KINSTON, NC - In 2017, the Wood Ducks re-opened Grainger Stadium with a thrilling extra-inning walk-off victory. It was a memorable game, but pales in comparison to the home opener witnessed by 2,254 fans in the seats tonight.
Five lead changes, runs in 14-out-of-17 frames in the game, 33 hits, 30 runs, and a Wood Ducks come-from-behind win by the score of 16-14.
Every batter in the game got a hit. Every single one. The Wood Ducks scored in seven of their eight innings of offense. Down East even came back from deficits of 5-0 and 6-1. Yet perhaps the most incredible tidbit of Thursday's game: reserve catcher Shaq Matta claimed a save and stranded five runners on base.
Myrtle Beach catapulted to a 5-0 lead after a half inning by bringing 10 batters to the plate in the first. It would chase starter Edgar Arredondo from the game after eight batters and 39 pitches. Leody Taveras drove in a run in the bottom half of the inning, but the Pelicans restored the five-run lead with a homer in the second.
The DEWDs were kept scoreless in the second but began a streak of scoring in each of the final six frames in the victory. A three-run third kept hope alive for a comeback - marking the score at 6-4 MB.
Then two more runs scored in the fourth on a grounder from Chuck Leblanc under Vimael Machin's glove at third. Just as quickly as the Woodies tied the game, the Pelicans reclaimed the lead on a two-out RBI single in the fifth.
Yet the Wood Ducks found a way to respond again. Josh Altman led off the fifth with his first home run of the season - a towering blast to left. Now the score marked at seven apiece and the sixth inning brought more pandemonium.
The Woodies scored three in the sixth thanks to extra-base hits by Alex Kowalczyk and Preston Scott, pushing the advantage to 10-7 DE for the first time in the game. Myrtle Beach followed that up with a five-run top of the seventh, aided by two Wood Duck errors. The Pelicans took the lead back 12-10.
A leadoff walk in the bottom of the seventh (Down East drew eight walks on the night) opened the games for a four-run frame also influenced by a defensive miscue - by right fielder Chris Pieters on a dropped fly ball.
The 14-12 lead still didn't feel safe, especially when Myrtle Beach loaded the bases in the eighth with two outs. Locke St. John had already delivered nearly two innings of relief after pitching on Wednesday in Potomac. Out of options, manager Spike Owen turned to his two-man bench and reserve catcher Shaq Matta to go get the final out of the eighth.
He only needed two pitches to induce a Jhonny Pereda pop out to right to end the threat. For good measure, the Woodies added two more runs in the bottom of the eighth on Anderson Tejeda's triple to right-center.
Matta still needed to close out the ninth with the DEWDs leading 16-13. Albeit the go-ahead run came to the plate after an RBI single, Matta got Monasterio to fly out to center to end the marathon game after four hours and 18 minutes - the longest nine-inning game in DEWD history.
After a nap, the Wood Ducks and Pelicans wake up for game two at 7:00 p.m. on Friday night with right-hander Michael Matuella on the mound.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.