Rockies top Chukars, lose 1st-half title as Ogden wins
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — Almost two hours after taking care of business Saturday night by beating Idaho Falls 11-5, the Grand Junction Rockies coaching staff and about a dozen players gathered in the visitors’ clubhouse at Melaleuca Field, listening to the Orem Owlz radio broadcast to hear their first-half fate.
Orem was two outs away from helping the Rockies clinch the South Division’s first-half title, but Ogden scored two runs in the ninth to tie the game and walked off with an 8-7 win in the 10th to clinch the first-half title for the fifth straight season.
The teams tied with 21-17 records, but Ogden claimed the tiebreaker by winning all eight meetings against Grand Junction in the first half.
The Rockies went 8-2 down the stretch to move into playoff contention as Ogden faltered, going 4-6.
“Its unfortunate that things didn’t go our way, but it doesn’t get more exciting than that,” Rockies manager Tony Diaz said. “I’m proud of the way we handled our business tonight, and hopefully we can carry this momentum into the second half.”
Knowing they needed to win the game to even have a chance to win the division, the Rockies shot out of the gates.
Ryan Garvey gave the Rockies a 2-0 lead when he drove in two runs with a two-out single, but Idaho Falls came back with three runs in the third lead 3-2.
However, just like in the series opener Friday, the Rockies didn’t stay down for long.
They scored two runs in the fourth inning to regain the lead, and it stayed a one-run game until the late innings when the Rockies pulled away with a three-run seventh and four-run eighth to take an 11-3 lead.
Eddie Butler made the start for the Rockies and allowed only the three runs over seven innings, earning his fourth win of the season.
Rayan Gonzalez pitched the eighth inning and gave up two unearned runs to make it 11-5, but Kyle Roliard struck out the side in the ninth to preserve the Rockies’ 21st win of the first half.
“Butler has been our ace for the last couple of weeks, and he didn’t disappoint with the pressure on,” Diaz said. “I was really happy with the way all of our pitchers threw the ball tonight.”
Offensively, the Rockies had a season-best 17 base hits. The top five in the order combined to drive in all 11 runs.
Juan Ciriaco, Correlle Prime and Garvey had three hits each, with Garvey hitting the game’s only home run, a solo shot with two out in the seventh.
“We just kept having quality at-bats and we put the pressure on their pitchers,” Diaz said. “We came away with big hits when we needed them.”
Along with his three hits, Ciriaco scored three runs and stole two bases. He has five stolen bases in the first two games of the series.
The Rockies’ 21-17 first-half record is a 10-game improvement over the first half a year ago in Casper, Wyo.
The winner of the second half of the South Division also receives a playoff spot. If Ogden wins the second-half title, the team with the best overall record during the entire season receives a wild-card berth.
Grand Junction begins the second half of the season at 4 this afternoon at Idaho Falls. Johendi Jiminian will start for the Rockies against Zeb Sneed.