Venezuelan double-play combo sparks Reno Aces

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Three-year-old Austin Jose “A.J.” Vargas runs on the field to greet his father, Ildemero Vargas.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

The Reno Aces hold a dynamic Venezuelan double play combination in the Biggest Little City

Switch-hitting shortstop Ildemaro Vargas and second baseman Juniel Querectuo bring their gloves and bats to Greater Nevada Field every game, and it’s paying dividends. From hits in the gap to double plays on the field, they get the job done. Both are riding hitting streaks.

“We got a good connection going right now,” Querectuo said. “We try to communicate before the ball even hits the bat and that’s really working for us right now. It’s going to take some adjusting as the season progresses, but we’re playing some good ball right now.”

Vargas, a native of Caripotio, Venezuela, extended his hitting streak to 16 games in an 8-6 Father’s Day victory Sunday. He finished 2-for-4 with a single and a double, both in the first inning. During the streak, Vargas is hitting .387 with eight RBIs. He is hitting right-hand pitchers .304 (63-for-207) and lefties .205 (14-for-68).

Signing a minor league deal with the Dbacks in 2015, Vargas, 26, has the fifth-most hits (299) and sixth-most runs (156) in Aces’ history. Vargas capped-off an all-star 2017 season with career highs in runs (87), doubles (35), homers (10), RBIs (65). His 152 hits were fourth among batters in the Pacific Coast League. Vargas has just four errors this year, and is sporting .985 fielding percentage this season.

Vargas, father of son 3-year-old Austin Jose “A.J.” Vargas, enjoyed Father’s Day with his family at the ball park.

“My son comes out to every game here,” Vargas said. “And I am really excited to spend the day with him and the rest of my family.”

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Juniel Querecuto has had a hit in each of his eight games with the Aces.

While Vargas remains a familiar face, Querecuto, 25, is making a name for himself — call him “JQ.” Since he was promoted from Double-A Jackson on June 8, the Aces are 5-3 with Querectuo is in the starting lineup. Querectuo is riding an eight-game hit streak (.353) with Reno and has hits in 13-straight games

Juniel Querecuto

Juniel Querecuto

combined in Jackson.

“I’m just trying not to do too much,” Querecuto said. “I just try to put the ball in play and be in a position to win the game.”

A native of Barquisimeto, Venezuela, Querecuto has a history with Vargas.

“I’ve been playing with him for a few years now,” Querecuto said. “We played on the same team in Venezuela in 2015 and we even played last year. Being with him is awesome. He’s so much fun to be around and I try to model parts of my game after him.”

Querecuto was signed by the Tampa Bay Rays as a non-drafted free agent in 2009. He ascended through the Rays’ farm system and made his Triple-A debut with the Durham Bulls in 2015, playing in four games. Querecuto found a permanent role with Durham in 2016, hitting .242 with 11 RBIs in 36 games. Tim Parsons / Tahoe OnstageHe made his MLB debut with Tampa Bay later that season, going 1-for-11 (0.91) with 2 RBIs in four games. Electing for free agency in 2016, Querecuto signed a minor league contract with the San Francisco Giants.

Querecuto was immediately inserted to the Giants’ Triple-A affiliate Sacramento River Cats, hitting .232 with two home runs and 27 RBIs in 94 games. JQ elected for free agency once again and was assigned to the Dbacks’ Double-A affiliate Jackson Generals. His decision paid off quite handsomely in Jackson, Tennessee, where he hit .369 with 17 extra base-hits in 47 games with the Generals.

JQ is becoming one of the guys in the clubhouse, and Vargas is helping with the transition.

“I’m so lucky to have him as a teammate,” Querecuto said. “We share lots of things together and I feel comfortable talking to him about anything. He’s really a friend to me more than a teammate, just for how humble he is and the kind of person he tries to be.”

Vargas and Querecuto are keeping hot bats in Reno, the two combined may be the missing link toward the Aces’ playoff hopes.

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Bradin Hagens pitched five innings, allowing two earned runs, to get his third win on the season.
Tim Parsons/ Tahoe Onstage file

Big first inning leads Aces

The Omaha Storm Chasers couldn’t rain on the Reno Aces’ offensive parade at Greater Nevada Field on Sunday. The Aces won 8-6 in a game in front of 4,719 that included some spring showers.

Outfielder Rey Fuentes finished 2-for-4 with a double and three RBIs. Ildemaro Vargas, Cesar Puello, Socrates Brito and Kristopher Negron each knocked in a run. Through two games in the four-game series, Reno has 30 hits.

Aces righty Bradin Hagens picked up his third win of the season on Father’s Day. Hagens went five innings, surrendering two earned runs on five hits and four walks with one strikeout. Hagens and his wife, Tosha, are expecting their first child.

Omaha second baseman Humberto Arteaga was a bright spot offensively, finishing 1-for-3 with three runs driven in. Ramon Torres added two hits and an RBI, Jack Lopez finished 3-for-4 with a double.

Reno jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first inning with back-to-back RBI extra base-hits. The flurry of runs was enough for Omaha starter Jonathan Dziedzic to be pulled from the game after pitching just two-thirds of an inning. He surrendered seven runs on seven hits and a walk.

Freshly optioned down to the Biggest Little City, UNR alum Braden Shipley pitched 2.1 innings in relief.

Aces Looking up in PCL Standings: Three of the four teams in the Pacific Coast League Northern Division are 6-4 over their last 10 games. The Fresno Grizzlies lead the division with a 41-27 record. Reno is 9.5 games behind Fresno and three games behind second-place Tacoma.

MLB Starter Robbie Ray Gets the Nod: Robbie Ray (oblique) will get the rehab start during Tuesday’s game against Omaha in place of Taylor Clarke, Diamondbacks manager Tori Lovullo said Sunday morning. Ray pitched his way to a 2.89 ERA and 15-5 record with Arizona last season. 

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Aces catcher Anthony Recker signs autographs after the win.
Isaiah Burrows / Tahoe Onstage

Notes: Socrates Brito’s .353 batting average ranks third in the PCL. Ildemaro Vargas’ two first inning hits haven’t occurred since Carlos Rivero collected two hits in the seventh in 2016. Aces infielder Kristopher Negron started his 26th game at second base, picking up an error in the win.

On Deck: Reno (33-37) will look to go up one game of the four-game series against Omaha (31-37) Monday when Aces’ ringer Jake Buchanan goes up against vs. Trevor Oaks. The game is a 7:05 p.m. start.

-Isaiah Burrows

About Isaiah Burrows

Tahoe Onstage sportswriter Isaiah Burrows also is a general assignment reporter for CarsonNow.org, an online news source in Carson City. He is a journalism major at the University of Nevada, Reno, where he writes sports for the Sagebrush student newspaper. He is the Reno Aces beat writer for Tahoe Onstage.

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