Falling short

GJ Rockies run out of rallies in playoff loss to OgdenNew Cal 2 column format

Grand Junction Rockies catcher Michael Ramirez shows the ball to home plate umpire Blake Mickelson as Mickelson calls out Ogden’s Jeremy Rathjen at the plate in the fourth inning of the Rockies’ 4-3, 11-inning loss.

Cesar Galvez hesitated for a nanosecond.

Turns out, the nanosecond was enough time for the Ogden Raptors to make the decisive play Friday in their 4-3 win in Game 1 of the Pioneer League South Division playoffs at Suplizio Field.

With two out in the bottom of the 11th inning, Galvez, the speediest guy on the team, was on third, with Max White on first. The first pitch to Jason Stolz glanced off the glove of Ogden catcher Eric Smith and rolled about halfway between the plate and the backstop.

Galvez checked the ball and took off. Smith gathered the ball and flipped it to reliever Alan Garcia, who lunged for the plate and blocked Galvez from getting there.

“The last inning obviously Galvez was trying to make something happen,” Grand Junction manager Tony Diaz said. “That’s the spirit of this ballclub. I’m very proud of that.

“It’s a tough read and hey, he almost made it.”

Garcia spiked the baseball as the Raptors congratulated one another and the Rockies dejectedly left the field.

Smith’s quick reaction prevented the Rockies from battling back for a third time to tie the game. Down 2-0 in the fourth, Julian Yan hit a home run to center field. and Matt Wessinger singled and scored on a two-out single by Stolz in the seventh.

After Ogden scored an unearned run off closer Scott Oberg in the 10th on a double error — Wessinger failed to field a ground ball at third and White bobbled it in left, allowing Smith to score from second — the Rockies came back again.

With one out, Stolz punched a single to right, but was erased on a ground ball by Juan Ciriaco, who beat the throw to first to stay out of a game-ending double play.

On an 0-2 count, David Dahl laced a single up the middle, sending Ciriaco to third. On the first pitch, Wilfredo Rodriguez drove an RBI single to right to tie the game 3-3.

“All game long they’d been pitching me curveballs,” Rodriguez said. “When I was in the dugout I was thinking about that at-bat, thinking curveball. I stayed back and hit it to right field.”

Yan, though, got tied up and swung through a high pitch to end the inning.

Jesse Meaux gave up a one-out walk to Noel Cuevas in the 11th. Cuevas stole second and Paul Hoenecke hit a 9-iron into shallow left field.

Ogden manager Damon Berryhill didn’t hesitate, waving Cuevas around third. White’s throw on the run was to the infield side of the plate and Ogden had a 4-3 lead.

“That’s a very frustrating way to give them the runs,” Stolz said. “All of us as a team and the coaches are proud of how we kept coming back to tie it up and put ourselves in position to win it, we just didn’t come through.”

Correlle Prime gave the Rockies a chance in the bottom of the 11th, driving a single up the middle. Galvez came in to run and took second on Wessinger’s sacrifice bunt. Michael Ramirez grounded out to short, sending Galvez to third, and White walked, putting the winning run on first.

Stolz, who had singled in his two previous at-bats, never got a chance to swing the bat.

“It was back and forth, a very exciting game and a very emotional way to end it right there on a passed ball by the catcher,” Stolz said. “If you go down, you kind of want to go down swinging.”

“We went down two-nothing and we just kept coming back,” said starting pitcher Eddie Butler, who gave up two runs on six hits and struck out six in six innings. “We fought back all day. We had some good pitching out of the bullpen and got some clutch hits.

“We were down to our last strike a couple of times and kept getting hits to score runs.”

Now the Rockies’ characteristic of being able to “turn the page,” as Diaz says, will be put to the test, needing to sweep two games in Ogden (45-32) today and Sunday to extend the season. Jayson Aquino (4-0, 1.87 ERA) takes the mound for Grand Junction (43-34) tonight. The Rockies are 2-6 at Ogden this season.

“You do feel the pressure when it’s do or die and it could be your last time out there for the season,” Stolz said. “We’ve all been through these situations coming up through the ranks playing. We should be able to play a normal game.”


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