By Steve Kolbe
The 50th Anniversary season of Jacksonville Suns Baseball began with 2-0 victory over the Huntsville Stars on Thurdsday night. Pitching was the story of the first game of the 2012 season. Joey O’Gara had a solid outing as the Opening Day starter, going six and two-thirds of an inning to record the win allowing only three hits and striking out two batters.
The Suns were able to get to Huntsville starter Dan Merklinger in the first inning. After walks to Jake Smolinski and Kyle Jensen, Shawn Bowman reached base on an infield single to load the bases and bring Kyle Skipworth to the plate. Jacksonville’s catcher would lift a sacrifice fly to right field with Smolinski scoring the first run of the night. Merklinger would settle down and retire the next 12 batters he faced and the hard-throwing lefty finished with eight strikeouts on the night, but a base on balls would cost him again in the sixth. Jose Duarte drew a leadoff walk, and scored on Kyle Jensen’s RBI single to center off of relief pitcher Jesus Sanchez to make the score 2-0. The biggest concern of the night for the Suns was an apparent injury to pitcher Peter Andrelczyk in the eighth inning.
There were only seven hits between the two teams. Jeff Bianchi and Brock Kjeldgaard were the only Huntsville players with hits in the game, each going 2-for-4 with a double. The Suns had only three hits in the game with Jake Smolinski, Kyle Jensen, and Shawn Bowman each with singles.
The Suns had seven shutouts last season, with with Joey O’Gara involved in two of them. O’Gara was at it again on Opening Day 2012 as four Suns pitchers combine to blank the Stars. Peter Andrelczyk pitched one inning and struck out two of the batters he faced, and A.J Ramos retired the only batter he faced. Evan Reed pitched the ninth to record the save.
Game two of the five-game series is Friday with Jacksonville sending lefty Jose Alvarez to the mound, and Huntsville turning to right-hander Tyler Thornburg. First pitch at 7:05PM at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.