JACKSONVILLE, FLA. - The Jacksonville Suns (1-0) rallied for three seventh inning runs, while six hitless innings combined from three different relief pitchers sealed a 6-3 opening night victory over the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx (0-1) in front of 5,289 Thursday night at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.
The Suns have now won eight of their last nine opening night games, with the only loss in that span coming during 2007.
Edwardo Sierra (1-0) picked up the relief win for the Suns while Jason Mackintosh (0-1) fell in the relief loss for the Diamond Jaxx. Suns closer Yhency Brazoban (1) picked up the save.
The West Tenn offense got things going early against heralded starter James McDonald. First baseman Shawn Garrett started a two-out rally by legging out an infield single. Adam Moore next belted a line drive to right field that cleared the five-foot wall for a two-run homerun, opening a 2-0 lead.
In the bottom of the first, Jacksonville took advantage of back-to-back hit batsmen to leadoff the game followed by a wild pitch, as Lucas May drove home James Tomlin on a sacrifice fly, cutting the West Tenn lead to 2-1.
The Diamond Jaxx made it a two-run game again in the third inning, when Shawn Garrett singled home Mark Kiger for a 3-1 lead against the Suns starter. After the RBI, another single loaded the bases with no outs, before McDonald induced three straight pop-outs to end the threat.
McDonald left the game after three innings with three runs, two earned, on six hits and two strikeouts.
Jacksonville finally tied the game in the fourth inning against West Tenn starter Douglas Fister when Suns first baseman Rene Rivera belted a two-run homerun to tie the game 3-3. Rivera spent the entire 2007 season with West Tenn as a battery-mate of Fister and joined the Dodgers system as a free agent in the off-season.
Meanwhile the Suns bullpen settled in and held down the West Tenn offense after McDonald's departure. Cory Wade, back for his second season in Jacksonville, pitched three no-hit innings, while Edwardo Sierra walked the first two he faced in the seventh inning before putting the next three down in order.
The Jacksonville offense jumped on reliever James Mackintosh in the bottom of the seventh inning as the first three batters reached on a walk and two singles. Mackintosh gave way to Roman Martinez who allowed back-to-back RBI singles from Ivan DeJesus, Jr. and Greg Jacobs before another Lucas May sacrifice fly opened a 6-3 lead.
Sierra pitched a perfect eighth inning before Yhency Brazoban struck out the side in the ninth inning to preserve the win.
The Suns and Diamond Jaxx meet for game two in a five-game series Friday night at 7:05 p.m. Jacksonville LH Clayton Kershaw, the top prospect in the Dodgers system, makes his 2007 debut against West Tenn RH Rich Dorman. All fans will receive a Suns magnetic schedule, and one lucky fan will win a team-autographed refrigerator, sponsored by AIG, WJXT TV-4, 99.1 WQIK and WFXJ 930 the Fox. Plus it's the first Scout Campout Night! Boy and Girl Scouts are invited for a special Scout night featuring a post-game campout and midnight movie! After the game, Friday Family Fireworks, courtesy of NAPA Auto Parts and your local NAPA Autocare Center Dealers. Tickets are available by calling the Suns box office at (904) 358-2846 or by visiting jaxsuns.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.