04/11/06 — Kinston baseball - Lofgren impressive as K-Tribe wins home opener

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Kinston baseball - Lofgren impressive as K-Tribe wins home opener

By Steve Roush
Published in Sports on April 11, 2006 2:01 PM

KINSTON -- The boys of summer are back.

And not a moment too soon for many die-hard K-Tribe fans.

"It's so exciting," said P.J. Fidler, a Goldsboro resident and a senior at Parrott Academy. "I just love baseball ... we get here are often as we can."

Fidler and her family are Kinston Indians season ticket holders, and were among the 2,180 fans at Monday night's regular season home opener against Wilmington.

"We really enjoy this place," said P.J.'s dad, John. "We've seen some really good players come through here and make it to the major leagues. We're looking forward to the season."

"I expect them to end up winning most of their home games," P.J. added. "They usually do."

The home team didn't disappoint on this night as K-Tribe came away 4-1 winners over the Blue Rocks.

Chuck Lofgren, a 20-year-old lefty making his Carolina League debut, was impressive on the mound -- giving up just two hits and an unearned run in five innings of work. Lofgren (1-0) fanned eight and allowed no walks before K-Tribe relievers Chris Niesel, Jesus Soto and T.J. Burton kept the Blue Rocks off the scoreboard the rest of the way.

"That's the best I've seen Chuck throw in a long time," said new K-Tribe manager Mike Sarbaugh, who earned a promotion after guiding the Lake County Captains to a 72-66 record last year and played in Kinston as an infielder in 1990 and '91. "The life on his fastball was outstanding, and his off-speed pitches were very good -- I was very happy with his performance tonight."

Kinston (3-1) got on the scoreboard right away as second baseman Argenis Reyes reached on an infield single and advanced to third when shortstop Brian Finegan singled down the right field line. Reyes scored when center fielder Trevor Crowe flew out deep to left, and Finegan came home one out later when left fielder Jordan Brown singled.

It turned out to be the only runs the K-Tribe would need.

"We got some timely hitting," Sarbaugh said. "It's always good to get that first 'W' here and you love to see the home crowd happy.

"It was a good night."

First-year general manager Shari Massengill agreed.

"Everything turned out very well," said Massengill, who is in her 10th season with the K-Tribe. "We're pleased with the crowd and everyone seems to be happy.

"And winning the game makes it even better."

Wilmington (2-3) cut Kinston's lead to 2-1 in the top of the third, but the Indians got that run right back in the home half of the inning. Finegan singled, caught Wilmington off-guard and scampered to second when Crowe flied out to right and scored when first baseman Stephen Head doubled.

"That was a big play there when Finegan tagged up there and took second base with one out," Sarbaugh said.

The K-Tribe pushed across their final run in the seventh. Designated hitter Brandon Pinckney reached on an error and went to second one out later when Reyes singled. The pair moved up on a wild pitch by Wilmington reliever Justin Sturge, and Pinckney tagged up and scored when Crowe flied out.

Reyes finished 2-for-4 with a run scored and Finegan was 2-for-3 and scored twice as Kinston banged out eight hits compared to just five for Wilmington. Matt Whitney and Wyatt Toregas added a double apiece.

After two scoreless innings by Niesel and one by Soto, Burton notched his first save of the season as he slammed the door in the ninth.

"Our pitching was outstanding," Sarbaugh said. "Everyone threw the ball well tonight."

Wilmington starter Adam Blackley (0-1) took the loss. He gave up six hits and three earned runs in four innings of work. Iggy Suarez was the Blue Rocks' lone bright spot offensively as the second baseman went 3-for-3 and scored the Wilmington's only run.

The K-Tribe and Blue Rocks return to action today at 7 p.m. at Grainger Stadium for Game 2 of the four-game series.