Three days ago, Zack Gelof was in the Arizona Instructional League with several of his fellow 2021 draft picks, getting some extended work after playing his first 32 professional games for the Oakland A’s High-A club in Stockton (California). On Monday night, the 21-year-old found himself in an Aviators uniform
Three days ago, Zack Gelof was in the Arizona Instructional League with several of his fellow 2021 draft picks, getting some extended work after playing his first 32 professional games for the Oakland A’s High-A club in Stockton (California). On Monday night, the 21-year-old found himself in an Aviators uniform for the final game of the season at Las Vegas Ballpark — and showing precisely why the A’s invested a second-round pick on him earlier this summer.
Before a spirited Fan Appreciation Night sellout crowd of 9,401, Gelof went 3-for-4 with five RBI to help the Aviators to an edge-of-your-seat 11-9 victory over the Oklahoma City Dodgers in the finale of a five-game series.
On a night when both teams combined for 20 runs and 22 hits (including three homers and six doubles), there were more than a few players who turned in impressive performances at the plate. But none was more impressive — or improbable — than Gelof’s, especially considering there was no plan for the Delaware native to play in Double A this season, let alone Triple A.
However, multiple injuries and callups to Oakland depleted Las Vegas’ roster in recent days. And since most Class-A and Double-A players headed home when their seasons ended a week ago, there were few options to plug the Aviators’ roster holes. So Gelof traveled north from Arizona to Las Vegas on Saturday, started at third base on Sunday and went 1-for-3 in the Aviators’ 8-2 victory over Oklahoma City.
That effort was good enough for Las Vegas manager Fran Riordan to pencil Gelof’s name on Monday’s lineup card. And the 60th player taken in this year's draft proceeded to deliver big time for his new skipper (and teammates and fans).
After grounding out in the second inning, Gelof came to bat with two outs in the third and ripped a bases-loaded, three-run double that capped a four-run inning and staked the Aviators — who also put up four runs in the first — to an 8-1 lead. However, by the time Gelof returned to the dish in the sixth and singled sharply to right field, Oklahoma City had tallied six runs to trim Las Vegas’ lead to 8-7.
That score held up until the bottom of the seventh, when the Aviators (64-61) loaded the bases with two outs. After catcher Collin Theroux — another recent roster addition — drew a bases-loaded walk to provide a little breathing room, Gelof came up and drilled a 3-2 pitch from Dodgers reliever Victor Gonzalez up the middle for a two-run single that gave Las Vegas an 11-7 lead.
The Dodgers (64-60) refused to quit, though, scoring a run in the eighth and another in the ninth. But with two outs and the tying runs on first and second, Aviators reliever Miguel Romero ended the drama by retiring Oklahoma City catcher Anthony Bemboom on a deep flyball to right field.
With that, Las Vegas closed out its second straight victory, as well as its 2021 home schedule.
GAME NOTES: The Aviators have won consecutive games for the first time since September 3-4, a stretch of 20 contests. … After scoring six runs or fewer in 24 consecutive games, Las Vegas has cleared the seven-run threshold in back-to-back outings. Also, the 11 runs were the most the team has tallied since a 13-11 home win over Albuquerque on August 22. … Besides Gelof, designated hitter Carlos Pèrez (2-for-4, three runs) and shortstop Pete Kozma (2-for-4, double, two runs, two RBI) had multiple hits for the Aviators. … Las Vegas second baseman Nick Allen (0-for-4, walk, run) had his 11-game hitting streak and four-game multi-hit streak snapped. … Every hitter in the Aviators’ lineup scored at least one run or had at least one RBI by the end of the third inning. … Las Vegas starting pitcher Parker Dunshee gave up six runs on six hits and two walks in 4 1/3 innings. The right-hander struck out three. … Oklahoma City left fielder Steven Souza Jr. and DH Zach Reks each went 3-for-5 with a home run. … The Aviators finished with a 34-31 home record. They’ve finished above .500 for each of their first two seasons (2019, 2021) at Las Vegas Ballpark. … The Aviators ended up 7-4 against the Dodgers this season.
TRANSACTION ACTION: Prior to Monday’s game, the parent Oakland A’s recalled Aviators outfielder Luis Barrera to take the roster spot of right-handed pitcher Michael Feliz, who was designated for assignment.
Barrera, who hit .355 for Las Vegas in September, returns to the big leagues for the second time this season. The 25-year-old native of the Dominican Republic made his MLB debut in May, when he played in four games with the A’s and went 1-for-5. In 96 contests with Las Vegas this season, Barrera hit .276 (including .329 with runners in scoring position) and tallied four homers, 37 RBI and a team-high 10 stolen bases.
To take Barrera’s roster spot, outfielder Jonny Butler — who was drafted in the 14th round by the Oakland A’s in this year’s amateur draft — was elevated to Las Vegas from the Arizona Instructional League.
THANK YOU, FANS: Including Monday’s sellout — which was the sixth of the season — the Aviators welcomed 428,369 fans to Las Vegas Ballpark in 2021. That attendance figure is the second highest in the 38-year history of the franchise, despite the home schedule being reduced from 72 to 65 games (and despite ballpark capacity being reduced to 50 percent for the first 12 games of the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic).
The Aviators led all of Minor League Baseball in attendance in 2019, when 650,934 fans packed brand-new Las Vegas Ballpark, and they will finish first in the 10-team Triple-A West this season in both total and per-game (6,590) attendance.
The franchise’s all-time attendance now sits at 13,080,314, with at least 300,000 fans passing through the turnstiles in all 38 seasons at Cashman Field and Las Vegas Ballpark.
ON DECK: Following an off-day Tuesday, the Aviators will travel to Reno for a season-ending five-game series against the Aces that runs from Wednesday through Sunday. Las Vegas is 9-15 against its instate rivals this season, including 5-7 in Reno.
First pitch for the first four games is 6:05 p.m., with Saturday’s contest beginning at 4:05 p.m. and Sunday’s season finale set for 1:05 p.m.
The Aviators and Aces not only wrap up the 2021 season against one another, but the teams will kick off the 2022 Triple-A West campaign with a six-game series at Las Vegas Ballpark, beginning April 5. The 2022 season, which will run through September 21, 2022, marks a return to a traditional 144-game regular-season schedule, with 72 contests slated for Las Vegas Ballpark.
To inquire about season tickets, group outings or club-level seats and/or suite rentals for the 2022 season, call 702-943-7200, email [email protected] or visit AviatorsLV.com.
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