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Aviators complete stunning comeback, topple Sacramento in 10 innings 

Las Vegas rallies from 10-5 deficit, upends the River Cats 11-10 for its first victory of 2021
May 9, 2021

The Aviators have delivered a handful of thrilling — and beyond improbable — victories in the very brief history of Las Vegas Ballpark. The one they produced Saturday very well might top them all. Trailing the Sacramento River Cats 10-6 in the bottom of the ninth inning and down to

The Aviators have delivered a handful of thrilling — and beyond improbable — victories in the very brief history of Las Vegas Ballpark. The one they produced Saturday very well might top them all.

Trailing the Sacramento River Cats 10-6 in the bottom of the ninth inning and down to its final two outs, Las Vegas rallied for four runs to send the game into extra innings, then won it in the 10th on Buddy Reed’s one-out RBI single that scored Edwin Diaz from second base. The 11-10 victory before a limited-capacity sellout crowd of 5,063 was the Aviators’ first of the 2021 season and snapped a four-game losing skid to the River Cats that dated to the 2019 Pacific Coast League playoffs.

“That was quite a way to get our first win of the season,” Aviators manager Fran Riordan said. “Even though we were down most of the night, the guys stayed focused throughout, refused to quit and came through with the big hits — and big pitches — when we needed it.”

After Reed popped out to shortstop to start the bottom of the ninth, nobody in the ballpark would’ve predicted he’d get another opportunity to hit. After all, from the fourth inning onward, Las Vegas (1-2) managed just two hits (Gregg Deichmann’s single in the fifth and Luis Barrera’s solo home run in the seventh).

But after Sacramento relief pitcher Yunior Marte retired Reed for the first out of the ninth, Pete Kozma and Barrera reached on back-to-back singles. Marte (0-1) then walked Frank Schwindel to the load the bases before striking out Jacob Wilson on four pitches. However, Marte bounced the strikeout pitch, which got past River Cats catcher Chadwick Tromp, allowing Kozma to score and moving Barrera and Schwindel to second and third, respectively.

With two outs, Aviators catcher Francisco Peña stepped to the plate seeking his first hit of the season. After working a full count, Peña lined a pitch up the middle that hit Marte in the foot and caromed to the third-base side of the mound. Marte retrieved the ball and appeared to have plenty of time to get Peña for the game-ending out, but his throw sailed past first baseman Justin Bour, allowing Barrera and Schwindel to score and tie the game at 10-10.

Marte finally got out of the jam when he got Diaz to groundout, sending the game to extra innings. Per Minor League Baseball’s pace-of-play rules, teams start every extra inning with a runner on second base. So when Riordan handed the ball to reliever Ben Bracewell — the Aviators’ sixth pitcher of the game — Sacramento’s Joe McCarthy was standing on second, and he immediately moved to third when Bour led off with a groundout. But McCarthy would go no further, as Bracewell (1-0) sandwiched two strikeouts around an intentional walk.

Out of available pitchers, River Cats manager Dave Brundage was forced to send third baseman Jason Krizan to the mound in the bottom of the 10th. Having made the final out of the ninth, Diaz trotted to second base to start the inning and moved to third on Mikey White’s leadoff groundout. Three pitches later, Reed — who had been hitless in his first seven at-bats of the season — ripped a single to right field to cap the wild comeback and send the Aviators’ players pouring out of the dugout to celebrate the team’s first win of 2021.

While Reed’s walk-off single easily qualified as the night’s most exciting moment, it was hardly the only one. Here’s a sampling of the others:

• The teams combined for 21 runs, 25 hits, four home runs and 15 walks. They also left a total of 22 runners on base, with the River Cats stranding 14.

• The lead changed hands three times before eight outs were recorded. Sacramento took a 1-0 lead in the first, and after the Aviators answered with three runs in the bottom of the inning, the River Cats put up their own three-spot in the top of the second to take a 4-3 lead.

• Sacramento scored at least one run in each of the first four innings and five of the first six, and had at least one runner reach base safely in every inning but the eighth. They also loaded the bases in the second, third, fourth and sixth innings.

• The River Cats hit their second grand slam in as many nights, with second baseman Mitchell Tolman delivering the blow off of Las Vegas right-hander Brian Schlitter with one out in the sixth inning.

Tolman’s blast increased Sacramento’s lead from 6-5 to 10-5, which certainly seemed like enough of a cushion. And it was … until the Aviators’ bats woke up in the nick of time.

GAME NOTES: Las Vegas relievers Cam Bedrosian, Matt Blackham and Bracewell held the River Cats to just one hit and two walks over the final four innings. … Three Aviators had multi-hit games: Barrera went 2-for-5 with his homer, two RBI and two runs scored; Schwindel went 2-for-4 with a solo homer and three runs; and Diechmann, who entered the game in the third inning, went 3-for-4 with an RBI. … After producing just two extra-base hits in the first two games — a double by outfielder Cody Thomas and a solo homer by infielder Jacob Wilson — Las Vegas had three on Saturday: the homers by Barrera and Schwindel, and Wilson’s first-inning double. … In addition to the 15 walks, the Aviators and River Cats combined for another 19 strikeouts. Halfway through this season-opening series, there have been 66 strikeouts and 39 walks. Nearly 41 percent of the recorded outs have been strikeouts. … Since winning the first eight meetings with Sacramento early in the 2019 season, the Aviators are still just 5-10 against the River Cats (including a best-of-5 playoff series). … Prior to the game, the Oakland A’s (the Aviators’ parent club) reinstated right-handed pitcher Burch Smith from the injured list. Burch had been on a rehabilitation assignment with Las Vegas, pitching 1 1/3 innings in Thursday’s season opener and allowing a run on two hits with two strikeouts.

ON DECK: The Aviators and River Cats continue their six-game series at Las Vegas Ballpark on Sunday. It’s the first matinee contest of 2021, with first pitch set for 12:05 p.m. Veteran right-hander Paul Blackburn (11-3, 4.34 ERA in 22 starts with Las Vegas in 2019) will make his first start of the season. Sacramento will counter with fellow righty Shun Yamaguchi, who went 2-4 with a 8.06 ERA in 17 relief appearances with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2020.

COVID-19 PROTOCOLS REMINDER: Plan on attending an upcoming Aviators game at Las Vegas Ballpark? Remember: Face coverings are mandatory and must be worn at all times, even while seated, unless actively eating or drinking. Fans are also asked to practice social distancing when walking about the concourse and/or at the concession stands. Also, hand sanitizer stations are available throughout the ballpark.

More information on Las Vegas Ballpark’s health and safety guidelines and security restrictions can be found here.

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