MANCHESTER, N.H. - They dusted off the original forest green jerseys from their first season ten years ago, then wasted little time in getting back to the business of baseball as the New Hampshire Fisher Cats got six scoreless innings out of starter Austin Bibens-Dirkx to capture a 9-0 victory over the Reading Fightin' Phils at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium on Thursday.
"I was excited," said Bibens-Dirkx. "Having the opening day start is a priveldge. I just wanted to out there and pitch as well as I could to give the team a chance to win."
"He did a great job," said Fisher Cats manager Gary Allenson. "He was up in the zone a little bit early and probably had some first inning jitters. He settled down and did a good job."
Aiding the effort was a four-run second inning, highlighted by a mammoth two-run shot off the bat of the Fisher Cats ninth hitter. Second baseman John Tolisano unleashed on a 1-1 pitch, sending the offering deep over the right field wall, the road running behind it and on to the train tracks to give New Hampshire a 4-0 lead.
"We have some pretty good hitters in our lineup," said Allenson. "That [home run] obviously gave Bibens-Dirkx some breathing room.
Bibens-Dirkx settled in from there, allowing only 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 6 in his Double-A debut, and first ever opening day start.
"The first couple of innings I was kind of all over the place," said Bibens-Dirkx. "I had my off speed working and was throwing it for strikes. I feel like that kept me grounded a little bit, not trying to overthrow knowing that I could trust my off speed pitches."
Out of the pen Clint Everts (2 innings) and Trystan Magnuson (1 inning) kept the Fightins' off the board, with both pitchers striking out two batters a piece while not allowing a hit.
All but one of the Fisher Cats batters collected a hit on the night, as Kenny Wilson set the table nicely at the top of the order, flashing speed and pop in a 3-for-5 night in which he collected and RBI, run and stolen base.
"He can run, throw, field, and it looks like he can hit and he's got some pop in his bat," said Allenson of his leadoff hitter. "That's five tools right there. If he's not one of the top guys [in the Blue Jays organization] then I don't know what I'm looking at."
Ryan Schimpf added a two run homer in the bottom of the sixth and Sean Ochinko collected two RBIs on the night to back the Fisher Cats cause.
NOTES: Clint Robinson went 1 for 2 with two runs scored and 3 walks in the cleanup slot...Magnuson threw 12 pitches in the ninth inning, 8 for strikes...Despite being the only hitless Fisher Cat, left fielder Kevin Pillar still drew high praise from his manager. "He's a really good player," said Allenson. "He'll be one of the league leaders in hitting. Somebody's got to make the outs, it's just the way baseball is."...Nashua, New Hampshire native Kevin Nolan collected an RBI single in his first Double-A at-bat in the second inning...Allenson announced that Chad Beck would serve as closer for the Fisher Cats to start the season.
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