Inland Empire Rides Offense to Victory

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. - The Inland Empire 66ers beat the Bakersfield Blaze, 13-9, Thursday in their season-opener at Arrowhead Credit Union Park before a crowd of 2,989 on a windy desert night.

Kevin Olore got the starting nod for the 66ers and pitched only 2.2 innings and 47 pitches before motioning to trainer Andrew Nelson and manager Daren Brown, pointing to his shoulder.

"I know that it was about a little bit of soreness in his elbow," said 66ers catcher Chris Collins of Olore after the game.

Jason Mackintosh replaced Olore and pitched 2.2 innings of scoreless baseball, striking out one and allowing a hit and a walk.

But it was Chris Key who earned the victory for Inland, despite a pitching line that left much to be desired. Key gave up six hits and two earned runs, but was the beneficiary of a 66ers offense that heated up in the late innings.

Meanwhile, the 66ers offense wasted little time getting on the board to start the season, scoring three in the first, one in the second, two in the fifth and three in both the sixth and seventh innings.

Adam Jones put the finishing touches on the scoring with a solo home run off the scoreboard in right-center field in the eighth inning.

Michael Collins led Inland offensively with three hits and four RBI.

"This is my second year here and I just focus in and keep my intensity," he said. "This team is good."

The offense was relentless all game long as the 66ers never trailed during despite the Blaze's best efforts to continually battle back. The score was knotted at six in the sixth inning before Inland's late inning outburst.

Juan Gonzalez, who appeared at designated hitter, started the game with a pair of strikeouts but responded with two hits and three RBI.

"We will have nights like this when things come together," said Jones, one of the young leaders of the team, after the game.

Inland manager Darren Brown liked what he saw out of his club in its first game, particularly out of the offense which put up 15 hits by the time things were over.

"It was a pretty good first game to come out and swing the bats like we did," said the skipper.

The butterflies died early in the first inning when Michael Garciaparra hit a triple to left field. Garciaparra, a first round pick of Mariners in 2001, showed off his speed as he dove into third base. He had three triples all last year for the 66ers.

Garciaparra also teamed with Jones, the Mariners first pick in the 2003 June draft, to turn the first bare-handed double play of the year.

The 66ers return to the field Friday night with LHP Ryan Feierabend set to take the mound. He'll face Blaze RHP Thomas Diamond. First pitch is set for 7:11pm.


  • Good Aim: B.J. Garbe, a former first-round draft choice of the Minnesota Twins out of Moses Lake High, fouled off three pitches in succession into the stadium press box.

  • Stronger and Faster: Michael Garciaparra added nearly 15 pounds of muscle in the off-season due to conditioning in Scottsdale, Arizona.

  • Just win, Baby: The 66ers entered the 2005 season having qualified for post season play in each of the last six years.

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