It may not be football season yet, but the Las Vegas 51s had no problem playing like they reached the end zone, again, and again, and again. Las Vegas jumped out to a 10-0 lead before finishing off the Salt Lake Bees 20-8. It was an amazing 24-hit onslaught that saw all nine starters have at least one hit.
The siege began early when the 51s scored four runs in the top of the first inning. Danny Muno and Matt Reynolds began the game with back-to-back singles and Kirk Nieuwenhuis followed with his fourth home run since joining Las Vegas. The three-run home run cleared the wall in right-center field and served notice that the invasion had begun. Unfortunately for Salt Lake starter Alex Sanabia, the trouble was just beginning. Alex Castellanos walked, and two batters later Brandon Allen singled to move Castellanos to second. Anthony Recker was hit by a pitch and Travis Taijeron drew a walk to drive home Castellanos to make it 4-0.
In the top of the second the Las Vegas 51s added six more. Reynolds was hit by a pitch, Nieuwenhuis walked and Castellanos singled to score Reynolds. Two batters later Allen walked to load the bases and that would be it for Sanabia.
The Salt Lake starter lasted just 1.1 innings, and allowed 5 hits and 4 walks. He had 5 runs in and 3 three more still on the base paths.
Kurt Spomer came in looking to see if he could bring the inning to an end, but that was not to be the case. Recker walked to bring home a run and Taijeron followed with a line drive to left field that scored both Castellanos and Allen. A single by T.J. Rivera plated Recker, and when Danny Muno was hit by a pitch the bases were loaded once again. Reynolds, the 10th man to bat in the game, hit a sacrifice fly that brought home Taijeron to make it 10-0.
Dillon Gee started for Las Vegas and he cruised through the first three innings, allowing only a lead-off single start the third inning. He was in complete control and, staked to a 10-run lead, it looked like this was game was pretty much over, but if anyone thought that Salt Lake was just going to lay down they were kidding themselves. These Bees have a lot of sting, and were prepared to show it.
In the bottom of the fourth the home team showed just how lethal they can be. Ryan Jackson led off with a double and moved to third on a ground out. C.J. Cron followed with a double down the left field line that brought Jackson home. Roger Kieschnick was the next batter, and when he turned on a Dee offering and drilled it over the right-center field wall, Salt Lake was within seven. It was Kieschnick’s ninth home run of the season. Dee then walked Grant Green before striking out Jett Brandy for the second out of the inning. Alex Yarborough singled to put two men on, and both runners moved into scoring position on a wild pitch by the 51s starter. Kaleb Cowart was the next batter, and his shot down the right field line cleared the wall for his second home run of the season, cutting the Las Vegas lead to four.
It was quite a comeback by the Bees. They showed they have some real heart and, when neither team was able to score in the next two innings, Salt Lake looked primed to get even closer in this game. The seventh inning chopped the hive down for the Bees, leaving them way too far back to make a comeback in this one.
Edgar Ibarra came in to pitch for Salt Lake, and looked like he might keep this a four-run ballgame, but a huge two-out rally brought the hopes of the Bees to an end. Muno singled to lead off the inning, but Ibarra got two ground outs. That moved Muno to third, but brought him within an out of ending the seventh. That was not to be the case.
Following the second ground out, the 51s got three straight hits from Castellanos, Conrad, and Allen. Castellanos drove home Muno and Allen sent Castellanos across home plate. Recker followed with a double to the wall in center that brought Conrad and Allen in to score. Taijeron was the eighth batter of the inning, and he would also be the last man to score in the frame. He took an Ibarra pitch deep over the center field wall for his 13th homer of the season to make 16-6. A Rivera single and walk to Muno would bring an end to Ibarra’s day. His inning began so promisingly, but ended so tragically.
Salt Lake did get a run back in the bottom half of the inning. Alfredo Marte singled with two outs and advanced to second on a defensive indifference play. C.J. Cron delivered a single that scored Marte to make it 16-7.
Las Vegas wanted to ensure that there was no hope for a comeback, adding two more runs in the top of the eighth and two in the ninth. Nieuwenhuis walked to begin the eighth and moved to second on a single by Conrad. A double by Allen brought Nieuwenhuis home and moved Conrad to third. Recker followed with a sharp single to center that scored Conrad to make it 18-7.
Frank Herrmann took over the hill in the top of the ninth and was greeted by a single by Muno. Two batters later Nieuwenhuis lined a home run over the right field wall to make it 20-runs. That is the outfielder’s fifth home run in just 32 at-bats since joining Las Vegas. He has driven in 13 and scored 10 in just eight games.
Leading by 13 runs, Las Vegas manager Wally Backmann decided to let catcher Dan Rohlfing have a crack at the mound. He gave up a lead-off walk to Cowart, then hit Brown before giving up a single to Erick Salcedo to load the bases with no one out. Marte delivered a sacrifice fly before Rohlfing was able to retire the final two batters of the game to make it a 20-8 final.
Dee (1-0) earned his first win as a Las Vegas 51s player. Sanabia (1-8) took the loss.
Five 51s had at least three hits, including Allen, who went 5-6 with 2 runs and 2 RBI. Nieuwenhuis was 2-4 with 4 runs scored and 5 RBI. Taijeron also drove in 5 runs in a 2-5 performance. Muno was 3-5 and scored 3 runs.
Las Vegas returns home to face the Sacramento River Cats. Jake Peavy (0-2, 5.47) will be starting for Sacramento against Matt Bowman (4-8, 6.19) for the Las Vegas 51s.
By Robert Pannier