Charleston, WV - The Greenville Drive's defense of their South Atlantic League Championship got off to a flying start in Thursday's season opener, as Jhonathan Diaz's gem and several standout offensive performances gave the Drive an 8-1 win over the West Virginia Power.
Diaz (1-0) earned the Opening Night start for the Drive (1-0) after a solid 2017 campaign, and the southpaw turned in a terrific outing. He shut down the Power (0-1) over six innings of work while allowing just two hits and one walk, and he struck out a career-high nine batters.
The Drive offense jumped ahead in a hurry, as three multi-run innings gave Diaz a 7-0 lead through the first four frames against Domingo Robles (0-1).
Jagger Rusconi's two-out triple in the top of the second was followed by a West Virginia error that put the Drive ahead, and two batters later, Kervin Suarez lined an RBI single to center to make the score 2-0.
Greenville's lead was pushed to four after the top of the third. After back-to-back singles by C.J. Chatham and Pedro Castellanos, Marino Campana delivered a double to left to plate Chatham, and an RBI groundout by Everlouis Lozada tacked on another run.
Suarez continued his strong start at the plate in the fourth inning with an RBI double, and the Drive scored twice more in the frame on an RBI groundout by Chatham and a run-scoring single by Castellanos.
Victor Acosta plated the Drive's final run of the evening with an RBI single in the top of the eighth.
Following Diaz's strong effort on the mound, Devon Fisher fired a pair of perfect innings of relief.
West Virginia avoided the shutout by plating a run in the bottom of the ninth thanks to a pair of Drive errors.
The Drive offense was paced by Suarez, who went 3-4 with a pair of RBI in the leadoff spot. Campana, Castellanos and Chatham collected two hits apiece.
Iggy Suarez became the fourth straight Drive manager to win their debut, following Darren Fenster (2014), Carlos Febles (2012) and Billy McMillon (2010).
The four-game series in West Virginia continues on Friday night with a 7:05 PM first pitch. Right-hander Kutter Crawford will take the mound for the Drive, and he will be opposed by Power right-hander Travis MacGregor.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.