OPENING NIGHT AT LOUISVILLE SLUGGER FIELD
Record crowd sees Lynx top Bats 6-4
14,123 breaks old mark set in ballpark's debut
By Brian Bennett
The temperature peaked in the upper 80s. The largest crowd in Louisville Slugger Field history jammed the concourses. The beer was cold.
Everything seemed perfect about the Louisville Bats' 2006 home opener ó unless you were hoping for a victory by the home team.
The Ottawa Lynx continued their early-season mastery over the Bats, winning 6-4 last night before 14,123 fans. The previous largest crowd of 13,242 came when the stadium opened on April 11, 2000; the facility's listed capacity is 13,131.
But the Lynx treated the Bats the same way they did last week in front of sparse crowds in Canada. Ottawa swept all three games there while allowing just four runs.
"They're just playing together," Louisville outfielder Norris Hopper said. "The hits are falling for them, and when we hit the ball hard, it's going right to them. It will turn around, though."
Last night the Bats' best offense came via Ottawa mistakes. A wild pitch and three errors in the fourth inning -- two by shortstop Brandon Fahey -- led to three unearned runs. Louisville used that rally to forge a 4-4 tie.
But from that point on the Ottawa bullpen took over. The Bats put the first two hitters on in both the seventh and eighth innings, only to watch double plays erase those threats.
"We expected our offense to really be the strong part of our team," Bats manager Rick Sweet said. "But we got off to such a poor start in Ottawa, and it's like we're still trying to get that big hit to get us going."
Last night's big hit came from Ottawa's Val Majewski. His sixth-inning solo home run off Jason Standridge (1-2) snapped the 4-4 tie. It was the first Triple-A homer for the 24-year-old outfielder, who missed all of last season with a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder.
"I'm happy that my first one came in a big situation and ended up helping us win a game," Majewski said.
Eddy Garabito's RBI single in the seventh added insurance, and the Ottawa bullpen, which now sports a 1.08 ERA, slammed the door after starter Brian Bowles exited after 31/3 innings.
The Bats had a new look as infielders William Bergolla (groin strain) and Ray Olmedo (sprained wrist) joined the club off the disabled list. Olmedo, who had Tommy John surgery on his elbow in the winter, started at shortstop and had an RBI single.
"I feel good," he said. "I wouldn't say 100 percent yet, but I'm ready to help the team."
Outfielder Terrence Long also was activated but arrived at the ballpark too late to play. Veterans Jacob Cruz and Frank Menechino and catcher John Castellano were released to make room.
"Cruz and Menechino are big-league guys, and Castellano will find work in this league," Sweet said. "We just have way too many players."
Also, pitcher Tom Shearn was sent to Double-A and reliever Mike Venarfo joined the Bats after signing a minor league contract with Cincinnati yesterday. He pitched two-thirds of an inning last night.
The teams will play a doubleheader tonight, with the first seven-inning game beginning at 5:15.
Brian Bennett can be reached at (502) 582-7177.