Brett Davis, USA Today

Richmond Flying Squirrels Soar in Opening Day Win

On Thursday we were treated to three more Opening Days as the GreenJackets, Giants and Flying Squirrels all started their seasons.

Today we'll focus on the Richmond Flying Squirrels, who dealt the Hartford Yard Goats (Rockies) a lopsided loss, 11-1. The Squirrels have a loaded roster, with eight of the Giants top 30 prospects on their squad. Those eight are first baseman Chris Shaw (#3), left-hander Andrew Suarez (#5), righty Sam Coonrod (#11), hard-throwing righty reliever Reyes Moronta (#12), Thursday's starter Dan Slania (#18), right-hander Cory Taylor (#20), lefty Matt Gage (#28) and infielder Miguel Gomez (#30). 

After former Major Leaguer David Justice enjoyed some of the pre-game festivities, the home team took advantage of three crooked innings to rout Hartford. After three quick fly ball outs for Slania to begin the game, former first round pick of the Yankees, Slade Heathcott, led off the bottom half of the first by being hit in the back and then stealing second base. After Brandon Bednar grounded out to advance the runner, Heathcott would come around to score on a Gomez single to right for the team's first run of 2017. They would add two more when Chris Shaw stepped to the plate and belted his first homer of 2017.

The big damage inning for Richmond was the 3rd, where Heathcott (2-for-4, 2B, 2 runs, SB) again started the rally, this time just doubling his way to second in what proved to be a less painful and more efficient way. Bednar and Gomez followed with singles that brought the former Yankee prospect home for the second time of the evening. The big shot of the inning came off the bat of Thursday's third baseman T.J. Bennett. With the bases loaded the lefty stroked a bases clearing triple. With the pitcher Slania batting, Bennett would cross home on a wild pitch. 

Hunter Cole and Ryan Lollis would pick up RBI in the 7th inning and finish off the Squirrel's scoring rampage. 

On the bump Slania went 6 strong, alowing 5 hits and a walk which led to the lone Yard Goat run. Slania also struck out eight on the evening, and seven of those came on swinging third strikes. Christian Jones and Jordan Johnson combined to work a perfect final three frames out of the bullpen and added three more strikeouts (two swinging) to the total. 

Of note: Miguel Gomez hit third for Richmond and played at second base. Since he became a professional ballplayer in 2012, Gomez has played in 311 games and manned second in eight of them. All eight came last season. This could be something to keep an eye on. With Christian Arroyo (Triple-A Sacramento) likely to man third in the big leagues and Brandon Crawford signed through 2021, there aren't a lot of places to put Gomez. Joe Panik is a solid cost-controlled option through 2020, which could either make him a candidate to stay in San Francisco as the Giants sign free agents, or could become an intriguing trade piece like Matt Duffy became a year ago. Don't worry, we're at least a year from finding out.

Quick Hits

The Sacramento River Cats were rained out of their Opening Day matchup with the Tacoma Rainiers. Being that they're an affiliate of the Seattle Mariners and their name has rain mixed in, this should hardly come as a surprise. 

Augusta dropped their opener to the Columbia Fireflies (Mets) 14-7, and you may have heard of one of the feats accomplished in that game. Some guy named Tim Tebow went deep in his first official at-bat as a minor leaguer. Cool. GreenJackets pitching decided that was enough and struck Tebow out three times in his next four at-bats. The homer came off of 2015 draftee Domenic Mazza who was born in Walnut Creek. 

On the brighter side of things, centerfielder Anthony Marks, third baseman Manuel Geraldo and #8 prospect Sandro Fabian all collected two hits. Marks (2-for-4, BB, SB, 2B) drove home two while Fabian (2-for-5, 2B) drove home three but struck out twice. Fabian just turned 19 years before the start of his first full season of pro ball.

San Jose came back from two down in the top of the 7th, scoring three in the frame, only to allowing the tying run in the bottom half of the inning. Bryan Reynolds (#4) started the game 3-for-3 and scored the go-ahead run in the 7th. Caleb Simpson is the reliever that allowed the tying homer for San Jose in the bottom of the 7th. Simpson tossed 6.2 innings for Augusta last season, his first action since missing both the 2014 and 2015 seasons due to injury. 

Dylan Rheault, a 6-foot-9 inch right-hander with a mid-90's heater, worked two perfect extra inning frames and struck out three in the process. Rheault played Indy ball last season and was signed by the Giants just a couple of weeks ago. He was originally drafted by the Orioles in 2013.

After working a scoreless bottom of the 15th, left-hander Caleb Smith came on for the 16th. After recording the first out he allowed a single to Michael Hermosillo, the Angels #16 prospect. Smith then walked the next two batters he faced to load the bases full of 66ers before working a second out on a popup. 

Ultimately the game would end on a walk to Connor Justus (#14). One Caleb gave up the game-tying run in the 7th and another gave up the game-winning run in the 16th. Blame the Calebs. They're so much less cool than Brandons. 

On a serious note, the San Jose bullpen, even though they were ultimately credited with a blown save and a loss, pitched their butts off. Six pitchers combined for 11 2/3 innings and allowed just two earned on nine hits, six walks and struck out ten. Ultimately it wasn't enough on this night, but it does bode well moving forward this season. 

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