Exhibition thriller

GJ Rockies score 11-10 victory over Greeley

As Greeley’s Daniel Bolte waits, Raimiel Tapia of the Grand Junction Rockies slides into third to kick off a rally in the bottom of the fifth inning of Tuesday’s game at Suplizio Field.

Ramiel Tapia was trying to hit the cutoff man.

The new center fielder for the Grand Junction Rockies got his first experience with balls carrying in the Colorado air Tuesday night, and also got his first game-winning hit.

Tapia delivered a base hit to left in the bottom of the seventh inning to score Cole Norton for an 11-10 exhibition win over the Greeley Grays, a collegiate summer team, at Suplizio Field.

“It turned into a real ballgame right toward the end right there,” first-year manager Anthony Sanders said. “I wasn’t expecting that but give the other team credit, they gave us a good first test and I love the way our guys fought back. There’s no quit in these guys.”

Tapia’s throw from center on a base hit up the middle in the first inning whizzed past Correlle Prime, right on target to a waiting Jose Briceno for a crowd-pleasing third out at the plate. After the Grays had touched GJ starter Manuel Montilla for two runs in the first inning, Nate Wilson singled up the middle.

Tapia scooped up the ball and came up throwing, and after DJ Knott scored for a 3-0 lead, Grant Buchanan was tagged out by Briceno on the outside edge of the batter’s box.

“I tried to hit the cutoff man and the ball just carried,” Tapia said through Tony Diaz, the club’s development supervisor. “I was aggressive to the ball, that was number one, and I was trying to throw the ball through Correlle’s waist and it happened to (get to the plate).”

It took the Rockies a couple of innings to get over their nerves, but they showed the resiliency that got the 2012 club to the Pioneer League playoffs, scoring runs in bunches.

“We had some good situational hitting, guys ran the bases well,” Sanders said. “We got a sac bunt down. These guys will be ready. It feels good to have some fans in the stands and have the lights come on.”

Four runs came across in the third inning on three base hits and an error.

After Greeley reclaimed the lead 5-4 in the fourth and added two in the fifth off former Colorado Mesa University pitcher Aaron Corwin, the Rockies strung together eight hits in the fifth, sending 11 men to the plate and scoring six runs.

Tapia, who went 3 for 4 with a sacrifice bunt, doubled and took third on an error in the outfield to lead off the fifth. Three singles, a wild pitch and a double by Zach Osborne produced four runs, and Osborne scored on a base hit up the middle by Jairo Rosario with the infield in.

Tapia drove in a run with his second hit of the inning, a base hit to right.

Greeley, though, got a three-run home run from Fily Perez, a redshirt freshman at Colby (Kan.) Community College, off Corwin, who was hoping to impress the club enough to warrant a contract after a good showing at Saturday’s open tryout.

He was visibly nervous, unable to keep the ball down in the strike zone.

“Our starter was a little nervous and Aaron, I felt so bad for him,” Sanders said. “From what I saw the other day until today, I could tell he was nervous. Hopefully he gets another opportunity and gets out there and relaxes, because I’ve seen what he has. I’m really rooting for that guy. That was the hardest thing for me all day was to walk out there and take the ball from that kid.”

Carlos Yan replaced him, getting the third out, and allowed only a base hit in the seventh, getting a slick double play to end it.

In the bottom of the seventh, Norton, who went to Regis Jesuit High School before college at St. Mary’s (Calif.) College, lined a one-out single to right and took third on Emerson Jimenez’s single to right.

Up came Tapia, who said he told himself in the top of the seventh he was going to get his chance in a tie game.

He did, scoring Norton and bringing the young Rockies out of the dugout to pound him on the back as he rounded first.

After going out in order in the first two innings against Colorado Mesa sophomore Matt Allen, the Rockies finished with 17 hits. Garvey went 3 for 4, and every player except Prime got at least one hit.

Four pitchers worked, with Montilla facing nine batters and allowing three runs on two hits, all in the first inning. Jordan Mejia, who flew in from Pasco, Wash., on Monday night, was solid in his 2 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on two hits.

“I just tried to do my role, tried to compete and throw strikes,” he said. “It’s my second year here and I’m trying to set an example for the other pitchers.

“I was a little nervous, but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t control. I got off the plate last night late (10 p.m.) and it took me awhile to get into the swing of things.”

Thursday, the Rockies play for real against Ogden. First pitch is at 7:05 p.m. at Suplizio.

“I’m pretty excited from what I saw tonight,” Sanders said. “I think we’ll be all right.”


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