Grand Junction Rockies recap, July 5, 2017
Orem 11, Grand Junction 7
Tuesday at Suplizio Field
Grand Junction 5-11, Orem 11-5
The Rockies sported blue jerseys with red and white lettering on the front and blue numerals, outlined in red, with white stars, for the holiday. Shortstop Ryan Vilade wore a red-and-white striped sleeve on his right arm. The Rockies also wore commemorative caps. The grounds crew changed the paint colors on the GJ behind home plate to blue with red highlights, and mowed a star pattern around the pitcher’s mound and stripes in the outfield.
Grand Junction loves fireworks, with 5,267 fans nearly filling Suplizio Field. The outfield bleachers were not open for seating because of the fireworks show. The Rockies’ attendance record is 6,402, set on July 4, 2015.
On the mound
Justin Valdespina threw four solid innings but needed a shut-down inning in the fifth. Instead, he gave up three runs and gave the Owlz some momentum. He scattered seven hits and gave up four runs, but got himself out of trouble in the fourth, when he struck out two and got a grounder to short after loading the bases.
“Honestly, the fifth inning is really the one where you want the close-out inning after we scored five, and then they come back and you give up three,” Grand Junction manager Frank Gonzales said. “The momentum kind of switched there. I talked to Valde and said, ‘You’re doing your best, but it’s nice to have a shutout inning after you score five runs.’ ‘’
The wheels came off in the eighth, when Orem scored six runs off Colton Hathcock and Tommy Doyle, five credited to Hathcock. Doyle threw 21 pitches, only seven for strikes, and had two wild pitches.
“Unfortunately Doyle is still trying to find his timing. We’re going to continue to give him innings and hopefully he’ll figure it out soon,” Gonzales said.
After Doyle walked the bases loaded, Jefry Valdez came on and got a quick fly ball to center to end the inning.
At the plate
Todd Czinege hit a three-run home run to center in the Rockies’ five-run fourth inning, measured at 415 feet with an exit speed of 103 mph. Shael Mendoza hit a leadoff home run in the bottom of the first and finished 4 for 5, boosting his average to .473. He was a triple from the cycle.
In the field
Grand Junction got its first look at second-round draft pick Ryan Vilade, who made several nice plays at shortstop. He gloved one ball, spun and threw the runner out, and charged a couple of choppers, fielding and throwing on the run. He made one fielding error and first baseman Chad Spanberger made two nice stretches at first. Spanberger also started an unconventional 3-6 putout, fielding a ball for the out at first, then, after hesitating, he threw to Vilade, who ran down Torii Hunter Jr., at third. One run scored when Spanberger threw to Vilade.
The key inning
Orem scored six runs in the eighth inning on only four hits. Three Grand Junction pitchers worked in the inning, combining to walk four and hit another batter. Ryan Vega singled home a pair of runs and finished with four RBI. The Rockies put up five runs in the fourth, three on Czinege’s third home run of the season. Spanberger doubled Vilade home from first, and Hidekel Gonzalez doubled to the wall in left-center and scored on a two-out single to left by Mendoza.
Around the diamond
Second baseman Jonathan Piron, who spent 2015 and much of the 2016 season in Grand Junction, has been released by Colorado. Piron was hitting .235 in short-season Class A Boise, playing in nine games. Signed in 2013 out of the Dominican Republic, Piron never rose above Class A, opening last season in Asheville. His best season was 2015, when he hit .312 for Grand Junction, with 40 RBI. He hit .299 for the GJ Rockies last season, driving in 42. Piron played in the Pioneer-Northwest League All-Star game last season. ... Jeffri Ocando is the Pioneer League pitcher of the week. He went 2-0 in a pair of starts with a 0.82 ERA. The 18-year-old right-hander from Lagunillas, Venezuela, allowed one earned run on six hits in 11 innings of work. He’s the first Grand Junction pitcher of the week since Parker French received the honor in 2015.
Orem at Grand Junction, 6:40 p.m., Suplizio Field
Starting pitchers: Logan Longwith, GJ (1-1, 10.80 ERA) vs. Chris Rodriguez, Orem (1-1, 9.82 ERA)
TV: Ch. 16 (KGJT)
They said it
“What’s interesting for baseball players, guys leave the field and don’t get to see the fireworks. Us staff members run back in and hear the bang-bang but don’t always get to see the show. ... Hopefully some of the guys will stick around in the dugout and watch after the game and catch some of the excitement (after the loss, the players all left the field). Usually you get a good crowd on the Fourth of July. It just feels like baseball. It’s baseball weather, it’s 100 degrees, so it’s great.” — Frank Gonzales on what’s special about a July 4 baseball game.
— Patti Arnold, The Daily Sentinel