Castro's HR in 10th gives GJ Rox win in home opener
Well-played, it wasn’t.
All it took to make it a night to remember, though, was one pitch.
Luis Castro electrified the Grand Junction Rockies’ opening-night crowd of 3,921 on Friday night at Suplizio Field, drilling a one-out, two-run, opposite-field, walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th inning for a 7-6 victory over Idaho Falls.
“He said he made good contact, maybe it will go over the fence,” said Tony Diaz, Grand Junction’s developmental supervisor, translating for Castro, who was dripping wet after Hamlet Marte doused him with the water jug.
It was the second time in two innings the Rockies had rallied, first scoring two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to tie it 5-5, then the two in the 10th after the Chukars regained the lead.
Coming off their first overnight road trip of the season, both teams were sloppy defensively, combining for nine errors — only five fewer than the amount of hits the teams generated.
Only three of the 13 runs were earned, and fittingly, all of them came in the 10th inning.
After Yoely Bello gave up one run in the top of the 10th, Marte led off the Rockies’ half of the 10th with a base hit up the middle. Henry Garcia flied out to right, but Castro got all of the pitch from Timothy Hill, lining it over the wall in right and setting off a wild celebration at home plate.
“I didn’t know if he hit that good enough, but it kept going,” Grand Junction manager Anthony Sanders said. “Just watching that young kid’s face going around the bases was priceless.”
It was the first home run for Castro, who was still smiling long after the game.
“(I) had a feeling,” Castro said through Diaz. “The team never gave up. (I) knew (I) was going to come up again, and (we) were going to go down fighting.”
It was like that in the ninth inning, too, just not quite as dramatic.
Castro led off the inning by grounding to third, but a bad throw allowed him to reach safely. Dom Nunez worked a walk after Castro took second on a pitch in the dirt. He took third on another wild pitch by Alberto Rodriguez, with Nunez moving up, and he scored when Wes Jones grounded out to second. Nunez again moved up, and he scored the tying run on Wilson Soriano’s sacrifice fly to center.
The Rockies tried to win it in the ninth, with Max George and Terry McClure drawing back-to-back walks, but Hill replaced Rodriguez and struck out Omar Carrizales.
Through the first nine innings, every run that scored came as a result of an error.
Soriano, who scored twice, drove in a run and made three stellar catches in right field, reached base on an error in the third inning, took second on a balk and moved to third when George struck out but reached on a wild pitch — and scored when Idaho Falls catcher Kyle Pollack’s ensuing throw sailed down the right-field line.
The Chukars scored a pair of unearned runs in the fifth off Hunter Brothers, making his professional debut, and another in the sixth, although Brawlun Gomez set it up with a leadoff triple. He scored on a fielding error by George at shortstop.
Soriano showed his outfield speed after that, racing in from right to catch a ball in shallow center, then sprinting back toward the wall to track down another fly ball.
Jones, the Rockies’ second baseman, started a key double play in the seventh, then got the final out of the inning by skidding on his knees to stop a ground ball and throwing Mike Hill out at first.
George couldn’t hang onto a throw from Castro on a bunt toward third base in the eighth, leading to two more runs, and with the bases loaded, Idaho Falls first baseman Alexis Rivera tried to break the game open, slashing a line drive to right.
Instead, Soriano made a sliding catch to end that threat, giving the Rockies the chance they needed in the ninth.
“I had that gut feeling after that opening series how we came back and won,” Sanders said. In the season opener, the Rockies were down 7-0 before scoring 11 unanswered runs to beat Ogden 11-7. “We came together. I wouldn’t put anything past these guys.”
With their pitchers who just finished their college seasons on strict pitch counts, the Rockies used seven pitchers against the Chukars, with only starter Taylor Black going more than two innings. Black went 2 1/3, striking out three, walking one and allowing two hits.
Bello, the side-winding left-hander, got the win.
“To see these kids grow up, from McClure and Jones, their confidence level go up, the defense by Soriano, the pitchers ...” Sanders said. “We used a lot of pitchers tonight who got their debut and got their feet wet, and it all worked out.”