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Aces 6, Bulls 10: In which our closer sucks

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before...

Chicago Cubs v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Kelsey Grant/Getty Images

Well, that was unfortunate. The Reno Aces played for the AAA Championship tonight in Las Vegas, and fought back from 4-0 down to have a 6-5 lead going into the ninth. Then the J.P.ocalypse happened, Messrs. Wendelken and Bukauskas allowing five runs there, to rob the Aces of the crown.

Deyni Olivero got the start and gave up a run in the first inning thanks to a double and a single, giving the Aces 1-0 deficit. Alek Thomas would lead off the bottom of the inning with a single to left, and advance to second after Dominic Fletcher walked (thanks to an interesting challenge system) but both would end up stranded.

Olivero starts the second inning by giving up a leadoff single, followed by a walk to put runners on first and second. Olivero would get a strikeout for the first out, but a double to right would score a run, with the runners holding up just enough that only one of the runners scores. A groundball up the middle is played perfectly by Blaze Alexander, who looks both runners back, and then gets the second out of the inning at first. Unfortunately another hit, the ball glancing off the glove of Seth Beer, would score two more runs to make it 4-0. Edwin Uceta took over for Olivero with a runner at second, and walked the first batter he faces, but gets a strikeout to send it to the bottom of the inning.

In the bottom of the inning, Blaze Alexander bloops a pitch into shallow right which drops in for a double, thanks to the sun and shadows. Seth Beer would strikeout (and unsuccessfully challenge that called strike). Jose Herrera then hits a single into the left center gap with Alexander scoring from second easily to get Reno on the board. Camden Duzenack goes down on strikes for the second out. Alek Thomas would then smack a homer into one of the right field bullpens (above) to make it 4-3. Fletcher grounds out to end the second inning.

In the bottom of the third inning, Leandro Cedeno would lead off with a line drive single, at 107 mph off the bat. Dominic Canzone followed with another single to put runners on first and second. Blaze Alexander K's for the first out, but Seth Beer laced a single through the shift to tie it up at 4-4, and putting runners on the corners.

After a pitching change, the Bulls' Taj Bradley is replaced by Yonny Chirinos. Herrera hits into a fielders choice (that would have been a double play if not for the shift), scoring another run to make 5-4. Duzenack lines out to short to end the third. Chironos would completely shutdown the Aces offense until the 8th, so we won’t be hearing about them until then.

Uceta continued to pitch quite well, setting down the next seven batters. He would give up a single in the fifth, but get a double play to immediately end the inning. Similarly, he’d give up a single to lead off the sixth, and another double play erased that baserunner too. He ended his night with 4.1 scoreless innings of relief, allowing two hits and a walk, with five strikeouts.

Blake Rogers took over for Uceta for the top of the seventh innning, getting a pop up for the first out, but allowed a single to the second batter, then another base hit to left to put the tying run in scoring positions. Rogers gets a quick hook for Tyler Holton, who gives up a single into the left center gap, scoring a run and tying the game up at 5-5. Holton then gets a strikeout for the second out. A groundball to Duzenack at third is bobbled; he recovers quickly enough to get the out at first and end the inning.

Mitchell Stumpo would relieve Holton and pitch a scoreless eighth inning, though he did walk a batter. Dominic Canzone lead off the bottom of the eighth with a no-doubt blast of a homerun (above) to put the Aces up 6-5. Blaze Alexander and Seth Beer both struck out, the latter on a foul tip, and Jose Herrera lined out thanks to a great diving catch.

JB Wendelken and JB Bukauskus then completely blew it with a five run top of the ninth. Wendelken couldn’t find the strike zone, opening with eight straight balls, before an RBI single, intentional walk and another RBI single. Relieved by Bukaukus, the new pitcher gave up a three-run homerun. Sloppy defense didn’t help the Aces either.

Pinch hitter Juan Centeno and Alek Thomas K'd for the first and second out of the bottom of the ninth, and Jancarlos Cintron flew out to end the game. It was a disappointing finish to a fine season for Reno, but it was an entertaining contest to watch. Despite the team's combining for 16 runs on 23 hits and 8 walks, it was still over in 2:46. The pitch clock DOES make a difference folks, and the ability for batters and pitchers to challenge ball/strike calls was actually a fun wrinkle.