The Jacksonville Suns paid tribute to Peter Bragan Sr. in more ways than one on Thursday night against the Jackson Generals.
Following a pre-game ceremony honoring their late former owner, the Suns used excellent starting pitching and a handful of big hits to begin the 2013 season with a 5-3 win over the Generals at Bragan Field at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.
Suns starter Brian Flynn (1-0) struck out the side in the top half of the first inning and never looked back, posting six shutout innings and allowing just four hits in the process. The left-hander struck out nine Generals, surpassing his 2012 season high of eight in his very first start of the year.
"What more could you ask for from an opening day start?" manager Andy Barkett said. "He could have gotten big league hitters out tonight."
Jacksonville staked Flynn to an early lead when catcher J.T. Realmuto homered off Generals opening day starter Taijuan Walker (0-1) with two outs and the bases empty in the bottom of the first inning. The long ball came in Realmuto's first at-bat at the Double-A level.
"Everybody's got...jitters at the beginning of the season, opening night," Barkett said. "[Realmuto] kind of set the tone for the evening right there. Him and Flynn both [took] the bull by the horns."
Realmuto knocked in another run two innings later when his screaming line drive glanced off the glove of Generals left fielder leon Landry, scoring Michael Main and putting the Suns up by a pair of runs.
With Flynn dealing, second baseman Derek Dietrich helped extend the lead in the fourth inning with a towering, two-run home run that gave Jacksonville a 4-0 lead. That was more than enough for Flynn, who needed just 71 pitches to complete six innings of work.
The Generals pulled to within a run in the seventh, scoring three runs off Suns reliever Arquimedes Caminero. Landry's two-run triple made it a 4-3 game before Caminero struck Francisco Martinez out looking to end the threat.
The Suns added an insurance run in their half of the seventh on Zach Cox's RBI double to close out the scoring. Raudel Lazo hurled a scoreless eighth and Michael Brady sent the crowd of 4,853 home happy with a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth, earning his first save of the season.
Brady, Flynn and Camineo each struck out the side at least once for the Suns, and the Generals waved at strike three a total of 17 times as a team. Among Jackson's starters, six struck out at least twice.
After the game, which was the first played on the newly renamed Bragan Field, Barkett was quick to laud Peter Bragan Sr. for his contributions to the Suns franchise.
"This town and this team was built by the Bragan family," the Suns manager said. "Paying tribute to him tonight was something special, and we got him a win as well."
The Suns and Generals will continue their season-opening five-game series on Friday at Bragan Field, with Robert Morey (0-0) opposing Roenis Elias (0-0). First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. (ET). Every fan in attendance will receive a free magnet schedule and enjoy post-game fireworks as part of Napa Friday Family Fireworks.