The Augusta GreenJackets slapped together a few groundball hits early and used solid pitching to carry them the rest of the way in a 4-0 win over the Savannah Sand Gnats at Lake Olmstead Stadium.
The home opener, in front of an announced crowd of 4,644 fans saw the GreenJackets take an early lead with a two-run first inning on two singles and an error. After Carlos Willoughby drew a leadoff walk and Kelby Tomlinson reached on an infield single with the hit-and-run on, Jose Cuevas’ grounder to second was booted by T.J. Rivera, which allowed Willoughby to score.
Elliot Blair followed with an RBI groundball single up the middle to score Tomlinson.
On a night when leading hitter Shawn Payne was placed on the disabled list with an injured finger and seventh-round draft pick Chuckie Jones was given the night off, Augusta settled for offense produced by eight hits – all of them singles.
“The idea is to make solid contact, especially with the guys at the top of the lineup who have some speed and can steal bases,” manager Lipso Nava said. “If you just make contact, something can happen.”
Another infield single from Tomlinson in the third and a Ben Thomas bloop single over the third baseman’s head set up runners at first and third with one out. Blair drove in a run on a sacrifice fly to right field, and Brett Krill fisted a 1-2 off-speed pitch through the right side of the infield to score Thomas for a 4-0 lead.
“That’s something we worked on throughout spring training,” Krill said. “With a two-strike approach, you do whatever you can to put the ball in play. We don’t like to strike out. Strikeouts make us mad.”
The offense was enough for pitchers Christopher Marlowe (1-0), DeMondre Arnold and Andrew Berger, who combined for a four-hit shutout. Marlowe, the San Francisco Giants’ fifth-round pick a year ago, gave up an infield single and walked two with two outs in the first inning before striking out Sam Honeck to escape the bases loaded.
“After the first inning, I got into a rhythm and felt way more comfortable,” Marlowe said. “It helped me out a lot when I saw the runs start to come in.”
The 22-year-old right-hander retired 13 of the final 14 batters he faced and allowed only one hit and three walks over five scoreless innings.
“We’ve got some pitchers who have been having trouble after getting the first two outs in an inning,” Nava said. “It seems like they lose their concentration and can’t find the zone, but (Marlowe) settled down.”
Arnold and Berger split the final four innings. Each walked one and struck out one.
Savannah starter Rafael Montero (0-1) took the loss after allowing four runs, three earned, on seven hits and a walk in five innings. Reliever Estarlin Morel allowed one hit and no runs over the final three innings.