GJ Rockies end three-game skid
A big second inning and a bullish bullpen allowed the Grand Junction Rockies to snap a three-game losing streak with a 9-6 victory over the Orem Owlz in Pioneer League baseball Saturday night in Orem, Utah.
After the Owlz (4-9) reached Rockies starter Patrick Johnson for three runs on four hits in 1 2/3 innings, Grand Junction threw five more arms at the Owlz, limiting them to three runs on four hits the rest of the way.
Rockies manager Tony Diaz described the pitching as shaky at times, but overall good enough to win the game. He singled out Kyle Roliard, who retired all four batters he faced, and Shawn Stuart, who pitched 2 1/3 innings of scoreless, hitless relief to notch the victory, his second of the season.
“Roliard did a nice job. Stuart did a nice job. They were bright spots,” Diaz said.
The Rockies (6-7) got on the board first with a five-run outburst on five hits in the second inning.
Jeff Popick doubled in Jason Stolz with the first run. Julian Yan moved Popick to third with a single, then stole second, and after two strikeouts, Juan Ciriaco hit a two-run double to center field. Max White and David Dahl drew walks to load the bases, and Matt Wessinger hit a two-run single to cap the scoring for a 5-0 lead.
The Owlz roared back for three runs in the bottom of the second, highlighted by a two-run single by Wendell Soto with two outs. Johnson hit the next batter with a pitch, ending his night, but Stuart stranded the two base runners he inherited.
Grand Junction made it 6-3 with a run in the third. After Popick opened with a double, Correlle Prime singled him home. The Rockies pushed their lead to 7-3 in the fourth as Dahl tripled home Max White, who led off the inning with a walk.
Orem closed the gap to 7-5 with two runs off reliever Mike Mason. After Mason surrendered a run in the sixth, Kyle Roliard relieved him and got the third out.
Rayan Gonzalez worked the eighth and allowed one run, then gave way to Scott Oberg, who was given a three-run cushion when the Rockies added two runs in the top of the ninth. Stolz doubled in a run and came home on two wild pitches.
Oberg struck out the first two Owlz he faced, then walked two before ending the game with a groundout.
“He wanted to make it a little dramatic, like we always do,” Diaz quipped.
Such drama happens frequently with Major League closers, too, Diaz added, but pitching coach Ryan Kibler visited the mound after the second walk to calm down Oberg.
“He gave (Oberg) some words of wisdom, and he was another man (against the final batter),” Diaz said.
■ Dahl was supposed to take the night off, but Cesar Galvez, batting in the No. 2 spot, had to leave the game in the first inning after two pitches because of a shoulder injury. Dahl finished Galvez’s at-bat, which was a strikeout credited to Galvez.
■ Dahl ran his hit streak to nine games when he tripled in the fourth inning.
■ Yan went 3 for 5 and extended his hitting streak to eight games.
■ Popick continued to swing a big bat. After hitting two home runs Friday night, he hit two doubles Saturday night. “He’s taking advantage of his opportunity,” Diaz said. “He’s going to get more opportunities based on what he’s doing. That’s the name of the game.”