The rainout of Thursday’s scheduled Charlotte Knights Opening Day may have done the team a favor, catcher Josh Phegley says.
“It kind of washed away the nerves and left us with the energy,” he said after the Knights opened their season Friday night with a 6-5 victory over the Norfolk Tides in front of 2,952 fans at Knights Stadium.
Phegley went 3-for-4 to lead an 11-hit Charlotte night at the plate, and the Knights scored all but one of their runs in the first two innings.
“Everybody was pretty amped up and we had some really good at-bats,” Phegley said. “We just rode it.”
Right-handed starting pitcher Charlie Shirek took advantage of that early support to get the victory in his first Triple A start. In his pitch count-limited five innings he retired the first 10 batters he faced, struck out eight and survived a rocky four-run fourth in which he gave up two homers.
“It was a positive outing,” the Knights new manager Joel Skinner said. “The first night you just want to get through it. (Shirek) was aggressive in the strike zone and that set the tone for us. He left a few balls up in the strike zone, but over time, he’ll be a pitcher that will get ground ball outs.”
The Knights scored three runs in the first, highlighted by a two-out, two-run single by desingated hitter Hector Jiminez. Dallas McPherson drove in two more runs with a single in the third.
Then Charlotte had to hang on as Norfolk made it a 5-4 game with two long home runs in the top of the fifth. Steve Tolleson hit a one-out solo home run and Joe Mahoney blasted a towering drive to right center field.
But the Knights bullpen shut down Norfolk in the last four innings. Brian Omogrosso, Jhan Marinez and Anthony Carter combined to pitch four innings of one-hit shutout relief.
The Knights got their final run in the fifth when Conor Jackson walked and scored on Dan Johnson’s double for a 6-4 lead.
Norfolk got the tying run to third base in the ninth. They picked up a run when Mahoney, who drew a leadoff walk, scored on Johnson’s infield error on Zelous Wheeler’s sharply-hit ground ball. But Carter retired the last two batters to earn a save.
“We got big two-out hits and some good defensive plays,” Skinner said. “The outcome is what it is, We’re focusing right now on the guys preparing themselves to play the game.”
NOTES: The Knights and the Tides will play a doubleheader starting at 5:05 p.m. Saturday. Scheduled starting pitchers are right-handers Dylan Axelrod and Brian Bruney for Charlotte and right-handers Chris Tillman and Steve Johnson for Norfolk.
SOUTH ATLANTIC LEAGUE
HICKORY 5, KANNAPOLIS 1: Luke Jackson (1-0) struck out eight batters in five innings for the visiting Crawdads, who were led at the plate by Luis Sardinas, who went 2-4, and Zachary Cone, who hit a solo home run.
|KNIGHTS 6, TIDES 5|
|Avery cf||5||0||0||0||Kuhn 2b||4||2||2||1|
|Tolleson ss||3||1||1||1||Golson lf||3||0||0||0|
|Adams 2b||4||1||1||0||McPherson 3b||4||1||2||2|
|Bell dh||3||0||0||0||Jackson rf||3||2||1||0|
|Hoffmann lf||3||1||0||0||Johnson 1b||4||0||1||1|
|Mahoney 1b||3||2||1||3||Gimenez dh||4||0||1||2|
|Miller rf||4||0||1||0||Danks cf||4||0||1||0|
|Wheeler 3b||4||0||0||0||Phegley c||4||1||3||0|
|Hester c||4||0||1||0||Martinez ss||4||0||0||0|
E-Johnson (1). LOB- Norfolk 5, Charlotte 6. 2B- Adams (1), Hester (1), Jackson (1), Phegley (1), Kuhn (1), Johnson (1). HR- Tolleson (1), Mahoney (1). S- Golson.
Umpires- HP: Mark Lollo. 1B: Kelvin Bultron. 3B: Sean Barber. T- 2:23. Att.- 2,952 (at Fort Mill).