Reno Aces finish baseball season in winning form

Tahoe Onstage

Reno Aces infielders Juniel Querecuto, Ildemaro Vargas and Kevin Cron are all smiles before the start of the final game of the season on Monday before a Labor Day crowd of 4,186.
Tahoe Onstage photos by Shaun Astor

The Reno Aces finished their season in a game typical of most since the All-Star break: Pitcher Taylor Clarke was outstanding, shortstop Ildemaro Vargas received a standing ovation and the Aces were victorious.

The Aces defeated the Albuquerque Isotopes 8-3 at Greater Nevada Field, completing their eighth winning season in 10 years in the Biggest Little City. Reno finished with a 72-68 record, going 30-20 since the All-Star break. The Aces averaged more than 5,000 fans a game, and 4,186 turned out on a warm, sunny Monday Labor Day.

Aces manager Greg Gross

“From a team standpoint, where we were after five weeks, 11 games under .500, going from that to playing the way we did, finishing over .500, I’ll take that as a positive,” second-year Manager Greg Gross said.

Fun-loving and amiable, Vargas was a fan and player favorite. He set the franchise record with a 35-game hitting streak. On Tuesday, Vargas was promoted to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

“He has fun all the time,” said Aces catcher Anthony Recker. “He is an animated character. He has a lot of talent and it shows.  I’ve never seen a team root as hard for one player as this one did during his hitting streak.”

Vargas drew a walk in the bottom of the third inning. Gross removed him for a pinch runner in order to have the 27-year old receive a standing ovation from the crowd.

Clarke improved to 13-8, striking out five and walking two and allowing six hits over five innings.

Clarke was as consistent as you can possibly be,” Recker said. “You don’t come across a lot of guys that kind of consistency in the Pacific Coast League. He does a good job at studying the lineup and following the game plan. He knows what he wants to do.”

Six Aces were called up to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sept. 1 when major league teams rosters could expand to 40. Dbacks officials attended Monday’s game, no doubt to inform more players of their promotion. Arizona is in a close division race with the Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Dodgers.

“The guys who have gone up this year have done a good job, (pitchers) Silvino Bracho and Joey Krehbiel,” Gross said. “Christian Walker has had some big pinch hits. Socrates Brito came up in a big situation and had a 10-pitch at bat.”

Recker talked about the Aces stretch run.

“The key in the second half was continuity,” he said. “We had a couple of guys hurt and a couple of guys called up. Then the offense started clicking. From June 1 on, this was the best offense I’ve been on.”

Gross pointed to some individual achievements: “Kevin Cron putting up those kinds of numbers (22 home runs, 97 RBIs, .307 batting average) after missing a month. Silvino Bracho, Jimmie Sherfy, Joey Krehbiel and Jake Barrett — they solidified the bullpen, kept us in some games and saved some games. Vargas, he likes to play. Sometimes he gets a little carried away, but he’s under control when he needs to be. He’s had two really solid seasons here.”

Notes: Gross, the third manager in Aces franchise history, said he wants to return next year. He was the team’s hitting coach from 2013-2017. … The Diamondbacks called up seven Aces on Sept. 1: Pitchers Jimmie Sherfy, Matt Koch, Silvino Bracho, outfielder Socrates Brito, second baseman Chris Owings and catcher Chris Stewart, who was acquired from Atlanta on Aug. 31. … Aces left fielder Tyler Ladendorf set the tone of the game in the first inning by making a fearless catch down the left field line before crashing into the padded wall, and then ripping a line drive single. … Catcher Alberto Rosario put Reno up 6-2 with a two-run homer. … Veteran first baseman Cody Decker had a pinch hit double to right field in his final at bat of the season. … The 2019 schedule has been released. The Aces will play home games on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. … Vargas’ 35-game hitting streak was impressive, but the PCL record  was never threatened. Joe Dimaggio was a teenager when he hit safely in 61-straight games in 1933 for the San Francisco Seals.

— Tim Parsons

Related story: Anthony Recker mulls retirement.

Taylor Clarke is consistent in winning the final game of the season.
Shaun Astor / Tahoe Onstage

Aces mascot Archie messes with Vargas before the game.
Shaun Astor / Tahoe Onstage

About Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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