GJ Rockies' bats back Jemiola's solid start in season opener
Zach Jemiola pitched 7 2/3 innings last season for the Grand Junction Rockies.
He’s nearly at that point after one game.
The 19-year-old threw five impressive innings Thursday night and got all kinds of help in the Rockies’ 11-6 victory over the Ogden Raptors in the Pioneer League season opener at Suplizio Field.
“Confidence,” Jemiola said of the main difference between this season and last. Well, that and he’s healthy.
“Last year coming out of high school I was nervous, I didn’t know what to expect. Extended spring training really helped me a lot. I learned how to compete as a pitcher instead of just throwing like I did in high school.”
He allowed only one run on six hits, struck out five and walked three. He was hoping to throw into the sixth inning, but with his pitch count at 90, called it a night.
“My change-up was money,” he said. “I’ve been throwing that a lot. The fastball, I had good command. In the fourth and fifth when I got ahead of guys I tried to do too much with it instead of just pounding the zone and it got away from me a little bit. After that, I was relaxed.”
With leadoff man Emerson Jimenez going 3 for 5, scoring four runs and driving in three, and No. 2 hitter Raimel Tapia going 4 for 5 with two RBI and scoring twice, the Rockies took quick command, leading 6-0 after three innings.
Jimenez, the Rockies’ shortstop, hit the first home run of the season, a three-run shot to left, in the four-run second. He reached base and scored his first four times up.
“He was extremely excited, especially when he started in the Dominican Summer League, he envisioned himself playing in Grand Junction on opening day and it’s a dream come true,” Jimenez said through Tony Diaz, the Rockies’ development supervisor.
The offense attacked Ogden pitching and hit line drives all over the field, rapping out 13 hits.
“That’s our mentality now. We’re re going to be aggressive,” right fielder Ryan Garvey said. “Everyone now knows the Rockies are going to be aggressive in the strike zone.”
They’re also aggressive defensively, starting with three stellar plays by Garvey.
In the second inning, he made a diving catch in right-center. In the third, he fielded a base hit and came up throwing with two out. The throw to the plate was a little high, but catcher Jose Briceno made a leaping catch and came down, blocked the plate and tagged out Jacob Scavuzzo to end the inning.
Garvey did it again in the fourth inning, this time throwing out Austin Cowen, who, like Scavuzzo, was trying to score from second on a base hit with two out.
“I was hoping they were going to go,” Garvey said. “They have no shot. In my mind, I’m like, ‘I’ve got them all the way.’ That’s the mentality you’ve got to have when runners are trying to score on you.
“You have to make a statement at one point where you’ve gotta say, beware, I’m coming after you. That was the mentality the team had today. We got right after them at the beginning.”
Ryan McMahon tripled in a run in the Rockies’ three-run fourth inning for a 9-0 lead — Tapia drove in one run with a double off the wall and a groundout by Briceno produced another.
Jemiola got a little tired in the fifth inning, allowing a one-out triple and an RBI double by Jesemuel Valentin.
“Last year I tried to throw the ball as hard as I could and wasn’t even throwing that hard and I was all over the place,” Jemiola said. “This year I feel relaxed and more confident with everything, especially off-speed.
“Extended spring training really made me who I am. I’m happy I went to it. If I wouldn’t have, I wouldn’t have learned who I am and what I can do with my pitches.”
He gave way in the sixth to Jordan Mejia, who had a forgettable one-third of an inning after a solid showing Tuesday in the Rockies’ exhibition game.
Mejia allowed four home runs in the sixth — three in succession, and one of them an inside-the-park home run when the ball hit high off the wall in the deepest part of the park in left-center and bounced away from the outfielders, allowing Alex Santana to score.
Carlos Esteves, who just arrived in Grand Junction, got the Rockies out of the inning, but the Raptors had cut the lead to 9-6.
Once again, the top of the lineup produced, with Jimenez leading off with a base hit and scoring on Tapia’s double to left. He scored on Garvey’s base hit to center.
Garvey, too, learned plenty since last season, and is happy he’s put in some extra work, especially on his defense.
“I’ve been really working hard in the outfield, doing extra work, and now I see the hard work pay off,” he said. “We do outfield turns, jumps, reads every day for at least 30 minutes. It really pays off. I’m happy it showed today, it finally happened. Hard work does pay off.”