Thunder drop season opener to Fisher Cats
Added by Matt Kardos on April 6, 2012.
Entering his sixth season as Manager of the Trenton Thunder, the longest tenured skipper in both franchise and Eastern League history, Tony Franklin, opted to hand southpaw hurler Shaeffer Hall the ball in last night’s season opener against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats at Waterfront Park in Trenton.
Hall took the hill in front of the 6,497 eager Thunder fans looking to set the tone for a season, in which Trenton hopes to rebound from a disappointing 2011 campaign that saw the team finish 68-73 overall. Opposing Hall was Drew Hutchinson, the No. 9 ranked Toronto Blue Jays prospect by Baseball America and one of the crown jewels of their organizations strong farm system.
Hall cruised early on, retiring the first six Fisher Cats to step into the box. Hutchinson, on the other hand, struggled mightily with command and location in the early innings. The Thunder drew first blood in the first inning with an RBI double from third baseman Ronnier Mustelier and an RBI base knock by centerfielder Melky Mesa.
Trenton would hold that 2-0 advantage until the third inning, when Fisher Cats third baseman Mark Sobolewski and outfielder Justin Jackson notched solid singles to begin the frame. Sloppy defense then reared it’s ugly head when Hall threw a wild pitch past catcher Jose Gil, allowing runners to advance. Gil attempted to throw out Sobolewski at third, but his throw scurried into the outfield and allowed Sobolewski to score. Just one batter later, New Hampshire would draw even on a well struck base hit to centerfield by catcher A.J. Jimenez.
Suddenly the tide seemed to be turning. Hall appeared to be cracking, while Hutchinson appeared to be settling into a groove. After allowing two runs on three hits in the first frame, Hutchinson retired seven straight Thunder hitters leading into the fourth inning.
It was there, in the top of the fourth frame, when Hall would run out of gas. After issuing a leadoff walk to first baseman Mike McDade, Hall surrendered a double to designated hitter Brian Van Kirk to set up a dangerous situation with runners on second and third base with nobody out. Sobolewski then came to the plate and drove home a run on a groundout to shortstop to break the tie. Jackson would then drive home Van Kirk on a soft flare that fell just beyond the second base bag to increase the New Hampshire lead to 4-2.
That would be all for Hall, who threw 72 pitches through four innings, surrendering three earned runs, seven hits, two walks and three strikeouts.
Hutchinson took the mound in the fifth and again set the Thunder down in order for the fourth consecutive inning to complete his night. On a limited pitch count, Hutchinson threw 64 pitches through five frames, allowing just two runs on three hits, all of which came in the first inning, along with one walk and six strikeouts.
With Hutchinson now out of the game, the Thunder set their sights on trying to stage a rally in the sixth to get themselves back in the game. With reliever Yohan Pino on the mound, Mustelier led off the inning with a single followed by a walk to second baseman David Adams. With runners on first and second base with nobody out and the core of the order coming to the plate, the Thunder appeared to be in business.
As quickly as they staged that threat, the Thunder just as quickly shot themselves in the foot. Right fielder Zoilo Almonte struck out swinging on a would-be ball four; at the same time, Mustelier was gunned out at third base by Jimenez on the front end of a double steal to end the scoring threat.
Trenton would tack on a third run in the eighth inning, but that would be as close as they would come the rest of the way. New Hampshire closer Ronald Uviedo pitched a clean ninth inning to pick up the save and put the nail in the coffin of the Thunder’s season opener.
The Thunder are back in action tonight as they continue their series against the Fisher Cats. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 P.M. as Thunder righty Graham Stoneburner will be on the mound matched up against Chad Jenkins at Waterfront Park.