1/3 innings and allowed only four hits in the Rockies’ 7-1 victory.
“You’ve got to tip your cap to the starting pitcher for them tonight,” Grand Junction manager Anthony Sanders said. “He had our number this year.
“He kept a lot of our young hitters off balance, mixed his pitches up. Hats off to them. They’re a great ball team over there, and I hope they represent (the South Division) well.”
After McMahon’s home run, which scored Cesar Galvez after he walked and stole second to lead off the inning, Caramo retired 10 straight batters. Jordan Patterson broke that string with a two-out single in the fourth, but then the next 10 Rockies were set down.
The leadoff walk to Galvez was the only one surrendered by Idaho Falls. Kyle Bartsch struck out four of the seven batters he faced in the final two innings for the save.
Three home runs did the damage for Idaho Falls, two solo shots by Michael Antonio and one by Humberto Arteaga. In between, Idaho Falls scored twice in the fourth off starter Blake Shouse on four consecutive hits.
The Rockies, though, hung in on defense, turning inning-ending double plays in the first and third innings. Shortstop Zach Osborne made a diving stop on a ball headed to center field in the third, and, from his belly, started a double play, flipping the ball to Galvez, who made the pivot with ease. The defensive play of the game couldn’t spark the offense, though.
“Oh yeah, every time there’s a runner on first I’m thinking double play,” Osborne said. “It was one of those plays I had to give it all I’ve got and reach as far as I could to get it. Luckily I got it and turned the double play.”
Carlos Estevez pitched out of a jam in the seventh, leaving the bases loaded without allowing a run to score. That gave the Rockies a chance, but nothing was falling against the Chukars’ pitching.
“That pitcher’s tough. I think that’s the third time he’s gotten us this year,” first baseman Correlle Prime said. “He’s obviously doing something right. We had our chances.
“He didn’t miss much tonight. I know he didn’t miss to me. I didn’t see a fastball since my first at-bat. He didn’t miss at all. They had the best hitting team in the league this year, and we competed. Hopefully they go on and win the thing.”
Grand Junction 7, Idaho Falls 1: Jemiola paused before he took the mound in the first game of the day. The 19-year-old pitcher for the Rockies was going to savor every moment of what will undoubtedly be his final start at Suplizio Field.
“I was thinking that, right as I stepped on the mound today, just did one of these (paused) and took a deep breath and said, ‘Last start here, go big.’ It worked out pretty well,” Jemiola said.
You could say that. Jemiola threw one of his best games in the biggest came of his career, going 8 1/3 innings to force the decisive third game.
Jemiola threw 89 pitches, 68 for strikes, and at one point retired 15 batters in a row. Daniel Rockett doubled to lead off the second, but the Chukars didn’t have another base runner until the seventh.
Jemiola really wanted to finish what he started, but after issuing a one-out walk to Elier Hernandez in the top of the ninth, Grand Junction manager Anthony Sanders lifted him for Peter Tago.
Jemiola protested a little bit as the midday crowd pleaded to let him finish. He fist-bumped each of his infielders who had gathered ‘round and left to cheers. He pointed to his parents, who were sitting behind home plate, as he headed for the dugout.
“He already had his mind set, but I was pretty bummed,” Jemiola said.
All seven of Grand Junction’s runs came with two out, and the six-run sixth inning, produced by five consecutive hits, all after a two-out walk to McMahon, was more than even Jemiola was hoping to get. Jairo Rosario added a solo home run in the seventh.
“That was crazy,” Jemiola said. “Going into the sixth, I was just, ‘All right, just get me a run, I know I can do this.’ All of a sudden, a run. Three runs, let’s do it. Five? All right. Shoot, six? Why not? Let’s go.’ I knew I had it there. I was pretty confident after that.”