The last time Michael Conforto played at Cheney Stadium he lost twice.
So, Las Vegas’ 7-3 win over the Rainiers in the series opener remedied any sour memories from the Class 3A state tournament in 2011.
“It does feel good to get a win out here, finally,” said Conforto, a Redmond High School product. “We didn’t get any wins out here, so it’s good to get that first one.”
Redmond lost twice — in the semifinals and again the following game to place fourth — before Conforto made his way to Oregon State. He was drafted in the first round — 10th overall — by the New York Mets in 2014, and hit two home runs in Game 4 of the World Series last year.
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He was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas on June 25 after his batting average dipped to .222 — but .148 since May 1.
“It’s been a long road, and I’ve enjoyed the journey,” Conforto said. “Obviously, my goal is to be the next level up, but it is cool to be back here (in Tacoma). I think every part of my journey has a purpose. I’m definitely going to make the most of being here.”
He got off to a good start Friday, powering Jarrett Grube’s fastball over the right-field fence for the game-winning home run in the third inning.
“I guess I see it well here, and it was a lot of fun just being here and having some friends and family here,” Conforto said.
Kevin Plawecki and Johnny Monell sent two more over the fence for the 51s as Tacoma (44-35) worked through five pitchers. Grube (0-1, 5.40 ERA) allowed five runs in four innings to record the loss. He is 0-6 in his career against Las Vegas (42-37).
Jonathan Aro (arm) exited after 2/3 of an inning in the ninth and will undergo evaluation.
Tacoma manager Pat Listach said the Rainiers’ pitching has struggled — they’ve lost three of their last four — in part because of Seattle’s continuing roster moves to boost its ailing pitching staff.
“Any time you have the changes you have up there, we’re losing guys here,” Listach said.
DJ Peterson, who was promoted from Double-A Jackson on Wednesday, recorded his first hit of the season with the Rainiers with two outs in the ninth inning — a two-run double — but it was too late.
“It’s been a tough week, but we’ll get through it,” Listach said.
Stefen Romero and right-handed pitcher Blake Parker were both elected Thursday to play in the Triple-A All-Star game in two weeks at BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, North Carolina. Romero ranks sixth in the Pacific Coast League with a .339 batting average, and has hit safely in 43 of 57 games. Parker has converted all 14 of his save opportunities this season. The game starts at 7 p.m. on July 13 and will be televised on MLB Network. “I’m just maturing as a hitter,” Romero said. “This is my fourth year in Triple-A and I’ve been up and down in the big leagues, so I have a better understanding of what pitchers are trying to do, and I’m growing as an individual myself.” … Catcher Mike Zunino — who was in Tacoma for a development season — was recalled to Seattle on Thursday to replace Steve Clevenger (hand). Rob Brantly, currently on paternity leave, will likely share time at catcher with Jesus Sucre, who is on a rehab assignment. Reliever Tom Wilhelmsen was also recalled to Seattle, while right-hander Donn Roach was optioned to Tacoma.
A pair of righties will take the hill in the second game of the four-game series at 7:05 p.m. Friday. Cody Martin (6-5, 4.33) is scheduled to pitch for the Rainiers, while Rafael Montero (4-4, 6.13) will start for Las Vegas. The game will be broadcast on 850-AM.