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Cats Lose Lead, Rally in Ninth for 4-3 Win Over Aviators

Overcome Unearned Run in Top of Ninth for Fifth Walk-Off Win
The Sacramento River Cats celebrate their 4-3 walk-off victory over the Las Vegas Aviators on Thursday. (Ralph Thompson Photo)
June 9, 2023

WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Neither team scored more than one run in any inning during Thursday’s game three between the Sacramento River Cats and Las Vegas Aviators, and after Las Vegas came back to score the tying run in the top of the ninth, Sacramento snapped their four-game losing streak

WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Neither team scored more than one run in any inning during Thursday’s game three between the Sacramento River Cats and Las Vegas Aviators, and after Las Vegas came back to score the tying run in the top of the ninth, Sacramento snapped their four-game losing streak thanks to their fifth walk-off win of the season by a 4-3 final.

Similar to yesterday’s contest, the scoring started in the top of the first but today it took just two batters into the game as Trenton Brooks lifted the Aviators (28-32) to the early lead with a ball that kept carrying until it cleared the wall in center field. Following that shot and a single that took a bad hop at third, River Cats (27-33) starter Phoenix Sanders was able to settle down and induce an inning-ending double play.

The second inning was a bit of déjà vu, as Sanders was able to work around a leadoff walk by drawing a second twin-killing to end the frame. Meanwhile, Sacramento had runners at the corners during their swings in the first and received a two-out single from Ricardo Genoves in the second, but all three were left on base.

Just as the Aviators scored in the first, Sacramento countered in the third as it took just one swing from Luis Matos to equalize the contest. Sitting in a hitter’s count at 2-1, Matos launched a missile that traveled 437 feet and came off the bat at 107.5 mph. It marked his second home run in as many games, making him the fourth River Cat this season to hit homers in consecutive contests.

Las Vegas retook the lead during their next swings in the fourth, with Cody Thomas doing much of the heavy lifting by putting himself in scoring position after his ground ball to first bounced off the bag and into shallow right field for a single, then stealing second. Driving him home was Tyler Soderstrom, who was the catalyst in yesterday’s victory with a three-run homer, as he lined a double into right-center field for a 2-1 edge.

It took a two-out rally for the River Cats to draw level once again, doing so in the bottom of the fifth with all starting on a Matos double that slammed off the wall in left center, just missing a second dinger on the night by mere feet. An infield single by Tyler Fitzgerald pushed runners to the corners, which allowed Matos to easily score on a David Villar single deep down the left field line.

Breaking the trend of alternating runs, the River Cats captured their first lead of the night in the home half of the seventh with yet another loud crack of the bat. This time it was Will Wilson, who led off the inning by bashing his team-leading seventh big fly of the season.

That home run came after the top of the frame in which Joey Marciano entered the game with a pair of runners aboard and one out, and though he hit the first batter he faced, steadied the ship and closed the frame with a pair of strikeouts.

Marciano returned in the eighth and punched out the first two batters, giving him four consecutive strikeouts, and left-hander Erik Miller (1-0) picked up where Marciano left off by fanning his first hitter as the River Cats struck out the side.

Things got interesting in the top of the ninth when a two-base error in left field eventually led to a pair of runners in scoring position with only one out. Leadoff hitter Tyler Wade then hit a chopper to second base where Brett Wisely cleanly fielded the ball, but his throw home to save a run bounced in the dirt as Las Vegas made it a tie ballgame at 3-3.

Looking for their fifth walk-off victory of the season, the home half of the ninth was started by Johnson as he drew a free pass to earn his way aboard. Already with a pair of extra-base hits on the night, Matos played some small ball as he successfully sacrifice bunted Johnson into scoring position.

Stepping into the box was Fitzgerald, who with the outfield playing shallow depth, sent a deep fly ball into left-center field. Chasing after the ball was both Thomas and Conner Capel, and while Capel seemed to initially make the catch, a collision with Thomas caused the ball to fall from his glove. Despite turning around initially, Johnson flipped on the jets and raced home to score the winning run, helping Sacramento snap their previous four-game skid with the 4-3 victory.

Even though he was charged with a blown save, Miller received credit for the win after he allowed a single unearned run in 1.1 innings with two strikeouts. Pitching all around was solid for the River Cats on the night, as no pitcher allowed more than a single run, and the staff combined to fan 11 Las Vegas batters. A night after recording a save, Garrett Acton (5-2) was charged with the loss for the Aviators after he allowed the game’s final run in just 0.1 innings.

Leading the way at the dish was Villar by going 3-for-4, with one of his hits a double while also driving in a run. Both Matos and Fitzgerald also had multi-knock efforts, with Matos filling the stat sheet by going 2-for-4 with two runs scored, a double, a homer, and an RBI. It was his 12th contest with multiple knocks in just his 20th game played, which leaves him one game shy of Casey Schmitt’s 13 for the team lead.

Sacramento will look to keep up their momentum in game four of this six-game set tomorrow, with the first pitch at 6:45 p.m. from Sutter Health Park.