Rockies rally in ninth to edge Helena

It was small ball and scrappy play that almost cost the Grand Junction Rockies, and it ended up being small ball and scrappy play that lifted them to a 6-5 victory over the Helena Brewers on Monday night at Suplizio Field.

The Rockies entered the bottom of the ninth trailing 5-4, but they grabbed extra bases to steal the win. Matt Wessinger led off by stretching a shallow gap hit into a double. David Dahl nearly ended the game with a deep fly ball to the left-center fence, but the warning-track shot was enough to move Wessinger to third. A shallow single to right by Ashley Graeter drove in Wessinger, and on the next pitch Graeter went from first to third on a passed ball to set up the game-winning single by Julian Yan.

“Well, I felt like it was a good gamble play with Yan coming up,” Graeter said. “Yan’s been swinging it well, and all we had to do was get closer. Being on third sets me up for passed-ball situations and stuff like that.

“With two outs I would have stayed there because every runner counts and you can’t get thrown out. With no outs I can get moved over from second. But with one out and already standing on second, it seemed like a good idea. I was lucky I got there.”

Wessinger, Graeter, Yan and Jeff Popick all had multi-hit games. Popick went 3 for 4 and had his fourth multi-hit game in the last seven games. David Dahl went 1 for 5 with a double and quietly increased his Pioneer League-leading hitting streak to 25 games. He is inching closer to the league record, 32 games, held by former Billings Mustang Chris Valaika. The 18-year-old Dahl also has reached base safely in every home game this year.

“Hustle plays are the name of the game,” Rockies manager Tony Diaz said. “You have to play the game aggressively and we continue to instill that in our guys, and, you know, they’ve bought into it.

“Obviously any time you get on base and you can put pressure on the defense it works to our advantage. It works because their pitcher gets thinking about you, and the defense knows they have to rush plays to make an out. It’s something that consistently works in our favor.”

The Rockies pitching was strong except for the top of the third inning. A double, followed by two base-hit bunts and a home run, allowed a team not usually known for its power to jump to early lead. The home run was just the 23rd of the season for the Brewers.

The Rockies tied the game over the third and fourth innings, but they surrendered a run in the top of the seventh to force the come-from-behind situation.

“They looked like a team we’ll have to play well against,” Diaz said. “They’re just like any other ball club. You can’t take anyone lightly or assume that just because of their record that that reflects that they are a weaker team.”

Mike Mason picked up his second win of the year for the Rockies, striking out two and walking none in the eighth and ninth innings. Jayson Aquino struggled in his second start for Grand Junction but pitched six innings, allowed four runs, all earned, struck out three and walked two.

“Pitching was huge for us and without it we wouldn’t have accomplished anything,” Diaz said. “Aquino gave us some depth, and you know Jesse (Meaux) gave up the run in the seventh, but Michael Mason was fantastic for us out of the pen and gave us that chance to come back.”

The Rockies continue the home stand tonight at 7:05. They play every night this week before embarking on an 11-game road trip across three states.


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