Three GJ Rockies pitchers combine on one-hitter
Zach Jemiola wasn’t feeling great before Sunday’s baseball game.
That’s when he knew it could be a special day.
“When I came on the field and started stretching out and playing catch I said, ‘Man, I’m kind of tired today. This is going to be a tough one,’ ” the Grand Junction Rockies’ starting pitcher said of the hot, humid afternoon.
“I get excited when I don’t feel good. I’m ready to compete harder. I don’t have my stuff, so see what you can do with it.”
The Orem Owlz couldn’t do much.
In arguably the best-pitched and best-played game in the Rockies’ short GJ history, Jemiola put on a show in front of his parents at Suplizio Field in a three-pitcher combined one-hitter. He retired the side in order in six of his seven innings in a 4-1 victory over Orem.
The Owlz sent only 29 men to the plate in the game, two over the minimum.
“Credit to Zach, but the whole pitching staff, one hit all day and two base runners. They were lights-out today. I’m happy for those guys,” Grand Junction manager Anthony Sanders said.
“Jemiola was the leader out there today. He’s been that way since Day 1. He’s prepared the right way and comes out here and just pitches.”
Jemiola (2-0) allowed one run on one hit, didn’t walk a batter and struck out three. His velocity was a little lower than usual, partly because of the heat, but he said he had better control of his pitches, especially his sinker.
And he’s learned how to pitch since his injury-plagued 2012 season.
“Just attacking the zone,” he said. “Down in the zone is way better. I never knew that could work. In high school you throw the pitch up and no one will hit it. It’s just different experience.”
Carlos Yan and Scott Firth followed suit with one perfect inning each, with Firth earning his first save.
Jemiola let his defense do the work, getting 10 ground-ball outs.
“Everything was working, my defense was stellar today. I gotta give them props. They worked their butts off,” he said. “They were (hit) right to them. High intensity today, everybody had my back.”
Kody Eaves got the only hit of the day for Orem, a base hit to right to lead off the third inning.
Cambric Moye grounded to second, but the throw to second from Dom Nunez to Emerson Jimenez was a bit late, as was the relay to first. Raul Linares bunted the runners over and a sacrifice fly to right by Riley Good scored the Owlz’ only run.
That was it for base runners for Orem (4-7), and the Rockies (8-3) scored three of their four runs in the first inning.
After a flat performance Saturday night, Sanders got the Rockies on the move early. Jimenez beat out a bunt single to lead off the first and Zach Osborne bunted him to second, nearly beating the throw for a hit. Jordan Patterson walked and Correlle Prime singled home one run.
“That’s always the rally starter,” Prime said of the bunting game Sanders used early. “You put the defense on their heels. Jimenez had a great bunt to lead off and Zach did too. I don’t know how the catcher snagged that one. It gets the crowd into it early.
“Jordan walked and I got a base hit through the left side, it just happens like that. Baseball’s a crazy game.”
With two out, Raimel Tapia laced a triple just inside the bag at first that skipped to the right-field corner, and the Rockies had more than enough run support for Jemiola.
“We kind of got back to what got us in the situation early in the year as far as being aggressive and doing the little things right again,” Sanders said.
Osborne added a solo home run in the third off Victor Alcantara (0-3), who only allowed four hits himself and struck out five in three innings.
Jemiola got involved in the defense, sprinting to cover first on a ground ball that Prime fielded to his right, and chasing after a roller down the third-base line that rolled just foul.
“I was pretty gassed on those plays,” Jemiola said with a grin. “Usually doing drills it’s not bad, but when you’re throwing in the fifth and sixth inning and you start getting those plays, you say, ‘I’m getting pretty tired right now.’ I didn’t feel tired on the mound, which is good. I’m starting to build up stamina and starting to feel better going longer.”
Prime, who is Jemiola’s roommate, kidded him about hustling to first.
“He should be used to this thin air by now, get his butt over there,” Prime said, laughing. “That shows some maturity on his part, making sure he gets his conditioning in and being in shape so he can survive out there and throw seven innings.
“He’s learned a lot from his injuries and sitting back and watching guys. It’s starting to unfold right before his eyes.”