MYRTLE BEACH, SC - Friday was the dawn of a new era of Myrtle Beach baseball, and it got off to a great start. In their first game as a Texas Rangers affiliate, the Pelicans took the Opening Night game at BB&T Coastal Field over the Wilmington Blue Rocks 3-1.
Starter Neil Ramirez pitched four and two-thirds scoreless innings of one-hit ball while third baseman Mike Olt knocked three hits and drove in a run for a Birds' offense that tallied thirteen hits in front of 5,069.
The Pelicans got started early, jumping on Blue Rocks starter Tim Melville (0-1) for three runs in the first inning. Leadoff man Leury Garcia singled and stole second, and after Jared Hoying walked, Chris McGuiness singled to right to bring home the Pelicans' first run of the season.
That brought up Olt and Baseball America's seventh-highest ranked prospect in the Rangers' system came through with a booming opposite-field ground-rule double to score Hoying. Travis Adair later followed with an RBI single as six of the first seven hitters reached base in the three-run first frame.
On the mound with a 3-0 lead, Ramirez was brilliant. The righty retired 13 of the first 14 batters he faced, eight of them on strikes. A first inning walk to Rey Navarro was the only blemish before the fifth.
In that fifth inning, Tim Ferguson reached on a throwing error by Olt. Juan Graterol then hit a chopper to Olt, and the third baseman threw high to first. Although Chris McGuiness seemingly came down to the bag in time, umpire Kiff Kinkead ruled Graterol safe, and the infield hit broke up Ramirez's no-no.
After whiffing Joey Lewis, Ramirez was taken out one out shy of qualifying for the win and one strikeout short of his career high of ten, which he reached twice last season with low-A Hickory.
The Birds' bullpen was terrific as well, starting with Tyler Tufts (1-0). The righty struck out Deivy Batista to end the fifth, then struck out the side in the sixth to pick up the win.
Robbie Ross had a 1-2-3 seventh inning with a pair of strikeouts. Ryan Kelly, pitching in his first game in the Rangers' organization after a pair of offseason trades, came on and allowed Wilmington's only run in the eighth. However, despite Alex McClure's sacrifice fly, the Hilton Head native Kelly worked a scoreless ninth to register the save.
Kelly's strikeout of Whit Merrifield in the eighth was the Pelicans' 16th of the evening. That surpassed last year's nine-inning team high of 15, which came on May 31st at Frederick.
The Myrtle Beach offense was plenty busy, notching 13 hits, but they left 12 men on base while going 4-for-13 with runners in scoring position. In addition to Olt's three-hit game, Hoying, designated hitter Travis Adair and second baseman Santiago Chirino also had multiple hits with two apiece. The Birds were aggressive on the basepaths as well. The leadoff man Garcia stole two bases and Hoying, who follows him in the lineup, swiped a bag as well.
The three-game set continues tomorrow night at BB&T Coastal Field. Southpaw Robbie Erlin, who was ranked as the fourth-best prospect in the Texas organization by Baseball America, gets the ball for the Pelicans. Right-hander Tyler Sample goes for the Blue Rocks, and first pitch is at 7:05 PM.
Tickets for all Pelicans home games are available at the BB&T Coastal Field box office, MyrtleBeachPelicans.com, and by phone at 843-918-6000 or 877-918-TIXX.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.