Jemiola’s gem forces Game 3 of Pioneer League playoffs
Zach Jemiola paused before he took the mound Wednesday afternoon. The 19-year-old pitcher for the Grand Junction Rockies was going to savor every moment of what will undoubtedly be his final start at Suplizio Field.
“I was thinking that, right as I stepped on the mound today, just did one of these (paused) and took a deep breath and said, ‘Last start here, go big.’ It worked out pretty well,” Jemiola said.
You could say that. Jemiola threw one of his best games in the biggest came of his career, going 8 1/3 innings to lead the Rockies to a 7-1 victory over Idaho Falls in Game 2 of the Pioneer League South Division playoffs.
He threw 89 pitches, 68 for strikes. Jemiola gave up a solo home run to Daniel Rockett in the seventh inning after his offense gave him a 6-0 lead and at one point, Jemiola retired 15 in a row.
Rockett doubled to lead off the second, but the Chukars didn’t have another base runner until the seventh, when Hunter Dozier singled up the middle.
“I pretty much I thought I’d go all-out and see what happens and rely on my defense to back me up,” Jemiola said. “I knew Monday was a fluke. I knew they’d have my back tonight.”
He really wanted to finish what he started, but after issuing a one-out walk to Elier Hernandez in the top of the ninth, Grand Junction manager Anthony Sanders lifted him for Peter Tago.
Jemiola protested a little bit as the midday crowd pleaded to let him finish. He fist-bumped each of his infielders who had gathered ‘round, and left to cheers. He pointed to his parents, who were sitting behind home plate.
“He already had his mind set, but I was pretty bummed,” Jemiola said. “I wanted to stay in the game. I’ve never gone more than eight innings, so even going 8 1/3 was great. I was bummed, but I knew Tago would pick me up.”
He did, getting a pop fly to short and a strikeout to keep the Rockies’ season alive.
The offense finally got to Patrick Conroy in the sixth inning after fouling off pitch after pitch and going deep in the count the first five innings and running up the big left-hander’s pitch count. Conroy, who threw six perfect innings in his previous start at Suplizio last month, threw 90 pitches in 5 2/3 innings.
All seven of Grand Junction’s runs came with two out, and the six-run sixth inning started with a two-out walk to Ryan McMahon.
He took second on a wild pitch and scored on Jairo Rosario’s base hit to left, barely avoiding the tag at the plate. Rosario, down 1-2 in the count, fouled off four pitches before lining the base hit to left.
Rosario moved up on another wild pitch and scored on Jordan Patterson’s single off reliever Noel Arguelles. Correlle Prime doubled home Patterson and he and Zach Osborne, who reached on an infield single, scored on a double to right by Terry McClure.
Raimel Tapia, the 10th batter in the inning, singled to left, scoring McClure. Cesar Galvez, who had walked, was thrown out at third to end the inning.
Rosario added a solo home run to right in the seventh to send Grand Junction to the deciding third game Wednesday night.
Really, all Jemiola was hoping for was a run or two.
“That was crazy,” he said. “Going into the sixth, I was just, ‘All right, just get me a run, I know I can do this.’ All of a sudden, a run. Three runs, let’s do it. Five? All right. Shoot, six? Why not? Let’s go. I knew I had it there. I was pretty confident after that.”