Nick Liles didn't want to disappoint the 5,389 fans who showed up at Lake Olmstead Stadium on Friday night for the Augusta GreenJackets' 2010 home opener. So when the home team finally put runners on base in the sixth inning while trailing 2-1 to the Charleston RiverDogs, Liles knew he had a golden opportunity.
"I was just thinking, 'Don't waste it,' " he said. "I just wanted to drive the ball somewhere and hit it hard."
The GreenJackets' designated hitter did just that in the 5-2 win. His shot to the gap in right-center field scored teammates Tommy Joseph and Ryan Lollis to take the lead. Liles later stole third base, then scored when the throw from catcher Kyle Higashioka skipped into left field.
Liles, who added another RBI in the eighth inning, managed to lead the comeback from his spot at the bottom of the GreenJackets' order.
"He had the big hit, and that was a big steal after that," GreenJackets manager Dave Machemer said. "Not everybody (has the green light to steal a base), but he's one of them. He's one of our best base stealers."
Liles' heroics came after GreenJackets starting pitcher B.J. Salsbury gave up two solo home runs to Higashioka and Luke Murton in the first inning. Salsbury, who threw six hitless innings in his professional debut last week on the road, bounced back to retire six of the next seven batters he faced. He picked up the win, striking out six batters and walking none in seven innings, and improved to 2-0 on the year.
"He settled down," Machemer said. "I'll take two solo home runs any day if he can bounce back like that. He didn't get rattled. He was a cool customer the rest of the way."
Chris Gloor relieved Salsbury in the eighth inning and struck out two of the three batters he faced. Jason Jarvis secured his third save of the season by striking out the side in the ninth.
GreenJackets catcher Tommy Joseph, the San Francisco Giants' second-round pick in 2009, snapped an 0-for-23 slump with a leadoff double in the sixth to start the home team's rally. He finished 2 for 4 on the night.
Chris Dominguez, the Giants' third-round pick from a year ago, went 2 for 4 with a run scored.
The GreenJackets (7-2) increased their lead to two games in the South Atlantic League's Southern Division.
The announced attendance of 5,389 topped last year's home opener by more than 700 fans.