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April 6, 2012 at 6:05 AM

Castillo's sharp comeback highlights 2012 openers

Yeiper Castillo (Kelly O'Connor)
4/6 Cup of Coffee: Pawtucket and Greenville kicked off their 2012 seasons with victories, while Portland was swept in a doubleheader.

Pedro Ciriaco led Pawtucket to a 4-2 victory over the Buffalo Bisons (NYM) at McCoy Stadium. Ciriaco, who impressed with a strong spring training, continued his hot hitting, going 4 for 5 with 2 RBI, a run scored, and a stolen base. The PawSox took a 1-0 lead in the third inning when Mauro Gomez roped a single to left field, scoring Ciriaco. Buffalo came back with two solo home runs in the top of the fourth off of starting pitcher Justin Germano, but Pawtucket responded in the bottom of the inning. Will Middlebrooks started off the rally with a double. After Che-hsuan Lin struck out, Jason Repko walked and Alex Hassan reached on an error, loading the bases for the red-hot Ciriaco, who singled to center, scoring Middlebrooks and Lin to take a 3-2 lead. Pawtucket added an insurance run in the fifth, and Junichi Tazawa and Garrett Mock each pitched 2 scoreless innings out of the bullpen, with Tazawa looking particularly impressive, striking out 4. Middlebrooks finished the game 3 for 4 with 2 doubles.

In the first game of their twin bill, Portland collected 12 hits but fell in a walk-off loss 4-2 to the Reading Phillies (PHI). Chris Balcom-Miller pitched five solid innings in the start for the Sea Dogs, allowing 3 hits, no walks, and striking out 3. The only run he allowed was on a solo shot in the bottom of the second that gave Reading a 1-0 lead. Portland tied the game in the fourth when an Oscar Tejeda single scored Reynaldo Rodriguez, and took the lead in the seventh on a Ryan Dent home run. The lead would not hold, however, as Reading tied the game with a run in the bottom of the seventh off of Aaron Kurcz, and took the win when Leandro Castro hit a two-run home run off of Caleb Clay in the bottom of the ninth. Dent led the offense for Portland, going 3 for 3, while Rodriguez, Juan Carlos Linares and Kolbrin Vitek each went 2 for 4 for the Sea Dogs.

Portland fell again in game two in Reading, losing by a score of 7-4. Linares led off the gam with a solo home run to give the Sea Dogs a 1-0 lead, but starter Chris Martin struggled, giving up 7 runs in 4 innings, allowing 8 hits, 2 walks, and striking out 4. Tejada and Bryce Brentz had RBI singles in the sixth and seventh as Portland clawed back, but the rally would fall short. Linares repeated his 2 for 4 performance from the opener, and Brentz went 3 for 4 with an RBI in the losing effort. Eammon Portice pitched 2 shutout innings in relief, giving up 1 hit and striking out 2.

Greenville kicked off their season with a 4-2 victory over the Lakewood BlueClaws(PHI). The big story in this game was the sterling performance of Drive starting pitcher Yeiper Castillo, who got the opening day assignment after missing all of the 2011 season following shoulder surgery. Castillo pitched 5 shutout innings, allowing only 1 hit, 1 walk, and striking out 8. Greenville took a 1-0 lead in the 5th inning as catcher Blake Swihart's first hit as a professional scored Jose Garcia. After Lakewood tied the score in the sixth, Garin Cecchini drove a two-out double to left field scoring Garcia and Aaron Altherr, giving the Drive a 3-1 advantage. The BlueClaws got a run back in the top of the 8th, but Henry Ramos scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the inning, before a 30 minute rain-delay caused the game to be called short. Charle Rosario picked up the win in relief, striking out 4 in his 3 innings, giving up 2 runs on 4 hits. The Drive's offensive attack was spread evenly, as Cecchini, Ramos, David Refroe, Jose Garcia and Jose Vinicio each had two-hit games.

Player of the Day: Yeiper Castillo, who was fantastic in his return from a torn right labrum. In his first game competition since 2010, he struck out 8 in 5 innings while only allowing 1 hit.