by Tai Justice
The Salt Lake Bees welcomed the Las Vegas Aviators for a six-game series with all games being played at Smith’s Ballpark. The Bees won three of the six games against the River Cats in Sutter Health Park and outscored Sacramento 38-34 in the series from the previous week.
The Bees entered the series with a record of 18-23. The Aviators, on the other hand, were tied 21-21. Las Vegas jumped out to an early 5-0 lead putting up a five spot in the top of the fourth behind a home run to deep left field by Jacob Wilson. The Bees began to chip away at the lead an inning later as Scott Schelber doubled to center for an RBI double to make it a 5-2 game.
The Bees continued to chip away without the long ball as Michael Stefanic hit an RBI single. Suddenly, a five run lead had been cut to two. In the bottom of the sixth, Jack Mayfield tripled to deep center field. He scored two more for Salt Lake in the process. The game was all tied up.
The clubs would trade RBI ground outs in the seventh and eighth and went in the ninth with the score still tied. In the ninth, Pete Kozma walked to lead off the inning. That set up Nate Mondou to follow up an 0-2 count with a smashed homer over the right field wall to break apart the tie and make it an 8-6 Las Vegas lead. The Aviators held on in the bottom of the ninth to make their two run advantage the final score of the ball game.
Jack Mayfield, Michael Stefanic, Scott Schebler and Preston Palmeiro all recorded multi-hit games for the Bees. James Hoyt took the loss for the Bees, giving up the home run in the ninth inning. The two teams combined for 23 hits and used 13 pitchers on the night. The Bees would fall to 18-24 on the season.
With the second of the six game set starting off with some fireworks Friday night, Jacob Wilson led the game off with a home run. Before most Bees fans had even taken their seats, the home team found themselves down 1-0. The offense didn’t take long to respond though. Jo Adell got the team started with a soft RBI-line drive to left field to tie the game at one apiece. Bees slugger Michael Stefanic broke the tie in the first with another RBI-single to left field. Scott Schebler would pile on with an RBI-ground out to make it a 3-1 Bees lead after the first inning.
It was a 4-2 Salt Lake lead until Cody Thomas touched the Bees offense with a home run to deep right center to cut the 4-2 lead in half. The Bees offense would respond once again, this time pushing two across in the bottom of the fourth. The scores came behind a Matt Thasis RBI-double to make a 6-3 game. Once again, the Bees had some breathing room.
That didn’t last long as Salt Lake would put up a crooked number in the top of the fifth behind a Carlos Perez RBI-single, a Cody Thomas RBI-triple and a costly Bees error as Thomas scored on a passed ball. Suddenly, the Bees found themselves trailing 7-6. The Aviators would add two more runs in the top of the sixth. The three run lead the Bees once had was completely flipped on them.
The Bees took to the plate in the bottom of the seventh, still trailing by three runs. That was until Jose Rojas sent a ball over the right center field wall to make it a 9-8 game. Then, Jake Gatewood would tie the game on an RBI-single and the deficit was erased. 9-9 was the score until Drew Butera blasted only his second home run on the season to deep left field. That made it a 10-9 Salt Lake lead.
The Bees would close the game out in the top of the ninth and win 10-9. The Bees improved to 19-24 on the season.
Game three of the six game set started similarly to the way Game Two did. The Las Vegas offense was on the board before most Bees fans had even sat down in their seats. On top of that, the score came before Salt Lake had even recorded an out. Frank Schwindel doubled to left field to make it a 1-0 lead. Just like the night before, the Bees offense struck right back in the bottom half of the inning. Jack Mayfield hit his second home run of the season. This one was to deep right center field. That made this a tie game. Rojas, hero of the previous night, wouldn’t take long to put his stamp on the game. He doubled down to right field to make it a 2-1 Bees lead.
The game would not stay at that score for long. Nate Mondou would tie the game at two apiece with a sacrifice fly. Cody Thomas would continue his big series for Las Vegas as he would hit an RBI-single to give the Aviators a 3-2 lead. Once again, that lead wouldn’t last long. In the bottom half of the inning, the Bees would regain the lead behind the two stars of the series for Salt Lake so far: Mayfield and Rojas. The duo would stay hot, combining for three more RBI’s in the bottom half of the second. Jo Adell would add an RBI, taking the Bees to the top of the third with a 6-3 lead. This will not be the end of Mayfield and Rojas again in this game.
The top of the third saw the scoring outburst continue as Las Vegas, behind Jacob Wilson and Mondou, pushed three runs across to tie the game at six apiece. Mayfield’s big night and overall performance in this series wasn’t done yet. He homered again, this time to deep right field to give the Bees the lead once again. Mayfield came into the game with one home run on the season. In the first three innings of Saturday night’s game, he had doubled his entire season total.
The scoring went dry and the game stayed at a 7-6 Bees lead until the top of the eighth. Austin Allen blasted a three-run home run to deep right field to make it a 9-7 Las Vegas lead. Rojas took the plate once again in the bottom of the eighth. With the Bees still trailing by two, he added to his monstrous night as he blasted a home run to deep right field to tie the game at nine apiece.
After a clean top of the ninth for the Bees’ bullpen, the Aviators then retired the first two Bees batters in the bottom of the ninth before Preston Palmeiro doubled, Mayfield was intentionally walked (for good reason) and Matt Thaiss drew a walk to load the bases for Adell, who worked a nine-pitch walk to win the game for the Bees on a walk-off walk. It was the second walk-off win of the season for the Bees. They improved to 20-24 on the season.
The fourth of the six game series saw the Aviators once again jump out to an early 1-0 lead after the top half of the first. The run came off an RBI by Pete Kozma.
After allowing the first two batters to reach base, Bees starter Thomas Pannone settled in to log a quality performance. He allowed five hits and two runs while striking out four in six innings of work. Jake Gatwood would get the Bees on the board in the bottom of the third with a solo blast to deep right center field. Preston Palmeiro added an RBI-single to right field to give the Bees a 2-1 lead.
The Aviators would tie the game in the top of the fourth with a sacrifice fly from Greg Deichmann. Scott Schebler broke the tie in the bottom half of the fourth with an RBI-double to center field to make it 3-2 Bees after four.
The score stayed there until the top of the ninth where Jacob Wilson continued his big series against the Bees. He hit a sacrifice fly to right field to tie the game at three apiece. The top of the tenth saw another “Bees Killer” for the series strike again as Cody Thomas sent a blast out to deep right field to give Las Vegas a 5-3 lead which would end up being the final score.
The Bees fell to 20-25 on the season as Las Vegas was able to comeback and stun the Bees for the win and tie the series at two games apiece.
Game Five of this electric series was more of the same in the excitement department. However, it came in a much different fashion than the previous games in the series. This game saw a combined two runs going into the ninth inning. Those runs came from Matt Thaiss stealing home run on a catcher’s error and an RBI ground out from Francisco Pena. This game was the definition of a pitcher battle.
The two pitching staffs dueled throughout the hot Salt Lake summer night as Andrew Wantz, starter for the Bees, posted four shutout innings. He struck out five batters. Las Vegas starter Brian Howard allowed a single unearned run over five innings with five strikeouts. The game was deadlocked at one all heading into the top of the ninth.
Jose Quijada worked around a walk to keep the game tied for the Bees. Preston Palmeiro singled with one out. One batter later, one of the stars of the series so far continued his hot stretch. Jack Mayfield sent Bees fans home happy with an absolute blast to deep left center field to give Salt Lake a 3-1 win. They would improve their record to 21-25 on the season.
Mayfield’s home run extended his hitting streak to nine games, while Palmeiro hit safely in five straight games. Wantz ran his scoreless June streak to 10.2 innings with a clean start. The Bees’ pitching staff finished with 11 strikeouts while allowing just five hits and two walks. The win for the Bees also gave them their third walk-off win of the season and their second one in this series alone.
After around a 90-minute rain delay that forced a late Tuesday night start that would see the series finale end in the early hours of Wednesday morning, the first pitch between the Salt Lake Bees and the Las Vegas Aviators began and like five of the other six games in the series. It started with the Aviators scoring a first inning run and the Bees quickly finding themselves in a hole.
It wouldn’t take long for the Bees to dig out of the hole as Jack Gatwood would hit a home run to deep left center field to tie the game at one apiece. Mayfield, the hero from the night before, would be heard from in a big way once again. He hit a bomb to deep left field to give the Bees a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third. That was Mayfield’s fifth home run of the season, but his fourth of this series alone. Michael Stefanic would blast a two-run home run to deep right field in the bottom of the fourth to make it a 4-1 Bees lead.
Austin Allen would add an RBI for Las Vegas to make it a 4-2 game. The Bees’ bullpen would hold the game at that score and secure the final win of the series. They improved to 22-25 on the season. The most exciting part of this game was the bench-clearing brawl in the sixth. However, no ejections or serious fights actually occurred.
• Game One saw a two-run home run in the top of the 9th that would be the deciding two-runs of the game.
• Game Two saw 19 combined runs, three lead changes and a home run in the bottom of the eighth that would be the deciding run of the game.
• Game Three saw 19 more combined runs and a walk off Salt Lake win.
• Game Four saw the Aviators tie the game in the top of the ninth and then win the game in the top of the tenth on a two-run Homer.
• Game Five once again treated Bees fans to a walk-off win.
• The series finale saw a benches clearing brawl and another Bees win. Get out to Smith’s Ballpark, folks. One never knows what they will see on a summer night at the park.
By the numbers
Tim Peterson collected his third save of the season. Mayfield’s home run increased his hitting streak to ten straight and has now homered four times in the Bees’ last four games. Salt Lake starter Jake Buchanan lasted just two outs before leaving the game due to injury. Brian Johnson relieved Buchanan and pitched four scoreless innings to pick up the win in his Bees debut.
Featured image courtesy Carter Williams, KSL