After a $1,000 dash for cash, in which two spectators crawled across the infield on their hands and knees shoveling crumpled dollar bills into their shirt pockets, and a lucky-numbers giveaway of 10 bags of Florida citrus fruit, the Alexandria Dukes, last year's Class A Carolina League champions, won their season opener against the Lynchburg Mets tonight, 6-4, before a crowd of 4,062 at City Stadium.
Jim Opie's two home runs proved the difference as the visitors rallied from an early 3-0 Lynchburg lead.
Right fielder Larry McNutt, leading off for Lynchburg in the third, hit the ball over the center field wall. While he raced around the bases, Alexandria pitcher Pete Rice, a hard-throwing right-hander who was 3-2 last year with Greenwood of the South Atlantic League, popped his great wad of bubble gum, kicked the rubber and raised his eyes and glove to the heavens. McNutt's 395-foot homer was the first hit given up by Rice in three innings.
In the bottom of the inning, with one out, Mets left fielder Mark Carreon hit safely by beating out a weak dribbler between third and shortstop. Cleanup hitter Dave Cochrane hit a soaring high fly to left, but Roberto Bonnilla misplayed the ball, reeling from side to side on his heels and kicking up turf. A futile stab at the ball sent him sprawling on his back; Cochrane advanced to third. Rice then balked, scoring Carreon. Lynchburg led, 2-0, then scored again when Randy Milligan singled home Cochrane.
In the fifth, Lynchburg pitcher Bill Latham walked Jim Felt; after third baseman Opie caught Latham's slow sinking curve with a roundhouse, hitching swing, sending the ball deep into the left field lights and over the fence, Felt crossed home plate backward and shook Opie's hand as he swaggered heroically across the plate. That put the Dukes within one, 3-2.
With two outs in the sixth, Opie hit his second homer, another sky-high shot that hit inches from the top of the left field scoreboard. The Dukes led, 5-3.
After five innings, Rice was relieved by Jim Buckmeir, who, with two out, walked four consecutive batters to account for walked for Lynchburg's final run.
The Dukes' final run came in the ninth, when reliever Rich Pickett gave up a leadoff triple to Felt and Ruben Rodriguez knocked him in