A Texas college connection lifted the Round Rock Express to an 11-inning 2-1 win over Nashville on Opening Night Thursday at Dell Diamond.
Shortstop Jason Martinson, a Texas State alum playing his first game for the Express, drove in the season’s first run with a second-inning single.
Nine innings later, designated hitter Preston Beck, a former UT-Arlington player, knocked in the game winner with a line shot deep into the right-center field gap.
“I hit a home run on Opening Night last year in Frisco, but I’ve never had a walk-off in an opener before,” said Beck, 25, who played high school ball at Dallas Bishop Lynch.
Beck, a Texas Rangers fifth-round draft choice in 2012, had two of Round Rock’s eight hits.
“Starting like this definitely gives you more confidence,” he said. “The longer you wait to get that first hit, the more it can play on your mind.”
Beck wasn’t put off by being the rare DH who bats ninth.
“I’m thrilled to be in the lineup,” he said.
Right fielder Cesar Puello had two hits in his Round Rock debut and began the winning rally with a double. Beck delivered his hit off a Tucker Healy fastball with two out.
“He got ahead in the count and didn’t try to do too much,” Express Manager Jason Wood said of Beck. “He put together good at bats all night and handled a lot of velocity being thrown at him.
“This was a well-pitched game throughout, and I’ll tell you it’s nice to open at home. We had a good crowd, there was a good vibe here.”
Six Round Rock pitchers combined to strike out 16 batters. Starter Tyler Wagner hurled shutout ball over five innings. The back-end bullpen tandem of Keone Kela and R.J. Alvarez recorded five of their six outs by strikeout, and Jaye Chapman worked the 11th to get the victory.
“I like those power arms of Kela and Alvarez,” Wood said. “Wagner pitched to contact, and the bullpen got the job done.”
Nashville shortstop Franklin Barreto, 21, the Oakland A’s No. 1 prospect, tied the game with a triple in the eighth inning.
“They are loaded with prospects,” Wood said of the Sounds, who had the best record in the Pacific Coast League last year. “It feels good getting off on the right foot against them.”
There was one casualty. Martinson, the former Bobcat who spent his first seven years in the Washington Nationals organization, was hit in the hand in the 11th inning and is likely to miss the next few games.
An announced attendance of 9,569 watched Opening Night ceremonies that had a Veterans theme. There was a World War II plane flyover from the Freedom Flyers of Burnet. Children of military families lined the field before the game.
Austin Copeland threw out the first pitch. His father Sean and brother Brodie of Lakeway died in a terrorist attack in Nice, France, last July. He was accompanied by his stepmother Kim and sister Maegan.
The pregame finished with the memorial first pitch, an Express season-opening ritual which honors those who’ve died since last season ended. The ball is thrown to every player on the field and the left fielder, who touches it last, whips it out of the ballpark. Travis Snider did the honors as the crowd stood and clapped.
Another season is off and rolling. The Express and Sounds play four more games, with Round Rock’s Allen Webster opposing Michael Brady on Friday night.