The season series between the Reno Aces and Las Vegas Aviators is called Silver State Diamond Challenge but to the fans, friends and family at Greater Nevada Field it’s simply baseball, and on a beautiful spring night, what could be better?
On Monday, Las Vegas took the opening game of a four-game series, 6-3. It ended the Aviators’ five-game losing streak and the Aces’ four-game winning streak.
How important is winning and losing to Kevin Stipe and his son, Grayson, who take in three or four Aces games each season?
“Not at all because I love the game of baseball,” said Kevin, who wore a Yankees cap and arrived early to the ballpark. “I cheer players who make great plays, no matter what team they are on. Well, maybe not Boston.”
Jesse Laughlin is a Seattle Mariners fan who attends when their Triple-A team, Tacoma, comes to town. But he goes to other games, too, including Monday’s contest. He took his 4-year-old daughter, Aubree.
“I love the game,” he said. “It’s the atmosphere. And I want to support our local team, too.”
The loudest fans on Monday sat beyond third base. They cheered “Number 28” throughout the game.” Aces third baseman Marty Herum wears 28 and he had a pair of hits and displayed a strong arm on an assist late in the contest. But fan Jared Busker and his 20 or so friends didn’t know much about Herum.
No. 28 was the closest player on the field and Busker said it was his 28th birthday. “I love baseball and hanging out with my friends. And I like losing my voice.”
Reno’s Dwight and Mae McKemy were more reserved but just as enthused. The A’s moved their Triple-A team from Nashville to Las Vegas and a new ballpark in the offseason.
“Every year we go to spring training for a month to watch the A’s,” Dwight McKemy said. “I am very interested to see how the players are with their own team. I like (infielder Jorge) Mateo. He really has the baseball intuition. I think he will go up this year.”
The A’s fans also had to like pitcher Paul Blackburn, who appeared in six games with the big-league team in 2018. On Monday, the 25-year-old right-hander threw six scoreless innings, striking out four with no walks and allowing just three hits to earn the win.
The Aces, who are the Arizona Diamondbacks’ top minor league club, also had a good outing from their starting pitcher, Vinny Nittoli, who went five innings and allowed just two hits.
With the wind blowing out toward right field at Greater Nevada Field, a game with just nine runs and 13 hits — just five by Aviators batters — could almost be considered a pitchers’ duel.
Las Vegas plated three on sacrifice fly balls. Lefty first baseman Seth Brown had a home run and triple. Reno’s Kevin Cron went 2-for-4 and is batting .369. He has 11 homer in April, which ties the franchise record.
On Deck: Game 2 will be at 11:05 a.m. Tuesday. The Aces (9-15) will start Taylor Widener, who will oppose the (16-9) Aviators’ Tyler Alexander.
— Tim Parsons