PEARL, Miss. – Thanks to dominant performances by catcher Kyle Schwarber and first baseman Dan Vogelbach, the Tennessee Smokies captured their first win of the season and their first win on Opening Day since 2012, as they defeated the Mississippi Braves, 7-2 at Trustmark Park on Thursday evening.
In their Smokies (1-0, 1-0) debuts, Schwarber and Vogelbach each went 1-for-3 with a run batted in. After third baseman Christian Villanueva drove in Tennessee’s first run of the season with a bases loaded walk in the third, Vogelbach ripped a single to left. Centerfielder Albert Almora scored and Schwarber came across on a throwing error by Braves’ left fielder Matt Lipka to make it 3-0, Smokies.
After Mississippi (0-1, 0-1) tallied their first run on a RBI infield single by right fielder David Rohm to trim the lead to two, neither team pushed across a run until the eighth inning. After a Almora walked to lead off the frame, Schwarber roped a RBI triple down the right field line to make it 4-1, Smokies. Tennessee would tally their final two runs of the frame on wild pitches by Mississippi reliever Andrew Robinson to make it 7-1.
The M-Braves got a run back in the eighth with a RBI double to left by third baseman Rio Ruiz, but that was as close as they would get. The Smokies would get that run back in the top of the ninth, as left fielder Pin-Chieh Chen drove in a run with a run-scoring double to right.
Getting the start on Opening Day, right-hander Corey Black (5.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 4 SO) was in top form, as he faced the minimum amount of hitters through the first three innings. Overall, Black was stellar, as he picked up the win in his first start of the season. In five innings of work Black yielded just one run on four hits. The righty did struggle a tad with his con- trol, as he issued three walks, but he did rack up the punch outs. The Smokies’ top strikeout artist from a year ago tallied a game-high four whiffs in the victory.
Making just his second professional relief appearance, right-hander C.J. Edwards (2.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO) im- pressed over 2.1 innings of work. After injuries limited him to just 12 appearances a year ago, ten of which coming with the Smokies, Edwards regained his dominant form, surrendering one run on two hits, walking two and striking out two more.
Left-hander Hunter Cervenka (1.2 IP, 1 H, 2 SO) came out of the bullpen to record the game’s final four outs to seal his first victory of the 2015 campaign. Following a base-hit to the first batter he faced, Cervenka retired the next four batters he faced, two coming via the strikeout, to end the ballgame.
Braves starting right-hander Jason Hursh (3.0 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 1 SO) suffered the loss in the season opener. The former first-round pick lasted just three innings, allowing three runs – two earned – on three hits, walking four and striking out just one.
Right-hander Ivan Pineyro will get the start for the Smokies tomorrow evening against fellow right-hander Tyrell Jenkins. First pitch at Trustmark Park is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. ET. Fans can listen to the broadcast online on smokiesbaseball.com, with the Pilot Pregame Show beginning at 7:45 p.m. ET.
The Smokies’ first home game is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, April 15 against the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, the Double-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. Opening night will be the very next evening on Thursday, April 16, with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. at Smokies Stadium.
Single-game tickets, as well as multi-voucher and season ticket packages are still available, and can be purchased online at smokiesbaseball.com, or by calling the Smokies Ticket Office at 865-286-2300.
The Tennessee Smokies are the Double-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. Members of the ten-team Southern League, Smok- ies baseball has been entertaining families and fans of America’s national pastime in the East Tennessee region for over 100 years. To learn more about the Tennessee Smokies, visit http://www.smokiesbaseball.com.