Funnville - Opening Night at The Diamond could not have gone any better for the Richmond Flying Squirrels. Starting pitcher Jordan Johnson tossed six stellar innings and launched a solo home run to lift Richmond (5-3) over Reading (3-5) in front of a franchise record 9,845 fans. Johnson earned the win by striking out five with just one walk in his second start of the year. Game two of the series is on Saturday at 6:05 p.m. with Super Blast Fireworks presented by VA 811 following the game.
Johnson smashed his first career home run in the fifth inning to move Richmond ahead 3-0. The towing shot was hit off of Reading's starter JoJo Romero and cleared the wall in left centerfield wall. Romero (0-2 suffered the loss with five innings of work in his second outing of the year. Romero walked three and struck out two in the defeat.
The Squirrels provided Johnson with an early 2-0 cushion, plating a pair of runs in the third inning. Matt Lipka started the inning with a walk and stole second base. With one out, Ronny Jebavy delivered an RBI base hit to right and Ryan Howard followed with a single to put runners on the corners. Miguel Gomez then grounded in a run for a 2-0 advantage.
Johnson continued to be the story of the night, and only at the plate. The righty worked sic innings on 82 pitches before being lifted to start the seventh for Dusten Knight. Johnson (1-1) walked just one batter and struck out five.
Knight worked a pair of innings and allowed one run to bridge the contest to Caleb Simpson. Simpson put on a pair of runners in the ninth, but shut the door to earn his second save in as many chances.
Pitcher Jordan Johnson's home run in the fifth was the first of his career and the first for a Squirrels pitcher since Matt Gage went yard against Reading at The Diamond on July 4, 2016.
Squirrels catcher Aramis Garcia left the game with an apparent injury after sliding into third base while safely advancing on a wild pitch.
Matt Lipka walked three times in the game and has walked seven times in seven games this year.
Simpson closed out his second game of the year. The reliever was 0-3 in save situations last year and 2-7 entering the season.
The Flying Squirrels announced attendance of 9,845 surpassed the previous record of 9,810 set on July 4, 2017.
Ryan Howard stole his fifth base of the season in the third inning. Howard's five steals matches the league leaders entering Friday. He had just seven stolen bases in all of 2017.
The series continues Saturday at The Diamond with LHP Matt Gage (0-0, 3.60) on the mound for Richmond against Reading RHP Jacob Waguespack (0-0, 6.00) The homestand rolls through the weekend and ends on Thursday afternoon. Ticket are available by contacting the box office at 804-359-3866 or online at squirrelsbaseball.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.