A new manager, a new video board and a new result highlighted opening day at Knights Stadium on Thursday afternoon. On a picture-perfect day for baseball, Charlotte edged the Norfolk Tides 4-3 to snap a string of four straight season-opening losses.
Stefan Gartrell, who struggled in his first three at-bats, drove in the winning run in the eighth with a double to give Knights pitcher Jhonny Nunez the win in relief. Charlotte starter Lucas Harrell went five strong innings and gave up two runs on seven hits with three strikeouts. Closer Brian Bruney pitched a scoreless ninth for the save.
First-year Knights manager Joe McEwing earned his first win as a manager at the AAA level, and was pleased with his team.
"It was a great day," said McEwing. "It's always exciting to go out there on opening day and compete, and I thought we played a very good ball game."
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Charlotte's leadoff hitter, Alejandro De Aza, went 3-for-3 with a sacrifice fly to drive in the Knights' second run.
"I was trying just to put the ball in play make a good effort, and thank God those are the things that happened."
McEwing also had praise for his starting pitcher.
"I thought Lucas threw the ball outstanding. He pounded the zone with all of his pitches for strikes."
The Knights scratched out a run in the first for a 1-0 lead. De Aza lead off with a double. Jim Gallagher was the next batter and singled up the middlle, scoring De Aza from second.
In the fifth inning, Harrell got into his first trouble of the day. He yielded a lead-off walk to Craig Tatum and then Tyler Henson followed with a double to put runners on second and third with nobody out. Matt Angle's sacrifice fly tied the game at 1-1, but Harrell worked out of further trouble by striking out the next two batters to end the inning.
After a leadoff home run by the Tides' Nolan Reimold in the sixth that chased Harrell, Norfolk took its first lead of the day off relief pitcher Miguel Socolovich. After a two-out walk, Brendan Harris doubled to score Angle, and the Tides led 3-2.
NOTES: The Knights received outfielder Dayan Viciedo from the Chicago White Sox late Wednesday. ... Jeff Marquez will be Charlotte's starting pitcher when the four-game series between the Knights and Norfolk resumes today at 7:15 p.m. at Knights Stadium.