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Second half of MiLB season opens with familiar series split

Updated: Jul 5, 2023

Las Vegas won three of the first four games but couldn’t pick up its first series win in more than a month and a half, splitting six outings with Round Rock. Over the final two games of the series, the Express outscored the Aviators 23-9.

Now, Las Vegas has had four series splits since its last series win.

Prospects Tyler Soderstrom and Zack Gelof went home run crazy throughout the series providing a separate headline to the games themselves. In addition, with a callup on the final day of the series, it appears shortstop NIck Allen may be returning to the big leagues for good this season.

This series marked the start of the second half of the MiLB season after Oklahoma City of the LA Dodgers organization claimed the first half.

In addition, this series against Round Rock marked the beginning of 12 straight games for Las Vegas with a six-game road series against El Paso coming up.

The Aviators will meet the Chihuahuas in that six-game setting beginning Tuesday, July 4 with first pitch slated for 5:05 p.m. Both teams have split six meetings already this season dating back to the end of May and start of June.

Wednesday, W, 7-5

Las Vegas was boosted by a three-run first inning followed by insurance runs in the form of a pair of dingers as part of a 7-5 win over Round Rock.

It started early for the home team after shortstop Nick Allen drew a four-pitch walk in the opening inning. That was followed by a single before both would come across to score on an RBI double and RBI groundout. A second RBI groundout plated another run for a 3-0 Aviators lead.

The remaining Las Vegas runs came on home runs including solo shots from third baseman Jordan Diaz and right fielder Cody Thomas. Moreover, catcher Tyler Soderstrom hit a two-run blast in the seventh inning for his 17th moonshot of the year.

Starting pitcher Freddy Tarnok had another strong outing, forcing five of the first six batters he retired to popout on the way to six total for his outing. He worked around several walks in this one on the way to a final stat line of four innings pitched, giving up two runs on a hit with four walks.

Reliever Chase Cohen surrendered back-to-back singles with one out in the fifth inning to account as only the second and third hits by the visitors.

An inning later, fellow relief pitcher Kirby Snead coughed up a solo home run with two outs to allow the Express back in the game. He’d allow a double and walk another batter before a flyout ended the inning.

Reliever Angel Felipe made his home debut and would be touched up for a run on an RBI double for the first non-home run RBI since the first inning for either team.

Five relief pitchers worked five innings in total with righty Chad Smith working the ninth and final inning despite giving up a solo home run.

Thursday, L, 9-6

In a wild turn of events, Las Vegas lost a five-run lead and then lost the second of a scheduled six meetings with Round Rock. It was two bad middle innings that shifted the momentum inside of the Las Vegas Ballpark.

In order to build that five-run lead, the Aviators rode the wave of several power swings.

Shortstop Nick Allen led off the first inning with a solo home run on a 1-0 count for a one-run home team lead.

Center Max Scheumann and catcher Tyler Soderstrom both hit dingers an inning later as part of a four-run frame for Las Vegas. Soderstrom hit another bomb later in the game to cut the deficit to one.

Allen drove in another run in between those two blasts on an RBI single. All runs in the second inning came across with two outs recorded in the inning. He went 2-for-4 with a single, home run, two RBI, two runs scored and a walk.

By the end of the top of the third inning, Las Vegas starter Adam Oller had compiled four strikeouts, three of them looking, versus just two hits allowed. Even when Round Rock scored its first run of the night, it came on a fielder’s choice and throwing error.

The wheels completely came off in the fifth inning after Oller gave up a single, walk, RBI single and walk in order before having his night ended by manager Fran Riordan. He went four-plus innings with four runs allowed (three earned) on six hits with five strikeouts and two walks.

Reliever Francisco Perez allowed another plate to score on a wild pitch before an RBI single cut the Las Vegas lead back to a run.

Fellow reliever Colton Eastman jumped behind the eight-ball early opening with a runner reaching on an error coupled with a stolen base. It was an RBI triple and two-run home run that gave Round Rock its first lead of the game.

The Express loaded the bases with nobody out in the eighth inning before Eastman’s night ended. Right-handed reliever Norge Ruiz allowed two runs to cross home plate on an RBI groundout and RBI single.

Eastman was given the blown save in addition to another loss to his record. He is now 0-7 this year with a 6.59 ERA.

Friday, W, 5-4

After dropping a game where it held a five-run lead, Las Vegas had to play catch-up in order to take another game away from Round Rock. Seven of the nine total runs in the game came in the first three innings of the contest.

Second baseman Zack Gelof played hero for the Aviators, hitting a leadoff double in the eighth inning. He’d be driven in on an RBI sacrifice fly from third baseman Jonah Bride in his first game back with Las Vegas.

Earlier in the game, Gelof hit a solo home run with two outs tallied in the bottom of the first inning. He went 2-for-3 with a double, home run, an RBI and three runs scored.

While Gelof played hero, it was right fielder Cody Thomas’ three-run double after the bases were loaded on three walks. Thomas’ three-run hit netted the Aviators their first lead of the game.

Starting pitcher Adrian Martinez couldn’t hop off the snide after falling behind in the game’s opening inning of this one. He gave up a two-out RBI double for a 1-0 Express lead.

Martinez (0-5, 10.59 ERA) would be done by the third inning after walking the leadoff man. His relief, Aaron Wilkerson, promptly gave up a two-run home run despite having the fresh arm.

After being pulled, Martinez’s final line was two-plus innings with two runs on two hits with two walks. Wilkerson wouldn’t be done giving up long balls as he’d be touched again for a roundtripper in the seventh inning via a solo dinger. Before that, Wilkerson had sat down nine straight prior to the homer.

For the remainder of the game, relievers Spencer Patton, Angel Felipe and Chad Smith all evaded serious damage including a 5-2-3 double play with Smith on the mound to end the game. Before that, Round Rock had the bases loaded in a one-run game.

Saturday, W, 8-7

Another win, this time a walkoff win, secured at least a series split for Las Vegas against Round Rock in the first meeting of the year. The game featured four ties and four lead changes while both teams scored runs in consecutive innings from the bottom of the fifth to the bottom of the seventh inning.

As part of the second out of the ninth inning, shortstop Nick Allen reached base on a fielder’s choice. The Express opted to intentionally walk designated hitter Tyler Soderstrom ahead of a game-ending RBI single from second baseman Zack Gelof.

Earlier in the game, Gelof homered for two runs to give the Aviators a 5-4 lead in the fifth inning with two outs recorded. He has now homered in two straight games. Soderstrom had homered earlier in the game as well for his 20th blast of the year.

Allen also went deep in the game, hitting his homer to leadoff the seventh inning, tying the game at seven runs apiece.

Gelof and Allen combined to go 5-for-9 with three singles, two home runs, five RBI, six runs scored, a strikeout and a walk.

Starting pitcher Zach Neal started fast with three straight strikeouts to open the game. Round Rock got to Neal in the second inning by hitting a two-run home run with two outs to tie the game. An inning later, the team added a solo blast to give the visitors their first lead of the game.

Neal went five innings, giving up four runs on five hits with six strikeouts and two walks.

Reliever Joseph Wieland was responsible for the third lead change of the game after serving up a walk and a two-run home run. Fellow reliever Billy Sullivan allowed another run to score, this time on a wild pitch.

The relief pitcher tandem of Norge Ruiz and Spencer Patton combined to throw a hitless two innings with two strikeouts and a walk. Patton picked up the win to improve to 2-1 on the year and 6.20 ERA.

Sunday, L, 13-2

You don’t often find bullpen games that start like this one did but in the end, Las Vegas was dumped by double-digit runs at the hands of Round Rock. The game was completed in front of a sellout crowd in 110°, which marks the hottest game of the season so far from Las Vegas Ballpark.

Reliever Garrett Williams made his first start of the year in his 23 appearances. Despite those numbers, he’s yet to pick up a decision this season including earning a no-decision in this one.

Williams gave up back-to-back one-out walks but would avert danger with an inning-ending double play. An inning later, he walked the leadoff man followed by a single. Once again, he avoided real trouble by inducing two flyouts and picked up a strikeout to end the threat.

In two scoreless innings of work, Williams yielded one hit with three walks and one strikeout.

Las Vegas had a problem with walks all night long, issuing nine free passes while striking out 16 times on the other side of things.

Second baseman Zack Gelof was responsible for the two Las Vegas runs on the night, going deep for the third straight game with a two-run home run with one out. Gelof leads the team in runs scored and played hero last night by hitting a walkoff RBI single.

Round Rock hit home runs off three straight pitchers with left fielder Elier Hernandez and catcher Sam Huff being the biggest culprit. The visiting duo combined to go 6-for-10 with three singles, three homers, nine RBI, three runs scored, two strikeouts and a walk.

Half of the first six Express runs came on home runs, all of them solos.

Monday, L, 10-7

After winning three of the first four games of this six-game series, losing back-to-back games to end the stretch results in another series split for Las Vegas. Over the last two games of the series, the Aviators were outscored by 22 runs.

It took some time but Round Rock eventually got to Las Vegas starter Freddy Tarnok after working around several stressful situations. After two one-out walks in the first inning, Tarnok was bailed out by catching not one but two runners attempting to steal a base.

In the second inning, Tarnok had to pull out back-to-back strikeouts after facing two-on with one out in the frame.

The Express finally got to Tarnok in the fourth inning with a solo shot with two outs on the board. For the second consecutive night, the game’s first run came in the fourth inning.

Tarnok gave up a run on three hits with four strikeouts and four walks in four innings of work on 78 pitches. Of those 78 pitches, 45 were strikes. In four appearances this season, 128 of his 234 pitches were strikes for a 55% strike rate.

Overall, Round Rock scored seven runs in two innings on the heels of another home run, this time a three-run blast in the fifth inning off relief pitcher Norge Ruiz, who gave up hits to three of the first four batters he faced.

Reliever Joseph Wieland was tabbed for three more runs on a three-run triple before being pulled in favor of righty Spencer Patton, who’d serve up an RBI double for an 8-0 start for the Express.

On offense, Las Vegas went down in order through the first two innings of the game without a ball leaving the infield. The team was retired on three groundouts and three strikeouts.

Shortstop Logan Davidson’s one-out single in the third inning counted as the team’s first hit of the game, becoming the first ball to make it out of the infield. Later in the game, he’d hit a leadoff home run for his second hit of the night. Coming into the game, Davidson was batting 1-for-16 in this series.

Left fielder Trenton Brooks added a three-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning as second baseman Zack Gelof also hit a two-run blast in the eighth. Both dingers came with two outs recorded.

Gelof has now homered in four straight games.


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