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June 19, 2010 at 6:17 AM

Lowell falls in season opener

6/19 Cup of Coffee: Extra innings were the norm Friday night, but the evening's pitchers put together a couple impressive outings as Portland, Salem, and Greenville all won.

It was another poor showing by the Pawtucket offense Friday night, as they collected just 4 hits in a 2-1 loss to Columbus (CLE). Ramon A. Ramirez followed up his victory over Aroldis Chapman with 4.1 innings of work, allowing 2 runs on 6 hits with 2 strikeouts. Robert Coello fanned 5 in 3.2 shutout frames, and Fabio Castro tossed a hitless inning in the loss. Angel Sanchez doubled to score Jorge Jimenez in the bottom of the first, and Lars Anderson was 0 for 4 with 2 strikeouts, lowering his average in Triple-A to .199.

In Portland, neither Casey Kelly nor old friend Nick Hagadone performed particularly well, but the Sea Dogs pulled out an 8-7 win over Akron (CLE) in 10 innings. Kelly allowed 5 runs, including 2 in the first inning, on 9 hits in 3.2 innings, though he did strike out 5. Eammon Portice also struck out 5 in 3.1 innings of one-hit relief, and Bryce Cox earned the win with 3.0 innings of two-run ball. Luis Exposito had 2 hits and a pair of RBI, while Anthony Rizzo added a double and 2 RBI. Che-Hsuan Lin and Chih-Hsien Chiang each chipped in 2 hits to the winning cause, with Lin and Nate Spears each scoring twice.

They needed extra innings in Salem as well, but Mitch Dening's eleventh-inning RBI single helped the Red Sox squeak by Kinston (CLE) 3-2 to keep their first-half title hopes alive. Fabian Williamson twirled 5.0 innings of one-hit shutout ball and Zach Hammes added 1.2 innings of one-run ball before Cesar Cabral allowed the Indians to equalize in the eighth. Dening was 4 for 6 with a stolen base and a run scored and Will Middlebrooks hit a doubled and tripled to drive in a pair. Cabral struck out 3 and allowed 3 hits in 2.1 innings, and Blake Maxwell took care of the rest with 2.0 innings of no-run ball. Ryan Dent and Jon Hee added 2 hits each in the win.

Greenville pushed a run across in the first and never looked back as they topped Hickory (ATL) 7-4. Shannon Wilkerson and Jeremy Hazelbaker paced the Drive with 2 hits each, and Chris McGuinness hit a solo shot in the eighth to put the game out of reach. Dan Butler drove in 2 runs and Derrik Gibson and Wilkerson also added an RBI apiece. Starter Kendal Volz walked 4 and gave up 5 hits and 2 earned runs in 4.2 innings before Jeremiah Bayer yielded 2 runs in 2.1 innings of relief. Jordan Flasher struck out 3 to record the six-out save.

On the first day of Short-Season ball, Lowell opened their season on a sour note but saw a slew of players have successful debuts in a 9-4 loss to Vermont (WAS). Top picks Bryce Brentz and Kolbrin Vitek singled, while Brandon Jacobs and Jose Garcia had 2 hits for the Spinners. Brentz, Jacobs, and Joantoni Garcia drove in runs in the loss. Roman Mendez gave up 6 runs, 3 earned in 3.0 innings before former independent leaguer Stephen Fox gave up 2 runs in 4.0 inning. Kyle Rutter allowed a run on 1 hit in the eighth.

Down in the Dominican, the DSL Red Sox tied their season-long losing streak as they fell 7-4 to the Dodgers. Xander Bogaerts paced them with 2 hits, including an RBI triple, with Lewis Erena adding 2 hits and Aly Gonzalez added 2 hits and an RBI. Luis Diaz allowed 1 run on 6 hits in 6.0 innings, but Pedro Reyes put them in a bad spot, conceding 4 runs before recording an out. Alexander Mateo and Nefi Ogando combined to do well in relief.

Player of the Night: Mitch Dening was 4 for 6 this weekend, but perhaps more importantly, his RBI single kept Salem's first-half title drive alive. The Red Sox sit 2 games back with 2 to play.