By Will Hart
The Reno Aces wrapped up a competitive series with their intrastate rival Las Vegas Aviators, splitting three of the six games. Here are some of the highlights.
July 8: Aces defeat Aviators 1-0
Win: Humberto Mejía (3-3)
Loss: Jesús Luzardo (0-2)
Save: Miguel Aguilar (9)
The Aces opened a six-game home stand against the Las Vegas Aviators with a 1-0 victory on the back of a dominant pitching performance, despite the offense mustering just five hits.
Ildemaro Vargas scored the lone run of the ballgame on a sacrifice fly by Aces first baseman Seth Beer in the bottom of the third inning off Aviators left-hander Jesús Luzardo. That proved to be enough offense for Reno to secure the victory.
Aces starter Humberto Mejía was solid en route to his third win of the season, pitching five scoreless innings and racking up eight strikeouts. The bullpen was outstanding, scattering just two hits across four innings of relief. Miguel Aguilar closed the game for the Reno ballclub, his ninth save of the year, lowering his ERA to 2.70 across 25 appearances for the team.
It wasn’t the dynamic display of offense that Aces fans have become accustomed to seeing this season, but Reno takes the win in a classic pitchers’ duel and will look to build on the excellent work by the pitching staff moving forward.
July 9: Aviators defeat Aces 12-10 (10 innings)
Win: Domingo Acevedo (2-0)
Loss: Miguel Aguilar (3-2)
Save: Zach Jackson (1)
The bats for both teams woke up in the second game of the series, but a late comeback by Reno wasn’t enough to pull out the victory. The team falling 12-10 in a ballgame that took an extra inning to complete.
Aces starter Josh Green was knocked around early, allowing four runs in the second inning and seven runs total in his four innings of work. The Reno bullpen was unable to stop the bleeding, allowing four additional runs after Green was pulled.
The game appeared to be all but over in the eighth inning with Las Vegas in control 10-4, but the Aces refused to go down without a fight. RBI hits by Seth Beer and Jamie Ritchie followed by an RBI groundout by Juniel Querecuto brought the Aces within three runs headed into the ninth inning.
In the bottom of the ninth, an RBI single by Ildemaro Vargas and a two-run homer by Seth Beer knotted the game up 10-10, sending the game to extra innings. The seven-run comeback marked the largest of the season for the Aces.
The Aviators immediately re-took the lead in the top of the tenth inning, scoring two runs, as closer Miguel Aguilar was shaky in a non-save situation.
The Aces were retired in order in the bottom of the 10th, losing 12-10 in the second game of the series.
July 10: Aviators defeat Aces 7-3 (10 innings)
Win: James Naile (4-0)
Loss: Luis Castillo (0-1)
The Aces let the third game of the series slip away in a 10-inning game, despite holding the lead for the majority of the first eight innings.
Aces starter Tyler Gilbert was stellar, allowing just one run across six innings of work while scattering four strikeouts. The lone run Gilbert allowed came in the top of the fifth on a solo shot by Aviators utility man Marty Bechina.
The performance by the Las Vegas pitching staff was also impressive, as Aviators starter Brian Howard allowed just two runs on an RBI single by Aces left fielder Christian Lopes through his five innings of work.
Both bullpens worked through a scoreless ballgame until the top of the ninth, when Aces reliever Chester Pimentel blew the save by allowing a run-scoring single to the Aviators Nate Mondou, which tied the game at 2-2, leading to another night of extra-inning baseball in Reno.
The Aces faltered again in extras, with reliever Luis Castillo allowing five runs in the tenth inning, including a grand slam by Las Vegas leadoff man Carlos Pérez, en route to his first loss of the season.
The Aces were not able to muster a comeback in the bottom of the inning, scoring just once on a base-hit to right field by Drew Ellis, falling again to their intrastate rival in heartbreaking fashion.
July 11: Aviators defeat Aces 15-6
Win: Grant Holmes (1-1)
Loss: Zach Lee (2-3)
The Aces just did not have it in this one, and the roller-coaster series by Reno’s starting pitchers continued in a 15-6 loss.
Aces starting pitcher Zach Lee was knocked around early and often, lasting just four innings while allowing eight earned runs and nine hits, raising his ERA to 6.61 on the season. Lee gave up four runs in the first inning, and by the middle innings, the game was already out-of-hand with the Aviators leading 8-1 after the fourth. Reliever Cameron Gann’s rough season continued, allowing five earned runs in just two-thirds of an inning, pushing his ERA to an unspectacular 7.33 on the year.
The Reno offense did eventually come to life, scoring four runs across the final four innings of the game, including home runs by sluggers Drew Ellis and Seth Beer. But the hole dug by the pitching staff proved too deep for the offense to overcome en route to a blowout loss.
July 12: Aces defeat Aviators 7-5
Win: Humberto Castellanos (3-1)
Loss: Paul Blackburn (3-4)
Save: Miguel Aguilar (10)
The Aces stopped their three-game losing skid behind a solid output by the offense including twelve hits and seven runs, topping the Aviators 7-5.
Aces starter Humberto Castellanos did just enough to earn the win, pitching five innings and allowing three runs en route to his third win of the season.
After falling behind 1-0, the Aces quickly took the lead in the bottom of the first inning, after Seth Beer’s two-run double scored Ben DeLuzio and Drew Ellis. Reno wouldn’t look back, adding on two more runs in the third and fourth innings.
The Reno bullpen allowed two runs to cross the plate in this game, but Chester Pimentel and Miguel Aguilar shut the door in the eighth and ninth innings, respectively, allowing a combined one hit through two innings of work. Aguilar continued his solid season, closing the door on the Aviators while earning his tenth save of the year, lowering his ERA to an impressive 2.84.
July 13: Aces defeat Aviators 9-7
Win: Stefan Crighton (1-0)
Loss: Zach Jackson (1-1)
Save: Miguel Aguilar (11)
Reno finished the series on a winning note, besting Las Vegas 9-7 in a kind of slugfest that Greater Nevada Field has become known for.
The Aces offense came alive early, scoring four times in the second inning, including a three-run home run by Juniel Querecuto–his sixth of the season. In the third inning, Jamie Ritchie crushed his third homer of the season over the centerfield wall, pushing the Reno lead to 6-1.
Aviators left-hander Jesus Lúzardo was unable to repeat his dominant performance from the first game of the series, allowing seven runs, and failing to make it through the fifth inning of the series finale.
Reno starter Humberto Mejía strung together his second consecutive quality start, going five innings and giving up three runs. Aces Reliever Ryan Weiss struggled, allowing four earned runs while failing to complete a full inning of work, letting the Aviators tie the game 7-7 in the 6th inning.
The Aces were able to manufacture two runs in the bottom of the eighth, giving them some breathing room before the final frame. Drew Ellis hit a sacrifice fly to give the Aces a one-run lead, and Seth Beer knocked in Querecuto with an infield single to push the lead to 9-7 headed into the ninth.
Closer Miguel Aguilar finished the job again, retiring the side in order for the Aces and securing his 11th save of the year.
The Aces (38-22) head to Oklahoma City to start a six-game series with the Dodgers (32-28) on Thursday, July 15. First pitch is scheduled for 5:05 PDT.
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