The cold weather did nothing to indicate that it was late April and Opening Night for the York Revolution.
Neither did the Revolution.
Beginning its season in front of 4,951 fans at Santander Stadium, York was held to four hits by the Long Island Ducks, dropping its home opener, 5-2.
"For me, it's always been an emotional, high-energy type day, where there's a lot of things that are out of the routine before the game," York manager Mark Mason said. "Even trying to get warmed-up for the game, it's not a regular day."
Revs starter Shawn Hill gave up a run in the opening inning and then reliever Matt Neil served up a two-run homer in the top of the fourth to Jon Griffin, providing plenty of offense for Ducks' starter John Brownell.
Brownell, who finished second in the Atlantic League in strikeouts a year ago, was the story of the night, baffling the York offense, only allowing two hits in seven innings pitched. He was perfect through four innings and carried a no-hitter into the sixth.
"He has a good cutter," Mason said. "And he'll throw it outer third and then keep expanding away from the hitter. So even if it stays on the same plane, it still has a lot of cut."
Neil surrendered another home run in the top of the sixth, a lead-off shot to Cody Puckett. That put Long Island up 4-0 and, for all intents and purposes, put the Revs away for the night.
"They were a little flat, probably, and up where he didn't want them," Mason said on the two home runs Neil gave up. "I thought other than those hand full of pitches that he made, I thought he kept the ball down pretty well."
It wasn't until the bottom of the sixth that York gave its fans anything to get excited about. Following Desmond Henry's lead-off single, he stole second on the next pitch, putting a Revs baserunner in scoring position for the first time all game. But, the inning came to an abrupt end when Brownell snared a line drive comebacker and doubled-up Henry off second to end the inning, taking any remaining air out of the crowd.
York finally scratched across two runs in the bottom of the eighth, courtesy of an infield single by newcomer Brandon Boggs, driving in Bryan Pounds and Brandon Jones after reliever Amalio Diaz dropped and knocked the ball away when trying to cover first.
Brownell's seven innings of two-hit ball earned him the win, while Hill was the hard-luck loser for the Revs, despite only giving up one run on two hits in three innings. His only rough patch came early in the game, when he allowed the first two Ducks' hitters to reach base, only allowing the one runner to score in the inning and then settling down to strike out four of the nine hitters he retired.
"It was a culmination of the first inning and getting a little quick," Hill said. "The ball, for me, was so slick, that I couldn't just get a grip. So I was having to grip harder than normal, which results in you not throwing the way you're used to."
Hill, along with the rest of the York starting rotation, will be on a closely-monitored pitch count for the first couple starts. Hill entered on a 65-pitch limit, but after a 31-pitch first inning, his outing turned out to be a lot shorter than he, or Mason, anticipated.
Neil pitched four innings in relief of Hill, allowing four runs, three earned, on four hits, but registered six strikeouts. Shawn Teufel and Joe Harris also saw their first action of the season, each throwing a scoreless inning in the eighth and ninth innings.
It wasn't quite the start the Revs had in mind, especially in front of a home crowd that braved unseasonably cold conditions to support the team. But, it's only the first game out of 140, and with all the fanfare surrounding the season opener, Saturday will be a chance for York to get into a rhythm.
"Everybody wants their first hit, they want to make their first play in the field," Mason said. "It's a lot of firsts and you're trying to get all of the positive firsts out of the way. But, you're not going to win every game. It's baseball. You're going to lose some games."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com