A tough defensive contest between Burlington and Pulaski on opening night ended in the 13th inning when the Royals won on a walk-off error. Mauricio Ramos scampered home when Pulaski SS Gabe Franca misplayed an Andrew Ayers ground ball, as Burlington won, 2-1.
The Royals and Mariners were tied 1-1 going into the 13th, but the Royals loaded the bases with nobody out. The Pulaski infield was pulled in to cut off the run at home and Ayers chopped a ground ball to Franca at shortstop. Franca took his eye off the ball for a split second and the ball went in and out of his glove, allowing Ramos to score the game-winning run.
Though the Royals came away with the win, the Mariners struck first. Pulaski got a leadoff single by Joe DeCarlo and Jesus Ugueto moved him to second with a sacrifice bunt. After the sacrifice, Tony DeMello doubled down the third base line to bring home DeCarlo and give the M’s a 1-0 lead.
Burlington got the run back in the seventh on a sacrifice fly by Ramos. Ramon Torres had singled to lead off the inning and moved to second after a walk to Alfredo Escalera. A grounder to first moved the runners up before Ramos tied the game with a fly ball to centerfield. Ramos later scored the winning run on the Mariners’ fielding error in the 13th.
Not to be forgotten in the opening night mini-marathon was the starting pitching for both teams. Mariners starter Edwin Diaz was perfect through the first five innings before giving up a leadoff double to Alex Newman in the sixth. Diaz recovered from the double, however, and retired the next three batters he faced. The right-hander pitched six scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and striking out nine.
The Royals also got a quality outing from their starter Matt Tenuta. The lefty gave up just one run over six innings. He struck out six, walked one and gave up three hits in his first Appalachian League start.
Neither starter factored in the decision, despite their efforts. Royals reliever Jose Rodriguez got credit for the win. He pitched two scoreless innings, giving up one hit and striking out two. The game’s losing pitcher was Pulaski left-hander Scott Ronnenbergh. He only pitched the 13th and did not record an out. Ronnenbergh’s line included one intentional walk, two hits and one earned run.
The Royals started the season off on a high note and will meet the Mariners again for game two of the series on Friday night. Right-hander Zach Lovvorn is expected to start for Burlington against 16-year old Brazilian left-hander Luiz Gohara. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. The gates at Burlington Athletic Stadium will open at 6 p.m.