Alexandria Aces Victorious in their return to the United League
ALEXANDRIA- Jon Jones allowed only one hit in a five-inning start and Ryan Gasporra drove in the winning run on his second hit of the game to give the Alexandria Aces a 5-2 victory against the Texas Thunder in their return to the United League.
The Aces' battery was making their professional debut in the club's return to professional baseball after a four year hiatus. A summer college league team known as the Alexandria Aces inhabitted Bringham Field for the past three seasons.
"I was definitely excited," Jones said of earning the opening day start in the Aces' return. "But as soon as I took the mound it was just another start."
"Overall I'm pleased," Jones said of his start, which came against a team of players he had never seen before. "I kind of lost it in the fourth when I battled to find my release point. Back in the fifth I was able to find my relase point and get the win."
In the fourth Jones walked two batters and allowed an unearned run to give the Thunder a short lived 1-0 lead when right fielder Tim Battle scored on Gasporra's errant throw after stealing third base.
But Gasporra immediately redeemed himself.
After Aces' cleanup hitter Derrick Pyles tied the game with a sacrifice fly to right in the bottom of the fourth to score shortstop Eddie Murray, Gasporra, who hit .360 two seasons ago at Centenary (La.), drove in left fielder Austin Newell with a single into right field to give Alexandria a 2-1 lead they never relinquished.
"I was looking for a fast ball and wanted to pull it," Gasporra said. "[Texas starter Steven Ramos] threw me one low and inside."
Jones, who struck out six batters in the game by spotting his two seam fastball throughout the game, then retired the Thunder in order in the top of the fifth to win his professional debut.
"Our pitcher was outstanding," said Aces manager Von Hayes.
But Jones was not the only notable pitcher for Alexandria. Nathan Stewart, the only player to have played for the Aces in 2009, threw two scoreless innings in relief in his first pro game in three years.
"If felt great. It is easier to pitch like this in Alexandria. It's like riding a bike," said the Mississippi native, who also doubles as Hayes' pitching coach.
"The bullpen was what I thought it would be. The big surprise was Stewart throwing two innings. I think he only threw one inning in spring training," Hayes said.
Gabe "Country" Grammer then earned a save in his own professional debut. The Presybeterian product struck out the side in the ninth inning around a Mario Perez single.
The Aces' pen did allow a run in the sixth following Murray's run-scoring single in the fifth. Alex Schmarzo gave up three straight singles and also made a throwing error on a pickoff attempt that caused the run scored by Lucas Nakandakarde in the sixth to be unearned.
But Alexandria would respond by adding two more runs to their 3-2 lead. Second baseman Jason Thomas chased Ramos by pulling a two-out double down the first base line to score Nick Mahin in the bottom of the sixth.
Mahin then added an RBI of his own when his two out infield hit scored pinch runner Michael Haynes from third base off Ramon Geronimo in the bottom of the eighth to complete the scoring.
The game kicks off a 12-game homestand for the Aces. On Friday righthander Aryo Fleming, who pitched collegiately at LSU-Alexandria, makes his own professional debut against the Thunder at 7:05 p.m. CDT.