Romero Sends Nashville Home Happy

SoundsThe Sounds secured a walk-off win in front of a sold out First Tennessee Park on Friday night, defeating the Storm Chasers 4-3 to snap a four-game losing skid.

After relinquishing the lead in the top of the ninth inning, the Sounds stole the contest on a bizarre walk-off play. Anthony Aliotti, who reached first base after Omaha failed to turn a double play due to a wild throw, stood at first base with two away. Niuman Romero, the nine-hole hitter, stepped in and with the defense playing deep to keep a batted ball in front of them, skied a high fly to the outfield. The sinking ball landed at the feet of centerfielder Rey Fuentes, who ended up kicking the ball in his rush to retrieve it. Aliotti busted it around the diamond, received the green light from Steve Scarsone at third base and got in under the tag of catcher Francisco Pena to give the Sounds their fourth walk-off victory of the season. It was Nashville’s first win in six games against Omaha in 2015.

The walk-off win took place in front of 10,688 fans, marking the third straight game First Tennessee Park has sold out. In 45 openings this summer, the Sounds have recorded 13 sellouts.

After the two teams combined for 27 hits in Thursday’s series opener, pitching took center stage to start the Friday night showdown. Zach Neal entered the game tied for fifth in the league with seven wins and continued his strong string of starts. The right-hander used his changeup all night to keep the Omaha bats out in front and off-balance. He held them to five hits and two runs, adding just one strikeout, in his seven-inning start. He took a no-decision, but pitched into the seventh inning for the sixth time in 11 starts.

Omaha right-hander Miguel Almonte was making his highly-anticipated Triple-A debut tonight and started the night the best way he knew how. The 22-year-old struck out the side to open the game and fanned six of the first nine batters he saw. He set a season high with eight strikeouts during his five innings but showed his youth by balking twice in one inning.

The balks were issued when the Sounds finally got to the right-hander in the fifth. Dayan Viciedo was hit by a pitch to lead off and moved to second when Almonte balked. Max Muncy followed with one of his two walks on the night and both runners moved up a base when the second balk was called. Aliotti put Nashville on the board with a sacrifice fly, his 29th RBI of the season, and the two teams were tied 1-1 after five.

The Sounds sent seven batters to the plate the next inning and walked away with the lead. Ryan Roberts and Jason Pridie drew back-to-back two-out walks and Viciedo delivered again. The designated hitter lined the ball through the middle, scoring Roberts from second. Muncy loaded the bases by drawing his second walk in the next at-bat, but the three runners were left stranded to end the frame.

It took little time for Omaha to respond to the run. The Storm Chasers got a lead-off triple from cleanup hitter Balbino Fuenmayor in the seventh and Cheslor Cuthbert recorded a run-scoring single to center. With seven innings in the books, the score stood 2-2.

Roberts and the Sounds added an exclamation point in the eighth. Making his first start of the season in the outfield, the 34-year-old blasted a solo shot to left field that caused the sold-out crowd at First Tennessee Park to erupt. It was Roberts’ first long ball at home and his fourth on the season.

Arnold Leon ended up getting his first win of the year. The right-hander tried to secure the save, but gave up a solo shot to Fuentes in the ninth. R.J. Alvarez also made an appearance in relief of Neal, striking out the side in the eighth on 10 pitches.

Game three of the four-game series gets underway at 6:35 p.m. on Saturday night at First Tennessee Park. Nashville right-hander Cody Martin (0-2, 14.21) will be making his home debut, while Omaha is scheduled to send out Yohan Pino (5-3, 5.16). The first 4,000 fans at the park will receive a Sounds tote bag presented by Vanderbilt University.