What’s a little cold when it’s a new baseball season?
Greater Nevada Field had 4,551 fans battle 48-degree weather with 19 mph winds who witnessed the Reno Aces win their opening home game of the season Tuesday, 4-2, against Albuquerque.
Taylor Clarke, who set the Aces season record with 125 strikeouts last year, fanned nine chilly Isotopes to get the win.
Craig and Lori Fledderjohn were a bundle of joyful baseball fans in attendance. “In our minds there’s no reason not to come here,” Craig said. “It’s a lot more affordable. It’s downtown and really close to where everybody lives. There’s honestly not a bad seat in the house and it’s a good time.”
Originally from San Diego, the Fledderjohns moved to Reno in 2011. Craig has a connection to the ballpark that keeps the two of them coming back for more.
“I had a part-time job here at the ballpark serving pulled pork and tri-tip sandwiches,” he said. “We’ve made a commitment to go to games off and on ever since. It’s just something about being here that’s special to us.”
Season-ticket holders Anthony Spotts and Tim Nally bonded over a tasty snack. They became friends and have been coming to Aces games together since 2012.
“We didn’t know each other when we first came here,” Nally said. “As a matter of fact, we became friends over a plate of helmet nachos, funny enough.”
Spotts has seen Aces promoted to the big-league affiliate, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and demoted down to Double-A Jackson throught the seasons. He’s becoming an Aces’ news source for his friends located in Phoenix.
“I’m friends with some people in Phoenix and they ask me about some of the guys on the Aces,” he said. “I like going to the games and reporting back to them on how some of the players look … just to give them some insight on the team.”
Although Spotts gives his perspective on the game, a comedic first baseman and flame-throwing closer are becoming his favorite players.
“My first is Cody Decker. He’s a class act and a career minor league guy but he has lots of fun,” he said. “The other one is Jimmie Sherfy because he’s a humble guy. He’s trying to get to the big leagues, but he still he has work to do and he knows that. I’m really rooting for him.”
While several season-ticket holders have been coming to Greater Nevada Field for years, Reno’s 11th home opener marked the first game for Kane and his dad who identified himself as Papa Bear.
“I only came here for this little guy, it’s our first game here.” he said.
Aces starting pitcher Taylor Clarke, who led the team in wins last year, got the decision. He allowed five hits in six innings with nine strikeouts and just one walk.
Clarke pounded the zone with low-90s fastballs and had great command of his four-pitch mix. His put-out pitch of choice was a slider, which broke across the plate and had the Albuquerque bats whiffing at air. The hurler helped his cause with an RBI single in the second inning that skipped into shallow right field. He’s collected a hit in each of his two outings this season.
The Aces had eight hits on the night. Yasmany Tomas, Abraham Almonte and Alberto Rosario collected one RBI apiece. Travis Snider went went 2-for-3 in his Reno debut. He’s batting a team-high .500.
Manager Chris Cron is impressed with the offensive output so far this season.
“I think we’ve done a good job stringing together runs consistently,” the skipper said before the game. “We’re being patient getting into deep counts and taking advantage with good, smart swings.”
Isotopes second baseman Brendan Rodgers made his first-ever trip to the Biggest Little City. The No. 10 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, Rodgers went 0-for-3 but made a nice defensive play at second base in the fourth inning with a diving catch that took away a potential base hit from Rosario.
The Aces jumped out to a 3-0 lead. The Isotopes answered with a two-run fifth inning to cut the deficit to 3-2.
Shortstop Domingo Leyba was hit in the left calf by a slider that didn’t break by Isotopes reliever Kenny Koplove in the bottom of the fifth. The Dominican Republic native immediately fell to the floor, but limped his way to first base. He later scored when Tomas legged out a two-out single to put Reno up 4-2.
The Aces bullpen took care of the rest. Reliever Stefan Crichton pitched two scoreless innings. Rubby De La Rosa, who did not play at all in 2018, struck out the side to get the save.
Duplantier heads to Reno
The Dbacks top pitching prospect Jon Duplantier has been optioned back to Reno, reported Zach Buchanan of the The Athletic. The right-hander played at Double-A Jackson last season. He recorded one save in his two games with Arizona, striking out three in four innings.
Notes: Former Aces first baseman Christian Walker homered in the home opener of 2017 and 2018. … The year 2012 was The coldest home opener ever recorded. The game’s temperature came in at 35 degrees with wind speeds up to 12 mph. … Reno has scored a combined seven runs during the first inning of home openers. … The franchise record for most RBIs in the Aces’ home opener if four, held by Jack Reinheimer and Trent Oeltjen.
On deck: Game 2 of the series Wednesday, Aces right-hander Taylor Widener faces Isotopes Peter Lambert at 6:35 p.m.