The Carolina Mudcats’ debut as an affiliate of the Atlanta Braves didn’t quite go as the home team would have liked.
But history was made at Five County Stadium on Thursday night.
Jake Dahlstrand fired six no-hit innings and reliever Joe Gunkel came in for one batter - and one out - before rain ended play as the Salem Red Sox won the teams’ season opener 2-0 on Thursday night.
“Their pitcher was the show tonight,” Mudcats manager Luis Salazar said. “He dominated and threw all three pitches for strikes. He’s a strike-thrower with an explosive fastball.
“Gil just made one mistake but that’s about it. He bounced back, had a solid outing and competed. You don’t want to start out the way we did, but tomorrow is another day. You never know what might have happened against their relievers, but rain is part of the game.”
Wendell Rijo’s two-run homer in the second inning provided all the night’s scoring in the opener of the Mudcats’ 25th season in Zebulon and fourth in the Carolina League.
“(Dahlstrand) was outstanding,” Salem manager Carlos Febles said. “He had three pitches going for him and he had a great rhythm and great tempo. He did a good job keeping the defense alive. And we got a big hit from Rijo that was the difference in the game.”
The Braves’ CL affiliate was in Lynchburg, Va., last season. Lynchburg is now affiliated with the Cleveland Indians, who were affiliated with the Mudcats from 2012-14. It is Atlanta’s second stint in the Triangle, as the Carolina League franchise had played as the Durham Bulls from 1980-1997.
Dahlstrand went six no-hit innings, striking out four strikeouts against a pair of walks on 75 pitches before Gunkel came on for the out in the bottom of the seventh.
“I felt good and had the defense behind me,” said Dahlstrand, who said he remembered “one or two” no-hitters in high school. “I pounded the zone and they made plays for me. My slider was working pretty well and I was able to keep them off-balance with it.
“I had struggled a lot in spring training. This was my first good outing this year.”
Venezuelan southpaw Yean Carlos Gil, 7-6 with a 3.35 ERA at Rome of the South Atlantic League last season, had a solid start for the Mudcats. He went 4 2/3 innings and allowed two runs on five hits, striking out four without a walk before giving way to Blair Walters.
“I didn’t feel that great,” Gil said. “I didn’t have my command, but I’ll keep working every day. It’s bound to come.
“The defense was really good behind me. Now I’ll just keep working hard for my next start.”
Walters was also solid, striking out one in 2 1/3 perfect innings.
Leadoff man Manuel Margot had three of Salem’s five hits and a stolen base.
And Rijo, who hit nine homers at Greenville in the Sally League last season, cleared it in the second inning on Gil’s 1-0, 89 mph fastball following Aneury Tavarez’ leadoff single to left.
“I got a good pitch and a good swing,” Rijo said. “I was just looking for a good pitch to hit. We’re off to a good start now. This league is tough, but we can handle it.”
Both pitching staffs then lined up zeroes until the thunderstorm ended the game, played before an announced crowd of 2,720. The rain delay lasted 36 minutes.