Right-hander Jeff Cary needed only five pitches to become a hero in the Alexandria Mariners' season-opener last night at Four-Mile Run Park.

Cary, a 22-year-old from Pensacola, Fla., struck out Jim Noonan with two men on base to preserve Alexandria's 3-2 victory over the Carolina League champion Lynchbury Mets.

That final bit of drama woke up the chilly crowd of 909, which had had little to cheer about after the Mariners struck for all of their runs in the first two innings and managed only four singles the rest of the way.

Alexandria led, 3-1, and was two outs from victory after reliever Pete Garrity struck out Lynchburg designated-hitter John Elder. Then, third baseman Jeff (Goose) Gossett latched on to a Garrity pitch for a double against the center-field wall.

Garrity then struck out Don Troyan, but walked the next hitter, Mike Fitzgerald, on four pitches.

That was all for Garrity, who had 11 saves for Alexandria last season. Southpaw Rick Graser got the call to pitch to left-hander Charlie Warren, who kept the crowd itchy by lining a one-and-one pitch to center for a hit, scoring Gossett.

Carv then became the third Mariner pitcher for the inning. Cary worked up a one-and-two count with two curves that grazed the outside corner of the plate. His fourth pitch, a changeup, barely missed the plate and was called a ball, bringing on boos from the crowd. Undaunted, Cary then got Noonan to strike out swinging on the next pitch.

The crowd was happy, the Fat Cats of Manassas Gestival Jazzers seated behind the backstop were able to wrap up their ragtime show on an upbeat note, and the new-look Mariners were 1-0.

Two of those new faces, second baseman Carlos Matamoras and first baseman Mike Moore, teamed up to score Alexandria's first two rens. Matamoras hit a one-out single in the first inning and stole second as Tito Nanni fanned. Moore then hit a 1-0 pitch over the soft-drink sign on the right center-field fence, 385 feet away, for a 2-0 Mariner lead.

Alexandria got on the board again in the second inning after Gary Pellant and Kyle Koke opened the inning with consecutive walks. Pellant reached third on Chris Hudson's in-field out and then scored as designated-hitter Elwood Holland grounded out to second.

The Mets picked up their first run in the fourth inning when Don Troyan hit a one-out sacrifice to score Elder, who had singled and gone to third on Gossett's double.