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Say what?! Isotopes win pitching duel vs. Vegas

Albuquerque Isotopes pitcher Ryan Rolison struck out four and allowed one walk and two hits in 5⅔ shutout innings on Thursday. (Jim Thompson/Journal)

The prospects for a well-pitched game Thursday night seemed pretty good.

The opener of a six-game homestand at Isotopes Park pitted Albuquerque’s Ryan Rolison against Las Vegas’ Daulton Jefferies, two of the top pitching prospects in their respective organizations. The two right-handed starters lived up to their billings.

Rolison and Jefferies each pitched into the sixth inning and departed with the Isotopes holding a 1-0 lead. It almost ended that way but each team came up with a little ninth-inning drama before Albuquerque walked off with a 2-1 victory.

Eric Stamets dove into home plate on a two-out wild pitch to touch off an Isotopes celebration, but it was still an outstanding night for pitchers.

Rolison, the Colorado Rockies’ top pitching prospect, said he thoroughly enjoyed the head-to-head battle with Jefferies, rated as the Oakland Athletics’ No. 4 pitching prospect.

They both were making their third Triple-A start.

“Man, it was a lot of fun,” Rolison said. “We got a first-inning run and then (Jefferies) was out there matching me. He’s putting up zeroes so you want to go out there and do the same. It was fun going back and forth like that.”

Isotopes manager Warren Schaeffer was more than satisfied with Rolison’s second home start. The 23-year-old allowed five runs in just 1⅔ innings in his first Albuquerque appearance, but pitched well in a road win prior to Thursday’s start.

“Ryan was very good tonight,” Schaeffer said. “He came here in the thin air, commanded the ball and showed what he can do. I think he just needed to get his feet wet. He knows he belongs at this level and belongs at the next level.”

Greg Bird’s RBI double in the first inning produced the first run allowed by Jefferies in three Triple-A appearances. Albuquerque had several chances to add to its lead but had a runner thrown out at the plate and stranded 10 through the first eight innings.

Las Vegas denied Rolison a pitching victory when Luis Barrera singled home a run with two outs in the top of the ninth. But Stamets made up for it in the bottom of the ninth, drawing a walk and later dashing home on a pitch that bounced away from Las Vegas catcher Francisco Peña.

“Stamets runs like a deer,” Schaeffer said, “and he used his speed to win that game. He took things in his own hands.”

THAT’S A SHOT: The Isotopes and the New Mexico Department of Health will be holding COVID-19 vaccination clinics during each game of the current homestand.

Shots will be offered from the time the gates open until roughly the fifth inning of each game on the concourse at Isotopes Park. Fans receiving their first or second vaccination shots will receive two Reserved Level ticket vouchers for any remaining game this season (excluding July 4). More information is available at

WHO KNEW? Until Thursday, the Las Vegas Aviators’ most recent appearance in Albuquerque came on Aug. 29, 2019 — a 7-1 Isotopes victory. For a span of 617 days that contest held the distinction of being the last professional baseball game played in New Mexico because of the coronavirus pandemic.

BUT CAN HE PITCH? Ray Birmingham, who recently coached his last game at the University of New Mexico to cap a 43-year career coaching baseball in the state, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Saturday’s game at Isotopes Park. A video tribute will also be played prior to the game.

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