by Matt Lincoln
RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The Flying Squirrels had their second straight opening day sellout, and the 9,560 fans witnessed a come-from-behind victory. Richmond fell behind 4-0 to the New Britain Rock Cats, but scored six unanswered runs for their 6-4 win.
The Squirrels had quite the opening day festivities, which began almost 40 minutes before the official first pitch. That included the introduction of Zinger the puffy acorn, and Parker the rally pig, a live, foot-and-a-half long piglet. In addition the king of the mascots, Nutzy, parachuted down from the sky. Also, three local sports stars threw ceremonial first pitches. Richmond men's basketball coach Chris Mooney, VCU Ram, and Highland Springs product Brandon Rozzell, and Pittsburgh Steeler James Farrior all fired pitches that crossed the plate.
As for the game, it did not start well. Squirrels' opening day starter Daryl Maday got shelled in the third inning. Mark Dolenc sparked a four-run uprising when he legged out an infield-single. Danny Lehmann followed with a double down the left-field line, chasing Dolenc in from first base to give New Britain the lead, 1-0. Maday issued a walk to Michael Hollimon, and Yangervis Solarte moved the runners up to second and third with a sacrifice bunt. Ray Chang drove home both with a two-run double, putting the Rock Cats ahead 3-0. Joe Benson capped the inning with another double, the third of the inning for New Britain, and the lead expanded to 4-0.
The Squirrels struck back against New Britain right-hander David Bromberg in the fourth, pulling within a run with a three-run inning. Bromberg started his own trouble with a one-out walk to Mike McBryde. Johnny Monell doubled to right field, bringing McBryde around from first with the first Richmond run of the night. Jose Flores lined a double to left-center field to bring Monell in, and the Squirrels cut their deficit to two, 4-2. Justin Christian pulled the Squirrels within a lone run when he pulled a single past third base, scoring Flores.
Maday departed after 4 2/3 innings, having conceded four earned runs on seven hits. Bromberg left after four innings, permitting three runs on six hits. Neither starter factored in the decision.
Richmond completed their comeback in the eighth, plating three runs off reliever Spencer Steedley. McBryde triggered the rally by leading off the frame with a bunt-single. Monell's second double of the night brought in McBryde from first to tie the game, 4-4. Flores attempted to bunt Monell to third, and when Lehmann, the Rock Cats' catcher, threw wildly into left field, Monell came in to give Richmond their first lead. Steedley (0-1) was saddled with the loss for New Britain. Charlie Culberson's third hit of the night, an RBI single, gave the Squirrels their final margin of two runs.
Right-hander Osiris Matos (1-0) earned the win for Richmond in relief, facing and retiring just one batter to end the New Britain eighth inning. Left-hander Justin Dowdy was sensational in relief, bridging from Maday to the back-end of the bullpen by working three scoreless innings.
Squirrels' closer Jason Stoffel took over in the ninth and nailed down the first Richmond win of the season with a perfect inning. Stoffel (S,1) earned his first save of the season.
Game two of the four-game series is scheduled for 6:35 PM at The Diamond on Friday night. LHP Eric Surkamp (0-0, ---) will make his Double-A debut for the Squirrels against RHP Deolis Guerra (0-0, ---) for the Rock Cats.