LAWRENCEVILLE – After frigid temperatures and rain forced a postponement of Opening Day on Thursday, the forecast could not have been better for the Gwinnett Braves to start the 2013 season on Friday. In front of a Coolray Field crowd of 6,272, the G-Braves rode a strong pitching performance by Sean Gilmartin to a 5-4 win over the Charlotte Knights.
Gilmartin had a solid season debut, yielding just a run on six hits over five innings. The southpaw struck out four and walked two.
The only damage against him came in the top of the second inning, as Josh Phegley took a Gilmartin offering over the left field fence for his first home run of the season. The solo homer gave the Knights an early 1-0 lead. However, that would be all the Knights would muster against the former Florida State Seminole.
Gwinnett answered in the bottom of the fourth inning, scoring four runs on five hits. Tyler Pastornicky led off the frame with a double and came around to score on an RBI single by Joe Terdoslavich, knotting it up at 1-1. Back-to-back singles by Ernesto Mejia and Blake DeWitt loaded the bases with no outs. After a fielder’s choice by Todd Cunningham, Joe Leonard hit a come-backer to Knights pitcher Zach Stewart, but it was too hot to handle, resulting in an RBI single. Matt Pagnozzi capped the scoring with a two-run single, making it 4-1.
Stewart’s night would be finished after four innings. He gave up four runs on seven hits, striking out six of the 12 batters he retired. The Knights cut the G-Braves’ lead to 4-2 in the top of the sixth as Steve Tolleson hit a solo home run off of reliever Cory Rasmus.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Pastornicky continued his hot-hitting, connecting for his fourth hit of the night. His RBI double to the right-center gap extended Gwinnett’s lead to 5-2.
Left-hander Dusty Hughes would run into trouble in the top of the eighth, as the Knights pulled to within a run. Seth Loman lined a two-run double, ending Hughes' night. He gave way to right-hander Andrew Russell, who came in with a runner on second and nobody out.
The Australian worked his way out of the jam, forcing a groundout and striking out two to strand Loman at third base. Russell then worked a perfect ninth inning to complete the save. He finished the night with four strikeouts over two innings.
Pastornicky led the G-Braves with a 4-for-4 night, including two doubles, an RBI and a stolen base. Leonard added two hits and one RBI, while Pagnozzi led the way with two RBI. Seven G-Braves collected at least one hit on the night, as they picked up 12 on the night.
Loman drove in two of the four runs for Charlotte on 3-for-4 hitting. Phegley added a 2-for-4 game including two runs scored and an RBI.
The Gwinnett Braves (1-0) will host the Charlotte Knights (0-1) in a doubleheader starting at 5:05 p.m. on Saturday at Coolray Field. Right-hander David Hale and left-hander Daniel Rodriguez (0-0, 0.00) will each start for the G-Braves, while the Knights will counter with right-handers Andre Rienzo (0-0, 0.00) and Tony Pena, Jr.