LOWELL – LaLacheur Park played host to the last Opening Day of the year as the seventeenth Lowell Spinners season kicked off on Monday night with the sellout crowd of 5,249 going home happy after the Spinners rallied late for a 2-1 victory over the Connecticut Tigers.
Pitching was the order of the night as both team’s starters were unflappable over five innings of work.
Tigers starter Montreal Robertson lacked some early control, but quickly found his groove and allowed only 3 hits while striking out 6 batters.
Francisco Taveras had similar numbers for Lowell, allowing only 3 hits while striking out 9 and allowing only one unearned run.
“Taveras was excellent, he really was,” said manager Bruce Crabbe, back for his third tour of duty in Lowell. “He was flash under the lights. He pounded the strike zone, had a great breaking ball and kept the hitters off balance.”
The Tigers lone run came in the third inning when Spinners shortstop Mookie Betts threw wild to first on a routine grounder that would have ended the inning.
Tigers designated hitter Edgar Corcino had a one-out single and advanced to second base on a wild pitch before Jared Reaves bounded the ball towards Betts and when the throw sailed past first baseman David Chester, Corcino rounded third to put Connecticut up, 1-0.
“I got older guy that tell me the things I do wrong and to just forget it and make the next play,” said Betts who was quick to shake off the mistake. “They went up 1-0 on that error so I knew I had to come back for the team and execute a quality at-bat.”
That at-bat would come in the seventh inning for Betts, who lined a single over the outstretched reach of Reaves at shortstop to spark the rally.
After timing a couple of pitches, Betts showed off his speed by stealing second base, but Williams Jerez whiffed for the second out of the inning.
Oscar Perez came through with a flared double into the right field corner to tie the game, 1-1, and Dreily Guerrero (2-4, double) followed with an opposite field single, as Perez was held up at third.
The bases were loaded up after Nathan Minnich was plunked by an Eric Heckaman offering, and Matt Gedman cashed in with another flared hit, this time a single to left that plated Perez for the go-ahead, 2-1 run.
“[Heckaman] was hitting his spots pretty good,” said Gedman. “Oscar’s at-bat was huge, Guerrero had been swinging the bat well all night and I just kind of got lucky on mine. He fooled me a little bit with a 2-1 breaking ball and I flared it in there.”
Lowell reliever Yunior Ortega was flawless over the final three frames, retiring all nine batters he faced, two by strikeout, and picked up the win in the process.
“Everybody’s goal is to win them all,” said Betts, “You can’t win them all without winning the first one.”
"A win is a win, it doesn't matter when it is, we'll take it," added Crabbe. "It was good for the kids to get a win under their belt and see what it's like. I was happy with the way the guys battled."
NOTES: Right fielder Kendrick Perkins had a pitch deflect off of his shoulder and hit him square in the lip. According to Crabbe, he had some swelling and bleeding underneath the gums and will be re-evaluated tomorrow. Perkins did not leave the game after being hit by the pitch in the sixth inning.
Supplemental first-round pick RHP Pat Light will not see any action for a few weeks, according to Light himself. The Monmouth star said he will be shut down for up to three weeks after a grueling college season.
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