Richmond drops season opener

The Richmond Flying Squirrels (0-1) ninth-inning rally was turned back, as the New Britain Rock Cats (1-0) claimed a, 3-2, season-opening victory in front of 4,653 at New Britain Stadium on Thursday night.

The Rock Cats struck first against Squirrels’ starter Justin Fitzgerald in the bottom of the first inning.  Darin Mastroianni opened the night with an infield single and advanced to second on a groundout.  He scored from there when Evan Bigley laced an RBI double over the head of Gary Brown in center field for a 1-0 lead.

Rock Cats’ starter Luke French kept the Squirrels off the board through the first two innings, and New Britain got back after Fitzgerald in the third.  James Beresford led off the inning with a single into right-center field and advanced to second base on a wild pitch.  Fitzgerald walked Mastroianni and to complicate matters, ball four went to the backstop to allow Beresford to third base.  Chris Hermann rapped a single into right field to bring in Beresford for a 2-0 advantage.  Bigley followed and grounded into a double-play, but Mastroianni came in to score on the play giving the Rock Cats a 3-0 lead.

On an early-season pitch count, Fitzgerald (0-1) left after four innings, having conceded three earned runs on five hits.  He endured his first loss of the season after walking one and striking out five.

French (1-0) never gave the Squirrels much of a scoring chance and was victorious over five scoreless innings.  The left-hander allowed just two hits, walked two and struck out four.

The Squirrels bullpen was impressive following Fitzgerald’s departure, as left-hander Chris Gloor and right-hander Jake Dunning each made their Double-A debut.  Gloor turned in a pair of scoreless innings and Dunning replicated the feat.

However, Rock Cats’ right-hander Deolis Guerra protected the New Britain lead with two sterling innings of his own, facing the minimum through the sixth and seventh innings.

Former Squirrel Daniel Turpen came on to work the eighth and turned in a scoreless inning.  He returned in the ninth and the Squirrels offense finally ignited.  Brown picked up his first Double-A hit, sending a single back through the middle to get things started.  Ehire Adrianza followed with his first hit at the level to put two aboard.  Turpen got the next two batters, but Chris Dominguez notched a two-out two-run single to bring the Squirrels within a run, 3-2.  New Britain manager Jeff Smith went back to the bullpen to squelch the rally, bringing on right-hander Lester Oliveros.  Oliveros answered the call, fanning Ryan Cavan to end the ballgame.  Oliveros earned his first save of the season.

The series will continue with a scheduled doubleheader on Friday at New Britain Stadium.  Game one of the twin-bill will begin at 4:35 PM with LHP Jason Stevenson (0-0, —) making the start for Richmond against RHP Steve Hirschfeld (0-0, —) for New Britain.  Game two will feature a matchup of RHP Craig Westcott (0-0, —) for the Squirrels against LHP Logan Darnell (0-0, —) for the Rock Cats.  Pregame coverage will begin at 4:05 PM on the radio home of the Flying Squirrels, Sports Radio 910, and sportsradio910.com.


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