Originally created 04/12/06

Jackets open in style



Cal Ripken Jr., upon visiting a refurbished Lake Olmstead Stadium on Tuesday night, said the park has "an old-time baseball feel."

"Classic," he called it.

The stadium, then, is perfect for this year's Augusta GreenJackets.

In front of the largest crowd in team history, the GreenJackets played perfectly to their strength of classic hit-and-run baseball, beating the Greenville Drive, 6-4, in Augusta's home opener.

Ripken, the president and chief executive of the GreenJackets' first-year ownership group, Ripken Baseball Group, threw out the ceremonial first pitch in front of 5,239 spirited fans and fireworks followed the game. But the team lit up the scoreboard in between.

The GreenJackets scored three runs in the fifth inning to break a 1-1 tie, and reliever Ben Nieto pitched four strong innings to earn his first win.

"Opening Day is the ceremony, the official symbol that baseball is starting," Ripken said. "The whole starting of the season still gets to me."

Ben Copeland went 2-for-4 with two RBI, Pablo Sandoval continued his hot hitting with a 2-for-4 night and all but one batter in the GreenJackets' lineup collected a hit.

Augusta, which moved to 3-2 in the South Atlantic League's Southern Division, got solid four innings by starter Ronnie Ray, who was matched by Hunter Jones of Greenville (2-3).

First baseman Jose Yens doubled in Alex Requena in the first inning for Augusta, but Greenville answered in the third off Ray when Luis Soto's fielder's choice scored Jeff Natale.

The game stayed tied 1-1 until the fifth inning, when Jones was pulled for Kevin Guyette.

Augusta's first five batters reached, with Anthony Contreras, Requena and Copeland each picking up RBI to blow the game open.

Copeland and Sandoval each drove in runs for the GreenJackets in the seventh and eighth innings.

Nieto allowed a home run to Chris Turner in the sixth and a two-run shot by Luis Segovia in the ninth.

Tuesday's home opener came after Augusta split four games at Charleston. It also marked the first of eight consecutive home games for the GreenJackets, who face the Drive tonight in the second of a four-game series.

Augusta's pitching held Greenville, which scored 28 runs in its first four games, in check.

Reach Steve Sanders at (706) 823-3216 or steven.l.sanders@augustachronicle.com.