Hager's hometown heroics vault Aces to crown
LAS VEGAS -- Jake Hager is right at home in Sin City. The D-backs Minor Leaguer grew up here. He played the better part of three seasons in the visiting dugout at Las Vegas Ballpark. And on Friday, Hager’s affinity for playing in Nevada was on full display as his
LAS VEGAS -- Jake Hager is right at home in Sin City.
The D-backs Minor Leaguer grew up here. He played the better part of three seasons in the visiting dugout at Las Vegas Ballpark.
And on Friday, Hager’s affinity for playing in Nevada was on full display as his home run keyed Triple-A Reno’s 6-2 victory over El Paso in the Pacific Coast League championship as part of the Triple-A Triple Championship Weekend.
“I love playing here,” he said. “It's always nice playing at home, and then getting that big hit was amazing, especially to do it here. It's very special.”
Hager was born in nearby Henderson and went to high school 11 miles from the Aviators’ ballpark. After starting his career in the Rays' system, he made stops in the Brewers, Mets and Mariners' organizations before getting signed by the D-backs on July 30, 2021.
Although Hager’s slugging percentage this season dipped below .400 for the first time since 2017, he powered up with family and friends in the crowd. Including his three-run jack in the championship game, half of Hager’s '22 homers came at the Aviators’ home.
“I love it here, I see the ball well here,” he said. “It's home.”
Jake Hager is the PCL Championship Game MVP!@ANG_Recruiting | #ServeYourWay pic.twitter.com/cDVdxF10lb— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) October 1, 2022
The Aces scored first in the bottom of the second on a Dominic Miroglio single to right that got away from right fielder Taylor Kohlwey, allowing Blaze Alexander to score. Hager then broke the game open with his 409-foot home run.
Miroglio totaled three knocks, while Dominic Fletcher ripped an RBI single and Seth Beer capped Reno’s scoring with an RBI triple -- the second three-bagger of his career.
Playoff Beer 🍻— Reno Aces (@Aces) October 1, 2022
Seth Beer laces a triple in the gap to score Dominic Miroglio. pic.twitter.com/tjcL2kcnMt
The Aces were strong on the mound too, starting with Minor League strikeout king Brandon Pfaadt. MLB’s No. 90 overall prospect held the Chihuahuas to two runs on 10 hits and two walks with three punchouts in five frames. Relievers Tyler Holton, Mitchell Stumpo and J.B. Wendelken spun four scoreless frames to close out the game.
“Brandon Pfaadt went a strong five. But I also tip my hat to [El Paso],” Aces manager Gil Velazquez said. “They probably did the best offensively I’ve seen any team do against Pfaadt since he’s come here to Triple-A.”
The final out of the night came on a popup to a very ready Hager, who was hoping to register the final out.
“It’s got to be super special for him to do this in front of his crowd,” Velazquez said. “So it’s kind of like a dream come true.”
Reno will now await the winner of the International League championship on Saturday -- either Nashville or Durham -- in the Triple-A National Championship on Sunday. All games are free on MLB.TV and MiLB.TV.
But for now, the Aces are going to let the victory sink in.
“It feels great,” Velazquez said. “We’re the champs, so it’s a great feeling.”
Kelsie Heneghan is a writer for MiLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan.