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Mistake-prone Rox open final homestand with loss

Juan Ciriaco leaps over Idaho Falls’ Ethan Chapman to complete a double play Saturday in the Grand Junction Rockies’ 12-3 loss to the Chukars at Suplizio Field.



QUICKREAD

■ Gates will open at 3:30 this afternoon for the Rockies’ 6:05 p.m. game. Team officials are expecting a big crowd, with fireworks to follow the game.



This was not the kind of reception — wedding or welcoming — the Grand Junction Rockies had in mind.

After new Grand Junction High School baseball coach Donnie Alexander and his bride, Barbara, exchanged vows in the right-field bullpen area of Suplizio Field and threw out the first pitches of their married life Saturday night, the Rockies didn’t give them much to cheer about in a 12-3 loss to Idaho Falls.

As is his custom, Grand Junction manager Tony Diaz discussed the game with his team and then put it in the past. He joked that the game was more like the club has played on Sunday afternoons this season, so he’s happy today’s game starts at 6:05 p.m.

“This was our day game,” he said. “We had a Sunday routine, we hit in the cage (and didn’t take batting practice on the field), so there you go.”

The Rockies lost a half-game on Ogden in the overall and second-half Pioneer League South standings — the Raptors’ home game against Orem was rained out — and the momentum they had built on a grueling 11-game road trip after going 7-4.

Grand Junction (39-32, 18-14) is 1 1/2 games behind Ogden and one-half game ahead of Orem in the second-half standings and 1 1/2 games behind Ogden and 4 1/2 games ahead of Orem in the overall standings with five games to play. Orem plays a doubleheader at Ogden today.

No one knows better than the players what the numbers are heading into tonight’s game.

“They know. But they know it’s the same game,” Diaz said. “We talked, and you can magnify it however much you want, or you can come out (and play). It’s a game. Focus on the things you can control.

“Realize to be where we are, we’ve put ourselves in this position. It’s not like some magic that we showed up here.”

Nine singles in the second inning against Matt Carasiti (3-4), five to open the inning and four more after an out was finally recorded, put the Rockies in a 6-0 hole after 1 1/2 innings, and it didn’t get any better.

Eleven Chukars went to the plate in the second, and they played station-to-station baseball, perfectly content to score one run at a time until two came home on the ninth single of the inning. Carasiti struck out Rainier Bello, and Juan Ciriaco made a running, off-balance throw across his body to get Parker Morin out at first to end it.

Idaho Falls put it out of reach in the third with some help from the Rockies’ defense, which committed four errors in the inning and a season-high seven in the game.

“It was one of those games. The Yankees have games like that sometimes,” Diaz said. “The pitching was up in the zone for the most part, and you saw the defense. It’s hard to overcome that many bases.”

Ethan Chapman lined a three-run home run to right, and two more runs scored on three straight errors and a base hit. Ashley Graeter had four errors at third base, Ciriaco three at second, and the five in the third inning resulted in the five unearned runs.

The Rockies also turned a season-high five double plays behind the five pitchers who worked.

Diaz noted his club has been resilient all season, and he expects nothing less the final five games. The “Purple Push” campaign was in full force, with T-shirts and signs all over the ballpark, and the players will be in their Sunday purple jerseys today. Diaz wants the young Rockies to take some energy from the hype, but keep it all in perspective.

“Again, you can make it as big as you want to make it,” Diaz said. “The whole challenge with them, and in life with your own kids, don’t let them get too high on their horses, but don’t beat them down so much that they can’t get back up. We know. Everybody knows. We’ll be fine. It’s one game, and hopefully we learn from that, and we’ll go from there.”


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