The 11th exhibition contest between the Reno Aces and Nevada Wolf Pack on Tuesday featured plenty of offense, from one side at least.
Nevada was introduced to professional baseball, as the Triple-A Aces coasted to a 13-1 victory fueled by five homers and two grand slams from Rob Refsnyder and Andrew Aplin.
“Being able to compete is good experience for both of us,” Refsnyder said. “Obviously, they’re at a different talent level, but you take it for what it is and work on it, and overall it was a good time.”
The Aces open their regular season on Thursday at Fresno. Nevada is 14-13 overall and 5-7 in the Mountain West Conference.
The exhibition at Greater Nevada Field between the two teams had special rules and limitations. The game was capped at seven innings. Pitchers were held to 20 pitches per inning. And once the hurler reached 20 pitches, the inning was forced to end.
The starting lineup had some flexibility, as well. The Aces had 10 starters, including two designated hitter spots, filled by Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas and former San Francisco Giants infielder Kelby Tomlinson. The Wolf Pack stuck with the traditional nine men on the field with a designated hitter in place for the pitcher’s spot.
The Aces 10 starting spots produced more than enough offense for the Triple-A squad. The Aces laced nine hits and every run scored was a home run.
A Korean-American, Refsnyder, 27, started at second base. He went 3-for-4 with two home runs and six RBIs. Refsnyder signed a minor league contract with the Dbacks this offseason. The former New York Yankee and Toronto Blue Jay has 166 games over his four-year major-league career. He has experience at first, second and third base, as well as right field.
Domingo Leyba also hit two home runs, his first was a towering 387-foot blast to right-center. A native of the Dominican Republic, the shortstop/second baseman infielder is making his case for playing time in a jam-packed Aces infield. Leyba, 23, was added to the Dbacks’ 40-man roster in the offseason.
A left-handed batter, Aplin blasted a ball into the wind at Greater Nevada Field that nearly reached the Truckee River for a grand slam. Aplin, 27, has played with three teams in the Pacific Coast League, including the Oklahoma City Dodgers, Tacoma Rainiers and Fresno Grizzlies.
Nevada recorded just three hits on the day. Sophomore Joshua Zamora was the lone bright spot offensively, going 1-for-3 with a home run. Zamora’s patience during his second at-bat paid off, he worked the count to 2-2 and took Anthony Vasquez’s hanging slider to left field, his solo blast hit the scoreboard, breaking it for a few minutes.
Nevada’s regular third baseman, Zamora played at second against the Aces. He’s batting .317 with a team-leading 33 hits and six homers.
Nevada junior Ty Hueckman, who has pitched just two innings this season, pitched the first two innings. With a 2 p.m. game Wednesday vs. Sacramento State and a four-game home stand starting Friday against Mountain West foe San Diego State, the Wolf Pack rested some of its pitching staff.
Right-handed pitcher Vinny Nittoli started for the Aces.
Flame-throwing relievers Robby Scott and Jimmie Sherfy blanked the Wolf Pack offense in the later frames. Scott came over from Boston to the Biggest Little City. The southpaw pitched 6.2 innings with the World Series champion Boston Red Sox last season.
Nittoli struck out the side in the top of the first. The Aces jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Locastro’s leadoff double led to Refsnyder’s two-run blast to center. Reno tacked on another run off Leyba’s homer.
Refsyner’s grand slam put the Aces up 7-0 heading into the third. Zamora’s homer over the scoreboard marked the only run for the Wolf Pack. Aplin’s grand slam gave Reno a commanding 11-1 lead.
Wolf Pack shortstop Tyler Bossetti took away a base hit from Kevin Cron in the sixth inning. Bossetti ranged to his left, caught the line-drive and threw out a sprinting Cron at first.
Leyba’s second homer of the night brought the score to 13-1.
Sherfy closed the Pack out in the seventh and final frame.
Notes: Both teams combined for 11 strikeouts. … Tim Locastro started in center field and went 1-3 with a double. Locastro, 26, appeared in six games for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season. He signed a minor league contract with Arizona and was assigned to Triple-A Reno. … Funds from the game go to the Wolf Pack Dugout Club, a fundraising organization originally started by former Wolf Pack baseball players to provide support for the baseball program at the University of Nevada. Entering tonight’s game, the Aces had donated over $85,000 to the University of Nevada Dugout Club. … Former Aces outfielder Socrates Brito was removed off the 40-man roster and designated for assignment by the San Diego Padres. On Tuesday, he was shipped to Toronto in exchange for outfielder Rodrigo Orozco. He was claimed off waivers by the Padres on March 27. Brito hit .318 with a career-high 17 home runs with Reno last season.
— Isaiah Burrows