Big Ben rings twice
Waldrip hits 2 home runs as Rockies put 1-4 trip in past
The couple sitting a few rows behind first base in the purple Rockies T-shirts with “Waldrip 40” on the back were whooping like proud parents.
Except they aren’t Ben Waldrip’s parents.
“I’ve got two fans up there,” the big first baseman for the Grand Junction Rockies said Tuesday night after he made his fans — and his folks — proud with a 4-for-4 night in the Rockies’ 7-5 victory over Orem at Suplizio Field.
Butch and Beth Austin just sort of adopted Waldrip as one of their favorite players, and when the club returned home from a 1-4 road trip, they met him in their new shirts.
“People like that make you happy to come to the park every day, especially when they give you the support they have,” Waldrip said. “He talks to me about huntin’ and fishin’ and I see him before every game. The games I sit the bench, he meets me on the other side of the dugout and we just talk about life for 10, 15 minutes. They’re great people.”
And when you start your career hitting .154, (6 for 39), sometimes talking huntin’ and fishin’ and life helps. Tuesday, Waldrip boosted his batting average 79 points to .233 with a single, double and two home runs.
“I needed it. I didn’t start the way I wanted,” he said. “No one wants to start like that, but the coaches worked with me and I’ve got to thank Tony (Diaz) for putting me back in the lineup.
“The big thing is settling down and trusting myself and getting my feet under me.”
Waldrip lined an RBI single to right field in the second inning, scoring Jeff Popick, who drew a leadoff walk. In the fourth, with Julian Yan on with a base hit, Waldrip hit his first professional home run to right field. Those two RBI doubled his total for the season, and he wasn’t done.
He hit a solo shot in the sixth for a 6-4 lead and after the Rockies added one run in the seventh, he hit a one-out double off the wall in left, steaming in just ahead of the throw.
“That’s one thing, I’ve been chasing pitchers’ pitches and getting myself out more than they’ve gotten me out. Today I settled in and made them pitch to me,” he said.
Waldrip, who stands 6-foot-6 and weighs 245 pounds, made a couple of small adjustments in his batting stance, got himself balanced in the box and it paid off.
“Drew has been working with him on relaxing and staying positive,” Diaz said. “He took a great bp today and I was really encouraged. This guy is coming. He’s a good kid, he works hard. I’m excited he was able to see the results of all the work he’s put in.
“We know that’s what he’s capable of doing; he was just putting too much pressure on himself.”
The top of the lineup did its job, too, with Matt Wessinger lacing a stand-up triple to lead off the third and scoring on David Dahl’s base hit up the middle. Dahl promptly stole second, took third on a fly ball to center and scored when Ryan Garvey grounded out to first.
Wessinger singled and scored when Dahl doubled and the throw from right field was off line.
Grand Junction (7-9) moved one game ahead of Orem into third place in the South Division of the Pioneer League by rapping out a dozen hits and getting solid pitching top to bottom.
Josh Mueller allowed four runs on five hits through the first four innings and Brian Rike, a converted outfielder, picked up his first win with two good innings in relief. Rike allowed one broken-bat single in the fifth inning after he hit the first man he faced, but got the next two batters to pop out, then struck out Jonathan Walsh.
He again walked the leadoff man in the sixth, but retired the next three batters. Kyle Roliard and Raul Fernandez held the lead over the next two innings and Jesse Meaux picked up his second save despite giving up a home run down the right-field line in the ninth.
The pitchers combined to walk seven and struck out six, allowing five runs on eight hits.
“We’re piecing it together. The last couple of weeks we’ve tried to limit the amount of walks we’ve had, which we still struggled with, but tonight after we walked them, it didn’t snowball,” Rike said. “It was, ‘All right, we walked him, nothing you can do about it, go on to the next batter. Get over it and go get the next one.’ ‘’
■ The Rockies signed free agent infielder Ashley Graeter on Tuesday. A shoulder injury to Cesar Galvez left Grand Junction with five infielders, two of whom are first basemen. Graeter played shortstop at Southern Mississippi and will wear No. 5.
Galvez has a right shoulder impingement and is listed as “week to week,” Diaz said. Graeter will be used only in an emergency the next few days as he gets in some work since he hasn’t played for several weeks.