McFarland pitches Akron to home opening win
AKRON - The Akron Aeros opened the 2012 season at Canal Park with a potent offense led by third baseman Kyle Bellows as the home team beat the Trenton Thunder 6-1.
After back-to-back singles by left fielder Nick Weglarz and second baseman Ryan Rohlinger to open the bottom of the second inning, Bellows hit a long home run to left. One batter later, center fielder Tim Fedroff singled and advanced to second on a wild pitch by Thunder starter Brett Marshall. Fedroff scored on shortstop Juan Diaz’s single, stretching the lead to four runs.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, Bellows had another hit to left. After stealing second, he advanced to third on a single by catcher Roberto Perez. Fedroff followed with a liner to center that was almost caught. Perez was forced out at second after hesitating to advance on the play, but Bellows scored from third to make the score 5-0.
“[Bellows] had a really good night,” said Aeros manager Chris Tremie. “Four quality at-bats, a couple walks, a three-run homer, and another line drive. He got on a changeup well and he had great at-bats tonight.”
In all, Trenton's Marshall pitched four and one-third innings, allowing five runs on nine hits and two walks. He struck out five.
Akron left-hander T.J. McFarland pitched six innings of scoreless baseball in front of an opening day crowd of 6,847. He scattered three hits, walked one, and struck out four Thunder batters.
“He did a nice job with his fastball with some good off-speed pitches,” said Tremie. “He kept himself in good counts and kept himself ahead of the count for the most part. He kept the ball down and that’s a big key to pitching.”
The Aeros defense played well behind McFarland, saving a few hits along the way. McFarland, a 2007 fourth round pick of the Cleveland Indians, kept a steady rhythm as he consistently kept Trenton base runners to a minimum.
"I always rely on the defense," said McFarland. "Tonight they definitely helped me out big time.
“I think I threw well, I threw strikes. It's always nice when your team gives you four runs for support."
The cold weather did not affect McFarland who is used to pitching in brisk conditions where he grew up.
"I'm actually from Chicago," said McFarland, "so I'm used to this weather right here. It is tough, but I was kind of born in the cold weather."
Three Aeros relievers pitched one inning apiece, continuing to build on their shut down mentality to begin the season.
Right-hander Bryce Stowell, making his second appearance of the season, struck out two of the three batters he faced. Right-hander Matt Langwell gave up the only Trenton run of the game, allowing a double and a single. Right-hander Preston Guilmet came on in the ninth in a non-save situation and worked around two base runners to end the game.
“Stowell really threw the ball well,” said Tremie. “He came in and really commanded his fast ball well down in the zone. He probably sat around 95 MPH.
“Langwell threw the ball well too but he got one pitch up a little bit and Guilmet came in and did a nice job for his first outing at home here in Akron. All three of those guys did a nice job.”
Akron will resume their series with Trenton tomorrow night at 7:05 p.m. Knuckleballer Steven Wright will go for his first win of season for the Aeros against Thunder right-hander Cory Arisbo. A Led Zeppelin fireworks show presented by Wing Warehouse will follow the game.
Note: Right-handed starter Paolo Espino, who is eligible to return from the disabled list on Friday, will remain out with a left oblique injury.
Nathan Kemp graduated from The University of Akron in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in English. He plans to pursue a graduate degree through NEOMFA in the fall. Follow him on Twitter @NathanCKemp.