Minor League baseball has finally returned, and while it may no longer be in Harnett County, the Astros’ high-A affiliate half an hour down Interstate 95 is back in action.
The Fayetteville Woodpeckers, formerly the Buies Creek Astros, kicked off their first series of the season on the road against the Potomac Nationals. Last season, the Astros franchise ended by beating the Nationals for the 2018 Carolina League Championship. This season, the Woodpeckers franchise began with an impressive 15-0 win over the Nationals on Thursday, followed by a pair of losses (5-1 in game two, 5-3 in game three) in a doubleheader.
Several Woodpeckers had a night to remember in game one. Michael Papierski recorded the first hit in Woodpeckers history, a double to right-center that sparked a four-run third inning. Corey Julks drove in Papierski for the first run in Woodpeckers history. And Jake Adams had the biggest night of them all at the plate, smacking a grand slam in the eight-run fourth inning for the first home run in Woodpeckers history.
And the pitching staff wasn’t too shabby either. The Woodpeckers’ arms combined for a one-hit shutout. Carlos Sanabria, coming on in the third inning to relieve starter Cristian Javier, recorded the first win in Woodpeckers history.
That opening day magic didn’t last for long, though. The Nationals bounced back by sweeping Saturday’s doubleheader. J.P. France got saddled with the first loss in Woodpeckers history, giving up five runs in five innings’ work. Fayetteville looked set to take the series victory though in game three. The Woodpeckers went ahead 3-2 in the fifth on a sacrifice fly by Adams that brought home Julks. But Potomac won it in walkoff fashion on a home run by Alex Dunlap to give the Nationals the 5-3 win.
The Woodpeckers will stay on the road this week, playing at the Frederick Keys (April 8-10), Myrtle Beach Pelicans (April 11-14) and Carolina Mudcats (April 15-17) before they make their home debut at Segra Stadium next Thursday, April 18 against the Mudcats. There will be fireworks after the game. Ticket prices for opening night start at $13 for adults, $12 for children ages 3-12 and adults 60 and older.