GJ Rockies in Pioneer League playoffs after victory over Idaho Falls
He couldn’t help himself.
Sparkling cider dripping off his cap, Grand Junction Rockies manager Tony Diaz led the dance party on the field Monday night.
“Yeah….you have to (get caught up in it),” Diaz said after the club’s celebration.
His players hoisted him into the air as another shower of cider shot up from below.
The Rockies are in the Pioneer League playoffs.
“It’s a very exciting feeling, especially coming from so far and putting ourselves in a position the first year here,” said Cesar Galvez, who returned from the injured list Monday.
Not only did they get the help they needed from the Odgen Raptors, a 4-2 win over Orem, but the Rockies defeated Idaho Falls 9-5 so they could really celebrate.
“I’m glad we came out on top,” Diaz said. “We wanted to win this game and make it really special.”
The players knew in the sixth inning that Ogden had won, but they couldn’t celebrate other than some fist-bumps and pats on the back.
“We shook hands in the middle of the game,” center fielder and Pioneer League MVP David Dahl said. “We said we were going to celebrate after the game. We just had to stay even-keeled and come out and play hard every day and try to get wins. We got hot at the right time. We seem to do that a lot.”
When Max White caught the final out in left field, the Rockies jumped over the rail of the dugout and sprinted to second base as the coaching staff stood at the foul line, applauding their charges.
When the bottles of cider — remember, most of the players aren’t old enough to celebrate with the real stuff — were uncorked, the youngest team in the Pioneer League did what kids do.
They let the sweet, sticky stuff fly.
“Day one we said there’s something special about this group,” Diaz said. “Tonight we put the icing on the cake. This is the best group I think I’ve had as far as their resiliency and not giving up and look where we put ourselves. I’m so proud of each of them. It’s so amazing.”
The Rockies (41-32) play Ogden (43-30) at 1:05 p.m. Friday at Suplizio Field in the first game of a best-of-three series. Tickets go on sale at noon today in the Rockies’ offices at the stadium, 1315 North Ave.
Eddie Butler will skip today’s scheduled start and throw Game 1, with Monday’s winning pitcher, Jayson Aquino, starting Game 2.
The second and third game, if necessary, are in Ogden, with that winner traveling to the North Division winner for the first game, with Games 2 and 3 at the South champion.
It’s the first playoff berth for the Colorado Rockies’ Rookie affiliate since 2001, the first year the club was in Casper, Wyo. It’s also Diaz’s first time in the playoffs as a manager — he was the hitting coach in 2001.
“It means a lot, obviously from the standpoint that this is my first time as a manager going to the playoffs,” Diaz said. “It comes down to the kids. My hat’s off to the scouting department. We drafted and signed good character kids and that makes it easier on us. Without them, I would not be here talking to you about clinching a playoff spot.”
A five-run first inning was enough of a cushion for Aquino (4-0), who threw four perfect innings. A leadoff base hit in the fifth by Jin Ho Shin broke up the perfect game, but Aquino pitched into the seventh, allowing three runs on a single, double and triple and a throwing error. Brian Rike came on to get out of the inning and allowed one run in the eighth. Jonathan Vargas finished up in the ninth.
Carl Thomore’s three-run home run was the big hit in the first, but the 10-batter inning started with Cesar Galvez, who played in his first game since June 30 because of a right shoulder impingement.
Diaz got him into the action right off the bat, putting him in the leadoff spot, and he beat out an infield single.
“I didn’t know if I was going to come back this year (from the injury),” Galvez said through Diaz. “I worked really hard and I was so excited to be back in the lineup.”
Max White went 3 for 3 with a pair of triples and drove in four runs in the Rockies’ 14-hit attack.
The Rockies wrap up the series against Idaho Falls tonight, then face Ogden on Wednesday, with Jorge De La Rosa getting a rehab start, and Thursday, then roll right into the playoffs.
“Our team chemistry has been great from the first day,” first baseman Ben Waldrip said. “You can’t thank the fans enough. It’s tough coming out and playing in front of 100, 200, 300 people every night. We haven’t had that, but a lot of teams in the league have. We’ve been fortunate enough to have great fans and a great fan base all year, not just now.
“It’s going to be exciting going into the playoffs with the atmosphere we have here.”