Zach Jemiola felt the pressure of the entire season on his right arm Wednesday afternoon. In one inning, however, everything changed.
"When I saw that, the weight just got lifted off my shoulders," Jemiola said of Grand Junction's six-run sixth inning. "I knew I just needed to get outs and keep my team in it."
Jemiola pitched 8 1/3 strong innings Wednesday afternoon and Grand Junction used that big sixth to beat Idaho Falls, 7-1, and force a decisive third game in the Pioneer League semifinals.
The 19-year-old right-hander held the Chukars to one run on five hits while striking out four before first-round pick Peter Tago recorded the final two outs. The teams play again at 9:05 p.m. ET, with the winner advancing to the Championship Series against the Helena Brewers.
"It was awesome. I've never been able to pitch in a playoff game before," said Jemiola, who did not walk a batter. "I knew we lost Monday, so I wanted to do whatever I could to stay on the mound. I knew we'd have a good chance to win it tonight."
The Rockies broke up a scoreless duel with two outs in the sixth. Jairo Rosario, who went 3-for-4 with a homer and two RBIs, got things going with a run-scoring single as Ryan McMahon slid safely around a tag at the plate. Rosario scored on Jordan Patterson's base hit, Correlle Prime followed with an RBI double, Terry McClure doubled home two runs and Raimel Tapia capped the outburst with an RBI single.
Jemiola (1-0), who threw 90 pitches, said he was pumped when he saw the runs up on the scoreboard.
"I pitched a couple weeks ago in Idaho Falls and went eight innings and allowed one run, but I got no run support and we took the loss. Today, I knew if we got some runs, I would be able to get the 'W,'" the 2012 ninth-round pick said.
Idaho Falls responded in the seventh on Daniel Rockett's solo homer, but Rosario went yard in the bottom of the inning.
The Rockies went 5-for-9 with runners in scoring position, while Idaho Falls -- which led the league with a .298 average, 508 runs scored, 455 RBIs and a .362 on-base percentage -- went 0-for-4 and left three men on base.
Grand Junction, which hit a league-leading 69 homers during the regular season, erased the memories of an ugly Game 1 loss in which the Rockies committed eight errors and allowed seven unearned runs.
"I knew it was a fluke game. I know our defense has been solid, especially with the lineup we have. I didn't have any doubts," Jemiola said. "I know Idaho Falls has a rough field and we have one of the best fields."
The field conditions factored into Game 2 as rain fell, despite sunny skies at Suplizio Field. The outfield took most of the damage, with some muddy puddles at all three positions.
"I think it affected both ends. I saw a couple plays where Tapia went back and slipped in the mud but came up with the ball anyway," Jemiola said. "I think we took advantage of their errors and just went with it."
Jemiola's start was the longest by a member of the Rockies this season and the longest of his career. He claimed his first win in 13 starts since June 30.
"I used a two-seamer down in the zone and was coming back with my changeup," he said. "I'd never gone past eight innings, so [after walking a man in the ninth,] I had an idea I'd be told my day was over. My pitch count was up, but it was an amazing experience."
Jemiola said he hopes the Rockies carry the momentum into the nightcap, which presents a must-win scenario for both clubs.
"I think so, I feel like the team has flushed the game from Monday," he said. "We'll have some fun and feel confident and have a good game."