GJ Rockies close regular season with 4-3 thriller over Raptors
Last summer at this time, the Casper Ghosts played out the string and, with rumors swirling about their future, bade goodbye to Wyoming.
Fast forward one year — how things have changed.
The Grand Junction Rockies wrapped up the Pioneer League regular season Thursday night with a thrilling 4-3 win over Ogden at Suplizio Field, where they drew 101,496 fans this season. Casper attracted 47,982 in 2011.
Today, they start the bonus season, their first playoff game since 2001.
The Rockies and Raptors play at 1:05 this afternoon at Suplizio Field (gates open at 11 a.m.) in Game 1 of the best-of-three series for the South Division championship, sending Eddie Butler (7-1) to the mound against Lindsey Caughel (3-2).
Thursday was for getting some at-bats for players who took the past couple of games off, and for others to get a day to rest. And they saved a fantastic finish for the finale.
After Brian Rike (4-3) stranded a runner at second base in the top of the ninth, Michael Ramirez was hit by a pitch with one out in the bottom half.
Juan Ciriaco, who replaced Cesar Galvez in the sixth inning after Galvez reinjured his right shoulder hitting into a double play, sliced a double into the right-field corner.
Ramirez, a catcher who was the Rockies’ designated hitter Thursday, took off as soon as Ciriaco made contact and was waved all the way around by manager Tony Diaz. He slid across the plate ahead of the throw for the winning run.
“I saw the ball in the corner and I said, ‘Go,’ ” Ramirez said. “I think my teammates are ready for tomorrow. Everybody is (together).”
Ramirez joined the Rockies in late July after a rash of errors to the catchers, and now he’s in the playoffs.
“It’s really fun,” he said. “Better than Casper last year, and this year I started in Modesto and went to Tri-City and now here. It’s a beautiful year for me. Everybody supports us here really good.”
David Dahl hit a pair of solo home runs, one to left field in the first inning and another to right in the fifth, giving the center fielder nine for the season and showing he does have power to go with his gap-ball speed.
Dahl’s 3-for-4 night boosted his batting average to .379, giving the league MVP the regular-season batting title.
“We’re gonna build off that win right there,” Dahl said. “That was a big win, and we just want to build off that. We’re trying to work on some stuff and get ready for tomorrow and the next couple of games against them.”
Julian Yan, after striking out in his first two at-bats, hit his 16th home run of the season to straightaway center field, giving him the Pioneer League home run title by one over Orem’s Wade Hinkle.
“The first two at-bats I was in a little bit of a hurry, trying to do too much,” Yan said. “They gave me that home run when they saw I was late on the fastball tonight and they threw me off-speed.”
Before the game, dubbed “Fan Appreciation Night,” the Rockies honored the families who hosted players and the coaching staff this summer and gave away several prizes.
Ogden scored a pair of runs in the third inning and one in the fourth off starter Matt Carasiti, who gave up three runs on five hits in five innings. He walked one and struck out three. Grand Junction overcame four errors by out-hitting Ogden 11-4.
The Rockies finished the regular season 43-33, Ogden 44-32.
“We got hot the last half of the season, and we just have to carry that to tomorrow,” Dahl said. “Tomorrow starts a whole new season.”