Five-run second inning lifts GJ Rockies to exhibition win
Jensen Park has only been in Grand Junction since Saturday, but it was still good for one of the new Grand Junction Rockies to see some familiar faces.
Park, who was the Colorado Rockies’ 32nd-round draft pick out of Northern Colorado, got to say hello to a couple of former teammates Tuesday night in Grand Junction’s 6-4 victory over the Mile High Collegiate Baseball League All-Stars.
“It’s a little weird but it was a lot of fun,” Park said. “Two of my good friends were catching behind the dish (Darryl Baca of Metro State and Anthony Apodaca of UNC) and I got to talk with them a little bit. That was real fun.”
It was also fun lacing a two-run double to the gap in right-center his first time up, helping trigger the Rockies’ five-run second inning.
“It’s really good to have an exhibition, a lot of guys haven’t seen live pitching in a while,” said Park, an outfielder who was Grand Junction’s designated hitter Tuesday. “When you start off seeing live pitching right out of the gate it can go one way or another. It was really good to get this one out here and get going.”
Right after Park’s double, Denzel Richardson tripled to the gap in left-center, pumping his fist after sliding into third.
“In the offseason I worked on my craft, my swing,” said Richardson, who split time between Grand Junction and Tri-City last year. “These guys who got drafted, they went to college and live in the States and got to train.
“Me, it’s basically back home (Phillipsburg, St. Martin) and we don’t play baseball like that. I came right into professional baseball and it took time for me to work on my swing and get it short and quick. It’s working fine for me right now.”
The Rockies, who leave this morning for Idaho Falls and open the season Thursday night against the Idaho Falls Chukars, scored five runs on five hits and two errors in the second inning against Nathan Smythe, a right-handed sidearm pitcher from Colorado School of Mines.
Ryan Stephens singled up the middle to lead off the inning and took third on a base hit by Anthony Brito. The Rockies showed their aggressive style in that inning, pulling off a delayed double steal, with Brito breaking for second.
When Baca threw to second, Stephens took off for home, scoring easily when the ball skipped into shallow center field, and Brito took third on the error.
After Chris Keck walked, Park doubled home the two runs, then scored on the first of Richardson’s three hits in the game.
Richardson came home on a base hit by Daniel Suero.
With the exhibition, substitutions were plentiful, and no pitcher on either side worked more than two innings. After the second, Mile High’s pitchers shut the Rockies out until the bottom of the ninth.
Despite leading 5-4, the Rockies hit in the bottom of the ninth, just to get guys an extra at-bat before the season. Grand Junction had 10 hits and committed two errors. Mile High had six hits and three errors.
Sam Hilliard tripled to the wall in right and scored on a base hit that hopped over first base by Mylz Jones.
“It was the perfect game to be able to get some guys’ feet wet, get everybody’s feet wet, especially playing that last inning,” Rockies manager Anthony Sanders said. “It was good to see Hilliard and Jones get a hit right there.”
Grand Junction gave up two runs in each of the second and fifth innings. The coaching staff got a look at seven pitchers, with Juan Pena throwing the first two innings, allowing two runs on two hits and an error. He hit two batters.
Lorenz Ozuna retired six of seven men he faced, allowing a leadoff single in the fourth, and Hunter Brothers gave up two unearned runs in the fifth on three singles and an error. Hector Villarroel, Dylan Stamey, Julian Yan and Kelvin Franco each threw one inning in relief.
“I thought the guys, we threw too many balls, more than I’d like to see, but it was good to see some of those young Latin kids get on the mound for the first time,” Sanders said. “I was curious to see how they’d react. I didn’t see any fear out of any of them.”
Notes: Instead of sending one of the eight teams in the Mile High League to play the Rockies, the organization decided to form an all-star team this year, taking three or four players from each team. The director of the league is former Mesa State (now Colorado Mesa) baseball coach Byron Wiehe, who accompanied the team, and one of the coaches is former Mesa pitcher Bryan King. … The roster features six players from the RMAC, but no Colorado Mesa players. Shortstop Joey Samuels was slated to start, but a family emergency prevented him from making the trip. … Grand Junction is expected to add a few more players to the roster once the team arrives in Idaho Falls. The Rockies’ top draft picks are in Denver to sign their contracts, meet the coaching staff and big-league players and the Denver media. From there, they’ll be assigned a club, either Grand Junction or short-season A Boise.