By Brian Willwerth
BROCKTON, MA — Bill Buckner’s managerial career is off to a good start.
Melvin Falu had three hits, and the Brockton Rox got a solid outing from Mike Smith as they won their season opener over the Worcester Tornadoes, 3-1, Thursday night at Campanelli Stadium.
Smith worked the first five innings, allowing just one run on five hits. He worked his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the second.
The Rox scored their first run of the season in the bottom of the second, when catcher Chris Grossman launched a home run over the left field wall off Worcester starting pitcher Zach Zuercher. Brockton doubled its lead in the third when Falu singled home Dominic Ramos.
In the fifth, the Tornadoes broke through when Alex Nunez doubled to right-center, just out of the reach of a diving Chris Valencia. Boomer Blanchard, who was running on the pitch, scored all the way from first to cut the lead to 2-1.
The Rox answered in the bottom of the inning when Falu drove in his second run of the game. His line-drive single to left plated Ramos again with the third Brockton run. There would be no more scoring the rest of the way.
“Like I always say, I like to play [the] best I can,” Falu said. “I [drove him home], so thank you.”
In the eighth, the Tornadoes had the tying runs in scoring position, but Rox reliever Jake Hale got Alex Fernandez to ground out to first to end the threat.
Travis Hughes retired the side in order in the ninth for the save.
For Worcester, Zuercher went 5 1/3 innings, allowing 9 hits and 3 runs, while Nick Salotti led the offense with a pair of hitsAfter spending two decades in the major leagues, Buckner, 61, who experienced great success with 2,700 hits, can now add an additional milestone to his baseball journey, his first career victory as a manger.
The Rox improved to [7-3] on opening day and had lost their last three openers prior to Thursday night.
The Rox and Tornadoes will meet again Friday night at Campanelli Stadium for a 7:05pm start.