Ever since the Marysville Gold Sox announced they were moving to the Great West League last August, excitement has been building.
Gone is the old Horizon Air Summer Series and the days of playing nearly every game at home, and with the new league comes the birth of new teams and the start of new rivalries.
It all led up to Friday night, when the Gold Sox began a new era against a Chico Heat team making its long-awaited return to the diamond, but it only took one inning for the game to turn into a blowout.
After spotting Chico a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, the Gold Sox went to work, scoring eight runs in the bottom half of the inning and never looking back en route to an easy 12-4 victory before 1,384 fans at Colusa Casino Stadium.
The win improved Marysville's record to 13-1 in season openers since becoming a collegiate wood bat team in 2003 and made a winner of Mike Walker in his first game as Gold Sox manager.
"I'll tell you what, I couldn't have asked for a better first inning. The nerves were running high and I think everybody was a little nervous, I know I was," Walker said. "I didn't know what to expect, but when you score eight runs in the first inning, it kind of puts you at ease a little bit."
After the first out of the inning, a pair of Chico errors allowed the Gold Sox to put two runners on base and opened up the floodgates in the bottom of the first.
Dalton DeVries, Chris Papapietro and Randy Post followed by lining three straight singles, and Joseph Zimmer and Taggart Baxter were both hit by pitches with the bases loaded to make the score4-1.
Adrian Vela and Dove added to the big inning by hitting back-to-back RBI singles, and when the dust cleared, the Gold Sox had knocked Chico starter Stuart Bradley from the game and took a seven-run lead into the second.
The early run support was more than enough for Marysville starter Jack Cushing, who shook off some first-inning jitters and put up zeroes the rest of the way. Cushing allowed just two hits and retired 10 consecutive batters at one point.
The right-hander from Georgetown University struck out three and walked just one over five strong innings to notch the win.
"Cushing did a great job. He pounded the zone all night and we couldn't have asked for him to do any better," Walker said. "He gave up the one run early and settled in and did a great job the rest of the night."
The Gold Sox completed the rout by scoring four more runs in the bottom of the fifth and finished with 10 hits in the game. Dove went 2 for 5 with a double and a walk, and DeVries and Papapietro chipped in with two hits and two runs each. DeVries also drove in two runs.
The Heat opened the scoring when leadoff hitter Jerome Hill reached on an infield single, stole second, advanced to third on a grounder and scored on an RBI groundout by Clayton Hubbard.
Hill later knocked in a run with a sacrifice fly in the fifth, Josh Falco scored on a passed ball in the sixth and drove in David Noworta with an RBI single in the seventh to account for Chico's runs.
Bradley, a River Valley High graduate who just completed his junior season at Chico State, allowed five hits and eight runs over just 1⁄3 of an inning. However, the Heat defense made three errors behind him and none of the runs was earned.
Falco had two hits to lead the way offensively for the Heat, who were playing their first game since 2002 when they played professionally as a part of the independent Western Baseball League.
"We had some really disciplined bats the whole way through, and it showed," Walker said. "We walked eight or times and the swings we took were right where we needed them to be at this point of the season. It's pretty encouraging."
The two teams will meet again today and Sunday at Nettleton Stadium in Chico.
CONTACT Sports Reporter Andy Arrenquin at 749-4790