Reno, NV – From a Mother’s Day snowstorm to September wildfires forcing the shift of a home series to Sacramento, the 2022 Reno Aces saw its fair share of challenges. Still, through grit and determination, it did not deter the club from having one of its most historic and record-breaking seasons in franchise history, culminating in the team’s second Pacific Coast League Championship following a 6-2 victory over the El Paso Chihuahuas as Las Vegas native Jake Hager’s three-run home run gave the team the offensive spark and capped his PCL Championship Game MVP performance in his hometown.
Led by first-year manager Gil Velazquez, the team suited 77 players, consisting of a mix of veteran leadership and top prospects, which included starting pitcher Brandon Pfaadt and outfielder Corbin Carroll, who were both named the Arizona Diamondbacks Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year. Velazquez used a combination of techniques to keep the entire roster focused throughout the season, with the importance of development and winning.
Reno’s record-breaking year was also the most extended season (180 days) in franchise history that began on April 5 and ran through October 2 with 148 games played (in addition to two post-season games). Also, the 2022 season featured wider bases and more stringent pitch clock enforcements, resulting in the fastest game in Greater Nevada Field history, 2 hours, 2 minutes, set on April 22 vs. Salt Lake.
Two Aces supplanted themselves as elite in all Minor League Baseball on the mound and at the plate, with Pfaadt becoming MiLB’s strikeout king with 218 punchouts between Double-A Amarillo and Reno. At the same time, infielder Jancarlos Cintron ranked second in the minors with a .338 batting average playing with the Sod Poodles and Aces.
Reno’s starting pitching was a strength as it featured four of Arizona’s top prospects Tommy Henry, Drey Jameson, Ryne Nelson, and Pfaadt. The pitching staff set a new franchise record with 1341 strikeouts, led by Nelson’s 128, which sits atop the Aces’ single-season record book. The Las Vegas native was tied for the PCL lead in wins (10) and winning percentage (.667) in addition to being third in games started (26), fourth in innings pitched (136.0), and opponent batting average (.264), and fifth in ERA (5.43). Jameson sat in the league’s Top 10 in innings pitched (114.0). And on June 21 at Salt Lake, Corbin Martin tied a franchise record with 13 strikeouts in a game.
The Aces bullpen had three pillars throughout the season Kevin Ginkel, Mitchell Stumpo, and J.B. Wendelken. For the first half of the season before his promotion, Ginkel solidified the closer’s role and earned a team-high nine saves. Reliever Mitchell Stumpo finished the season with eight saves and ended the 2022 campaign on a high note by setting a team-high 18-game scoreless appearance streak to close the season. Wendelken added a 15-game scoreless streak, which included an eight-game hitless streak.
It’s hard to argue that the outfield play showcased by the Aces this season wasn’t some of the best in the franchise’s history. Spectacular catches and throws became the norm by the Aces outfielders daily, highlighted by Dominic Fletcher’s SportsCenter Top 10 play on July 8’s diving catch into the right-center field gap at Greater Nevada Field vs. Tacoma. The outfield core produced 31 assists, with Stone Garrett’s eight leading the team.
Garrett’s defense was almost as impressive as fearsome he was at the plate. Even after his call-up to Arizona on August 16th, the 26-year-old still finished the season second in the PCL and third in Triple-A in RBI (95), fifth in the PCL, and seventh in Triple-A with 28 home runs, third in slugging (.568), fourth in OPS (.900), sixth in extra-base hits (54) and ninth in total bases (221). He also owned the Aces’ longest hitting streak of the season, a 14-gamer which ran from April 12-28.
Dominic Fletcher led the team with a .301 batting average, placing him third in the PCL and seventh in Triple-A. He also sat second in the PCL in triples with eight. Between Amarillo and Reno, the Arkansas product produced a 30-game hitting streak and a 40-game on-base streak that concluded on May 28th. He also collected a 10-game hitting streak from 9/08-21 as a critical middle-of-the-order bat in Reno’s championship run.
Carroll’s time in Reno was brief, but the best prospect to ever wear an Aces uniform was memorable in 33 games; he hit .287 (37-for-129) with 11 doubles, seven home runs, 22 RBI, 25 runs, and 11 stolen bases.
Additional records that the Aces set this season include games played (148), wins (86), at-bats (5094), stolen bases (156), holds (69), innings pitched (1313.1), WHIP (1.42), and opponent batting average (.258). Reno also posted the largest divisional lead in franchise history (16 games), coming within one game above .500 behind the 2011 squad (22 games).
The Aces were also one of the best road teams in all the minors, as Reno had the most road wins in MiLB (45) along with setting team records with runs (455), hits (716), and RBI (433) while playing as the visiting club.
Reno enjoyed playing .500 or better every month this season, with the squad’s worst month being June, with a 13-13 record. The team also produced two seven-game winning streaks (6/3-10 and 7/8-15), one win shy of tying a new winning streak record.
Nine walk-off wins included back-to-back game-ending home runs by Nick Heath and Alek Thomas on April 19-20 against the Salt Lake Bees. Thomas’ walk-off was a grand slam that capped a six-run comeback victory for the Aces.
Thomas tied a franchise record with five hits in a game on September 28 vs. Tacoma, while Cintron matched a franchise record with three doubles in a game on September 3 vs. Las Vegas.
Reno Aces fans were able to enjoy seeing two of MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects with Carroll (MLB No. 3/D-backs No. 1) and Pfaadt (MLB No. 90/D-backs No. 4). Rounding out the D-backs Top 30 prospects that played for Reno this season included Nelson (No. 8), Jameson (No. 9), Fletcher (No. 13), Blaze Alexander (No. 14), Dominic Canzone (No. 19), Justin Martinez (No. 30).
Carroll may have gotten the most national notoriety, but the Aces also had seven additional players; Garrett, Jameson, Henry, Tyler Holton, Nelson, Buddy Kennedy, and Thomas make their MLB debuts with the D-backs this season.
The Aces also earned several PCL weekly awards as Camden Duzenack (August 15-21), Canzone (September 19-24) were named the league’s Player of the Week, while Dan Straily was honored as the PCL’s pitcher of the week for April 11-17.
Duzenack was a leader in the clubhouse throughout the season, letting his actions speak as he played every position for the Aces. The Dallas Baptist product also showcased his versatility in one game as he played all nine positions on September 26 vs. Tacoma.
In its first full season since the COVID-19 pandemic, Greater Nevada Field’s crowds were electric, as 336,079 fans attended 70 dates during the season. Highlighted by the most prominent attendance figures for the Aces since 2019, which included Reno’s Fourth of July spectacular featuring the Aces playing the Tacoma Rainiers, it saw 9,900 spectators for the game and enjoyed the largest fireworks celebration of the season.
It’s less than six months until the Reno Aces kick off the 2023 season with Opening Day at Greater Nevada Field, as the Reno Aces will host the Las Vegas Aviators on Friday, March 31st, 2023, with the first pitch set for 2:05 p.m.