by PATRICK CAVANAUGH
(MANCHESTER, NH)—There was not a single cloud in sight over Northeast Delta Dental Stadium on Thursday evening as the New Hampshire Fisher Cats hosted the Trenton Thunder for their first official game at home this season.
New Hampshire’s Thursday evening tilt with the division-rival comes just one day after fans had the opportunity to see the hometown Fisher Cats play the Hartford Yard Goats in the Queen City, as the Fishers played a three-game series as the visiting team on their home turf, because Hartford’s stadium is still under construction. The Yard Goats organization is the newest in the Eastern League, as the New Britain Rock Cats (Double-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies) relocated twelve miles north to Connecticut’s capital city.
Things started off rough for New Hampshire, who gave up four runs in the top of the 1st inning. Trenton’s Dante Bichette Jr. hit a two-out RBI double, which was followed by a Juan Silva walk, and a two-RBI double from Kyle Higashioka, which got the Thunder a 3-0 lead after just half a frame.
New Hampshire countered in the home half of the second inning after K.C. Hobson doubled to center field, which scored Rowdy Tellez from third base. The Fisher Cats tacked two more runs in the next at-bat when Melky Mesa scored on a wild pitch, and Hobson scored on the same play due to a throwing error by Higashioka, Trenton’s catcher.
New Hampshire’s starter, Luis Santo, took the bump for the first time in his Double-A career after recently getting the call up from Dunedin (Advanced-A). The right-handed native of the Dominican Republic tossed 5.2 innings, giving up three hits, four runs (all earned), three walks, and struck out eight batters. It wasn’t a terrible debut for the twenty-five year old once he found his groove after a shaky top of the first inning.
The bats fell quiet through the middle frames for both teams, as both pitchers worked efficiently for their respective clubs. It was the Fisher Cats who finally broke the silence in the home half of the seventh inning when Jorge Flores hit a grounder to shortstop, which was errantly fielded by Cito Culver and allowed K.C. Hobson to score from third base. Two batters later, New Hampshire took the lead for good when Jon Berti connected on a line drive to left-field, which scored Wilkin Castillo and put the Fisher Cats on top by a score of 5-4.
Trenton’s excitement peaked with two outs in the top of the 9th inning, when Higashioka cranked a solo homerun out to centerfield that tied the game at 5-5, and forced extra frames.
It was the Fisher Cats who had the final celebration however, as in the bottom of the 11th inning, New Hampshire’s Rowdy Tellez walked with two outs, was replaced with pinch-runner Ian Parmley. The late-game substitution stole second base before he was knocked home by a Melky Mesa RBI-single to right field which won the ballgame by a score of 6-5.
New Hampshire reliever Will Browning (1-0) gets credited with the win, while Trenton’s Jonathan Holder (0-1) is charged with the loss.
Opening Night at the ballpark also meant the big reveal of the results in the “We the Fans” contest. Fans had the opportunity to celebrate New Hampshire’s political history and importance by voting for which hat the team will wear with the jerseys on Opening Day. The two options were either a red hat with an elephant (to represent the Republican party), or a blue hate with a donkey (to represent the Democratic party). When the team took the field, they wore their red and blue bipartisan jerseys with the red cap.
With the victory, New Hampshire advances to 3-3 on the season, while Thunder falls to 4-3. The Fisher Cats are back in action tomorrow night, hosting Trenton for game two of the four-game series. First pitch is slated for 6:35 PM and southpaw John Anderson (0-0, 2.25) is expected to start on the hill for New Hampshire. Fans who make it to Northeast Delta Dental Stadium will receive a magnetic schedule giveaway, courtesy of Elliot Orthopaedics.