Grand Junction Rockies recap, Aug. 5, 2017
Grand Junction 12, Helena 6
Saturday at Suplizio Field
Grand Junction 20-23, 2-3 second half, Helena 17-25, 2-2.
At the plate
Back-to-back home runs in the bottom of the first inning allowed Grand Junction to take a 3-2 lead and the Rockies rolled from there, scoring 10 runs on 10 hits in the first four innings.
After a week of inconsistent offensive production, the outburst was what Grand Junction manager Frank Gonzales was looking for.
“This is exactly the type of team we are,” Gonzales said. “I think we can keep it rolling. We’ve been keeping it simple and (Rockies hitting coach) Lee (Stevens) has been great with adjustments on these guys. Hits are a byproduct of all of that.”
Shael Mendoza led off with a walk, then stole second base, where he stayed until there were two outs. Chad Spanberger launched the first home run, which barely cleared the wall in right field, and Casey Golden followed with a towering drive that landed on the Lincoln Park Golf Course beyond left field. At that point, Grand Junction led 3-2 with all five runs in the game coming on home runs.
The Rockies pieced together another two-out rally in the second inning. Javier Guevara led off with a single, but two outs were quickly recorded. Mendoza singled to put runners on the corners and Pedro Gonzalez drove them both in with a triple that hit high on the fence in center field.
Tied 5-5 in the third, quality base running book-ended an extra-base surge for the Rockies. Golden led off with a walk, stole second, reached third on a sacrifice fly and scored on a wild pitch.
With two outs, Todd Czinege and Kennard McDowell hit back-to-back doubles. Czinege’s hit was a traditional line drive into a gap, but McDowell’s was a pop-up behind first base that he stretched into a double.
McDowell continued his heads-up base running when he advanced to third on a wild pitch as Mendoza drew a walk. Mendoza delayed his attempt at stealing second, allowing McDowell to slide in safely at home and give the Rockies an 8-5 lead.
Helena scored in the top of the fourth and Grand Junction answered with a pair of runs. Spanberger doubled and Ramon Marcelino ripped a two-out triple. Guevara singled, lifting the Rockies to a 10-6 lead.
If McDowell’s name rings a bell, that’s because he played in the 2014 Alpine Bank Junior College World Series with Spartanburg Methodist College (South Carolina).
The shortstop, who signed a free agent contract with the Rockies last week, made his home debut for the Rookie-level club.
During his time at JUCO, McDowell hit .231 with a triple and started in all four of the Pioneers’ games.
He’s the second player from SMC to appear for the Grand Junction Rockies, joining teammate Wes Rogers, and the third to appear in the Pioneer League. Zach Shields was McDowell’s teammate at both SMC and UNC-Wilmington, and played for Billings last season.
McDowell said playing on Suplizio Field again was a strange feeling.
“Man, it was a little weird, but it felt good playing again in Grand Junction,” he said. “Kinda familiar with the place and it’s good to be back, you know? I’m excited, man. I know my family is excited because it’s a childhood dream come true.”
On the mound
Rain fell heavily from the third inning until the fifth, but the game progressed without delay. The sloppy conditions made it tricky for pitchers, though, as both staffs struggled.
Grand Junction starting pitcher Anderson Amarista lasted only 3 2/3 innings and gave up nine hits, six runs and two home runs. He struck out six with only one walk. Brandon Lambright and Hayden Roberts combined to strike out seven batters in 3 1/3 innings with no walks, but Alexander Martinez walked three straight in the ninth inning and Jefry Valdez had to come in to get the final out.
Around the diamond
The Ogden Raptors had three pitchers take a no-hitter deep into the ninth inning, where a two-out single from the Billings Mustangs broke it up. Starting pitcher Edwin Uceta, a Dodgers’ prospect who spent time in the Dominican Summer League, pitched six perfect innings with five strikeouts.
Helena at GJ, 5 p.m., Suplizio Field
Starting pitchers: Jeffri Ocando, GJ (4-0, 4.14 ERA) vs. Nelson Hernandez, HEL (5-0, 5.40 ERA)
TV: Ch. 16 (KGJT)
— Matt Meyer, The Daily Sentinel