Opening Day Live Blog: Greenville-Greensboro

GREENSBORO, N.C.—Greetings from beautiful NewBridge Bank Park in Greensboro, N.C., home of the low Class A Greensboro Grasshoppers of the South Atlantic League. I’ll be live blogging tonight’s Opening Day game between the Grasshoppers (Marlins) and the Greenville Drive (Red Sox).

So should we call this the Battle of the Greens? Well, in any event there will be several noteworthy players making their full-season debuts tonight. Headlining that list is Marlins 2008 first round pick C Kyle Skipworth, who’ll be hitting fifth in the Greensboro lineup. He’ll be facing Drive righty Stolmy Pimentel, the 19-year-old who excelled in the short-season New York-Penn League last year. Also, Drive 1B Anthony Rizzo is making his first return to action since beating cancer last year. He’ll be seeing his first game action since late last April. On to the lineups:

Greenville

LF David Mailman; 2B Ryan Dent; SS Oscar Tejeda; 1B Anthony Rizzo; C Tim Federowicz; 3B Michael Almanzar; RF Mitch Dening; DH Ryan Lavarnway; CF Pete Hissey. SP Stolmy Pimentel.

Greensboro

CF Kevin Mattison; 3B Paul Gran; LF Jeremy Synan; 1B Ben Lasater; C Kyle Skipworth; SS Joel Staples; DH Brandon Turner; 2B Daniel Pertusati; RF Isaac Galloway. SP Johnny Dorn.

First pitch is coming up at 7:00. I’ll rejoin you then!

UPDATE, 7:20: Things have gotten off to a flying start for the Drive. Hoppers starter Johnny Dorn isn’t overpowering, as his fastball was mostly in the low-mid 80s and topped out at 87 mph so command is going to be key, and he struggled in the top of the first. Anthony Rizzo drew a four pitch walk in his first at-bat, showing he wasn’t overanxious in his first at-bat in almost a year. That put two runners on with two outs, and Drive catcher Tim Federowicz drove a 2-1 fastball over the left field wall to give the Drive a 3-0 lead. Dorn then walked Michael Almanzar before getting Mitch Dening to bounce out to first to end the inning. Stolmy Pimentel is on the hill now, I’ll let you know how he fares momentarily.

UPDATE, 7:30: Pimentel retired the first two hitters easily on a popout and groundout, but gave up a double over the center fielder’s head to Jeremy Synan, followed by a sinking line drive from Ben Lasater that a diving Pete Hissey couldn’t get coming in from center. The ball glanced off Hissey’s glove and allowed Synan to score easily. Pimentel got Kyle Skipworth to ground out to second on a 91 mph fastball to end the inning.

As I type this, Ryan Lavarnway just took Dorn’s first pitch deep to left to make it 4-1 Drive. If you’ve never been here, the ball really flies here and the cozy dimensions lead to plenty of slugfests. This is probably the second most hitter-friendly park in the SAL after Asheville’s McCormick Field.

UPDATE, 7:55: Greensboro’s hitters have had a hard time figuring out Pimentel’s changeup and curveball, and he’s done a nice job of varying his attack. He struck out Isaac Galloway on three straight offspeed pitches in the second and has induced a good number of swings and misses and not much hard contact since Synan’s double. His fastball reached 94 mph on the stadium gun here, although Paul Gran lashed the pitch into left for a single. We’re in the fourth here, still 4-1 Greenville.

UPDATE, 8:05: Kyle Skipworth’s first hit as a Sally Leaguers was a bit of a gift, a routine pop fly to left center that fell between three Drive defenders, but as they say, it looks like a line drive in the box score. Skipworth wound up on second was driven home on a single up the middle by Daniel Pertusati. 4-2 now.

UPDATE, 8:15: Sac fly by Anthony Rizzo makes it 5-2 Drive. Dorn has calmed the control issues that plagued him earlier and got some swings and misses in that inning. Activity in both bullpens, this could be Pimentel’s last inning. We’re in the middle of the fifth here, 5-2.

UPDATE, 8:25: Pimentel surrendered a leadoff double to Isaac Galloway on another ball that narrowly eluded a diving Pete Hissey in right center. However, Pimentel was unfazed and easily set down the next three hitters on two pop flys and a grounder to short. His velocity was still a solid 88 mph in the fifth. We’ll see if he’s done for the evening.

New pitcher for Greensboro, righty Bryan Evans. 5-2 in the sixth here.

UPDATE, 8:33: My suspicions were correct, and Pimentel is done after five. His final line: 5 IP, 2 R, 2 ER, 8 H, 1 K, 0 BB. At least a couple of those eight hits were of the hard luck variety, and I’d certainly call this a solid debut for him.

Lefty Fabian Williamson is in for the Drive. Score still 5-2.

UPDATE, 8:40: Oscar Tejeda bounced out to second to end the top of the seventh. Evans has retired six of seven hitters. Time to strrrrrretch. Still 5-2 Drive.

UPDATE: 8:45: Trouble brewing as Williamson has walked the first two to start the bottom of the seventh. Isaac Galloway is up with two on.

UPDATE: 8:47: Anthony Rizzo just saved two runs, diving to his left to snare a grounder by Galloway on an 0-2 pitch. The runners advanced though, now 2nd and 3rd with one out. Still 5-2.

UPDATE: 8:50: Low minors baseball at its finest. Kevin Mattison drove a single up the middle to make it 5-3, but made to a large a turn around first and got hung up and tagged out when the throw from center was cut off. Meanwhile, Daniel Pertusati tried to score but fell down halfway between third and home and barely scrambled back to third in time. 5-3.

UPDATE: 8:52: Unfazed by their baserunning misadventures, the Hoppers have strung together two more hits and tied the game at 5-5, the tie coming courtesy of a double to left center by Jeremy Synan.

UPDATE: 9:00: Time for a conference on the mound as Evans has allowed the first two to reach on a single by Rizzo and hit batsman for Tim Federowicz. That said, Michael Almanzar just lined out to right on the first pitch for the first out of the eighth.

UPDATE: 9:03: A five-pitch walk to Mitch Dening has prompted a Greensboro pitching change. Righthander Pete Andrelczyk inherits the bases loaded with one out and will be facing No. 8 hitter Ryan Lavarnway.

UPDATE: 9:08: Andrelczyk came through, getting Lavarnway to wave at a changeup for the strikeout then fell behind Pete Hissey 3-1 before inducing a bouncer to second to escape the jam. While the jumbotron here has the Kiss Cam going, we’re headed to the bottom of the eighth tied 5-5.

UPDATE: 9:17: We’re going to the ninth tied at five. Williamson got through the eighth striking out Skipworth for the second time and pitched around a one-out walk to Joel Staples. Andrelczyk back out for the ninth for Greensboro, facing the top of the Greenville order.

UPDATE: 9:28: Maybe the biggest moment of the game so far, Andrelczyk gave up a leadoff single to David Mailman who promptly stole second. However, Andrelczyk got out of it by retiring the next three hitters and ended the inning by fanning Anthony Rizzo swinging, prompting a pretty emphatic fist pump by Andrelczyk. We’re in the bottom of the ninth now, Hoppers going for the win.

UPDATE: 9:33: Williamson retired the side in order, so we’re headed for extras. New pitcher for Greensboro: righty Jared Yecker.

UPDATE: 9:40: No trouble for Yecker, retiring the side on a groundout, pop out and strikeout. Righty Felix Ventura is coming in for the Drive. He’ll face Synan, Lasater and Skipworth.

UPDATE: 9:44: And it’s alllllll over. Ben Lasater took an 0-1 offspeed pitch from Ventura way over the left field wall to win it 6-5 for the Grasshoppers.

That’ll do it from Greensboro. Hope you all have enjoyed following this game and all of our Opening Day coverage as much as we enjoyed putting it together for you. We’ll see you tomorrow for the much anticipated David Price-Matt Wieters showdown. Good night until then!

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