Minor League Opening Day Round-Up

Opening Day for the Oakland A's minor league affiliates was Thursday, April 7. Find out how the A's minor league clubs fared in their first games in this edition of <i>Minor League Notebook</i>...

River Cats, Rheinecker White-Wash Portland For Convincing Win

Lefty John Rheinecker had an Opening Day to remember as he and the River Cats got off to a good start in their mission to three-peat as PCL champions with a convincing 7-0 win over the Portland Beavers. Rheinecker worked eight brilliant shut-out innings in front of 13,279 Raley Field River Cat fans, striking out three and allowing only three hits and two walks over his eight frames.

The game was scoreless going into the bottom of the sixth inning. That's when the River Cats exploded for five runs, breaking the game wide-open. The inning began with a bunt single from the speedy Freddie Bynum, who was in centerfield on Thursday. Second baseman Jermaine Clark followed that hit with a double to left, moving Bynum to third. Third baseman Bobby Smith lined a single to center to drive in both runners. That was all the scoring that Rheinecker would need, but the River Cats offense kept pouring it on.

With one out, Smith stole second and was still at second base with two outs when right fielder Matt Watson stroked a single to center to drive in Smith. Designated hitter Jack Cust followed Watson by crushing a two-run homer to right, upping the score to 5-0.

Sacramento tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the 8th inning. Reigning PCL MVP Dan Johnson started off the inning with a solo homerun to rightfield. Later in the inning, leftfielder Shawn Garrett scored from third on an RBI groundout by Cust. Reliever Britt Reames took over for Rheinecker in the top of the 9th inning and completed the shutout by working a quick inning, allowing only a one-out double to Robert Fick.

Johnson and Clark paced the River Cats' 11-hit attack by collecting two apiece. Cust had three RBIs in his Oakland organization debut. Catcher John Baker had a double and a walk. The River Cats had a solid defensive game, as well, as they turned two 4-6-3 double-plays to help Rheinecker earn his shutout win.

Midland Drops A Tight One

Third baseman Andrew Beattie staked the Midland Rockhounds to an early 3-1 lead with a second inning three-run homerun, but the Frisco Rough Riders scored a run in the fourth and two in the fifth to win the game, 4-3. Drew Dickinson allowed four runs – three earned – in 4.1 innings pitched and got the loss.

The Rockhounds high-powered offense got off to a sluggish start, as they were only able to put the three runs across on Beattie's homerun. Beattie had two hits on the day and the rest of the line-up had three hits total. The Rockhounds top five hitters (Steve Stanley, Omar Quintanilla, Jason Perry and Brant Colamarino) went a combined 1-15 with a walk. Quintanilla, who was back at shortstop after working at second during spring training, also committed a fielding error and Brant Colamarino overthrew second base for an error on what was a rough day for some of the Rockhounds' brightest prospects.

Reliever Shawn Kohn had an impressive performance on Thursday. The righthander struck out three of the five batters he faced in a perfect Rockhounds debut. Kohn spent time in Modesto (A) and Sacramento (AAA) last season. Andrew Beattie's debut as an Oakland farmhand was a successful one. In addition to his second inning homer, Beattie also singled and help turn a nifty 5-4 double-play.

Stockton Squeaks Past Modesto For First Win As A's Affiliate

The Stockton Ports got off to a winning start as a member of the Oakland A's family, squeaking past the A's old California League affiliate by a score of 4-3. Chris Dunwell picked up the win in relief and the Ports got three RBI from shortstop Francis Gomez to lead them to victory over the Modesto Nuts.

Stockton got on the board first with a two-run top of the second inning. Designated hitter Daric Barton started the inning with a single to right. Leftfielder Danny Putnam followed with a double to left, moving Barton to third. Francis Gomez then plated both runners with a double to left. Gomez was stranded at second, however, leaving the Ports with only a 2-0 lead after one and a half innings. It would be short-lived.

Jason Windsor got the start for Stockton and started off strong. Windsor struck out four of the first five batters he faced before running into trouble with one out in the bottom of the second. He allowed a single to Chris Iannetta and a walk to Joe Gaetti before allowing a two-out double that plated Iannetta and moved Gaetti to third. Gaetti scored on a passed ball by catcher Kurt Suzuki to even the score at 2-2. Windsor recovered to work a scoreless third inning, with help from Suzuki who threw out Erik Dean trying to steal second. Windsor was lifted after the third inning.

Chris Dunwell took over for Windsor and worked three effective innings in relief. He allowed only one unearned run and used five strikeouts to work his way out of a couple of tight jams. Dunwell left the game with a 4-3 lead, thanks to a two-run, top of the 6th inning for Stockton. The Ports second scoring inning began in much the same fashion as the first one, with Barton reaching first base to lead-off the inning -- this time with a walk. Barton was forced at second by Putnam, but Putnam was able to score from first on a double by Gomez. Gomez later came around to score on an RBI groundout by third baseman John McCurdy.

Relievers Justin Crowder, Alex Santos and Jeff Muessig combined to toss three shutout innings to preserve the 4-3 win for Stockton. Muessig picked up the save with a perfect 9th. Gomez led the Ports offensive attack with two doubles and three runs driven in. Barton, who has a reputation as an on-base percentage machine, lived up to his billing by reaching base three times in four plate appearances in his first game as part of the Oakland organization. Barton singled, walked and was hit by a pitch. Putnam scored two runs for the Ports. Suzuki had a rough day, going 0-3 with two strike outs, a passed ball and a throwing error. However, he did throw a runner out at second and drew a walk.

Kane County Goes Extra-Innings For Opening Day Win

The defending Western Division Champion Kane County Cougars got off to a fast start to their season, capturing an Opening Day victory over the Cedar Rapids Kernels by a 7-4 score in 10 innings. Kane County blew a 9th inning 4-3 lead but rebounded to score three runs in the top of the 10th to seal the victory.

Left-handed starter Ryan Ford got the Opening Day nod and turned in a good performance. Ford went five innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on six hits. He struck out three and walked four. He left with the game knotted at 2. Jared Trout worked a scoreless sixth, but Clay Tichota coughed up an unearned run in the bottom of the 7th to put Kane County in a 3-2 hole. The Kernels' lead was short-lived as Cougar shortstop Gregorio Petit launched a two-out, two-run homerun in the top of the 8th to give Kane County a 4-3 lead. James Heuser and Rob Semerano combined a throw a scoreless 8th.

The Cougars went into the bottom of the 9th with a 4-3 lead and closer Scot Drucker on the hill. Drucker was betrayed by some bad defense from third baseman Myron Leslie and the Kernels were able to scratch out an unearned run to send the game into extra innings. Leslie had a nightmare Opening Day, committing three errors and going 0-4 at the plate.

Kane County was able to take advantage of some poor fielding from Cedar Rapids in the top of the 10th to mount their game-winning rally. The Cougars loaded the bases with one out for Petit, who shot a hard groundball to second baseman Josh LeBlanc. LeBlanc let the potential inning-ending double-play ball go through his legs and the Cougars were able to score twice on the play. Nick Blasi followed the error with a run-scoring sacrifice fly and the Cougars had a 7-4 lead. Drucker worked a scoreless 10th inning to finish the game and earn the victory.

Four Cougars had two hits on the day (Kevin Melillo, Raul Padron, Wes Long and Kory Wayment) and both Petit and Blasi drove in three runs. Blasi also walked three times. The Cougars will take on the Kernels again on Friday evening, with A's 2004 first round draft choice Michael Rogers taking the hill for the Kane County.

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