Playoffs for GJ within reach
That’s all the Grand Junction Rockies need from Pioneer League South Division foe Ogden to reach the playoffs.
After the Raptors swept Orem in a doubleheader Sunday, it put the Owlz’ elimination number at one. It’s not so much what the Rockies do, it’s how the Owlz stand in relation to the Raptors that determines the Rockies’ fate.
“You don’t want to get too far ahead in the future, because that’s never good,” left fielder Carl Thomore said Sunday after the Rockies showed they’re taking care of themselves with a 4-0 win over Idaho Falls, knocking the Chukars out of playoff contention.
“You want to take one game at a time and however it works out in the playoffs. I think we’re gonna make the playoffs. It’s gonna happen. We’re pretty good.”
Orem cannot overtake the Rockies in the overall standings of the South Division, but can still win the second-half title by winning its four remaining games. However, one loss and the Owlz are out and the Rockies are in.
With four games left, Grand Junction (40-32, 19-15) is two games behind Ogden and two ahead of Orem in the second-half standings; in the overall, the Rockies trail Ogden by two games and have a six-game lead on Orem. Ogden won the first half and secured a berth in the playoffs, which begin Friday.
“It’s not every season you have something to play for,” said Chris Cowell, who did his part by hitting his second home run of the season, a two-run shot to left in the Rockies’ three-run seventh inning.
“We could be out of the race and just be counting the days right now. It’s definitely fun when you have a championship you’re still in the hunt for. It adds more push to everyone down the stretch.”
If the Rockies continue to get pitching like Sunday, they’ll extend the season past Thursday.
Ryan Warner, Alving Mejias, Raul Fernandez and Scott Oberg combined for a three-hit shutout. Warner was in complete command in his four innings, striking out five and not walking a bater. He allowed one hit, a two-out single in the second.
“The team’s got a lot of excitement these last few games,” Warner said. “We’re really pushing for the playoffs and I wanted to go out there and give us a chance.”
He faced 13 batters, pitched ahead in the count and down in the zone. He was scheduled to throw four innings or 60 pitches, whichever came first. When he released his last pitch to Jin Ho Shin in the fourth, he started walking off the mound even before the home plate umpire called strike three.
“Outside corner. I knew right when I let it go it was a strike and I started walking off the field,” Warner said, grinning. “I knew it was a good pitch.”
Julian Yan doubled and scored in the fourth inning and the Rockies made it a little easier on the relievers by scoring three in the seventh. Yan walked and took second on Correlle Prime’s sacrifice bunt. With two out, Thomore, back in the lineup after hamstring problems shelved him most of the season, doubled off the wall in right-center, scoring Yan. He scored on Cowell’s home run.
“I feel a lot more comfortable running,” Thomore said. “That’s the most important thing. Hitting is important, but all that stuff will fall into place. I’ve been trying to make contact with the ball, simply letting it happen and they’re going somewhere good for a hit.”
With a fireworks show after the game, 6,137 fans showed up, the largest of the season. The young club fed off that, won the game, then quickly showered and hustled back to the field for the fireworks.
“It was an awesome atmosphere,” Cowell said. “It’s not every day you play in front of 5, 6,000. It was kind of like when Todd Helton played. There was a little electricity in the air.”
Ogden and Orem play at 6:05 tonight, an hour before the Rockies take the field.
“We’re kind of rooting for Ogden right now a little bit ,” Warner said, “but when it comes to facing them in the playoffs, it’s a whole different ballgame.”
Notes: The Rockies handed Jamie Hamilton, the chairman of the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series, a $25,000 check Sunday, the first payment in a 15-year agreement between the entities. The Rockies agreed to help financially support JUCO when it signed a contract with the City of Grand Junction to move from Casper, Wyo.