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Brandon Lockridge. Photo by Matt Kardos

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Lockridge First Career Walk-Off Brings Patriots Win In Home Opener: Notes, Quotes and Photos From Somerset

After opening the 2022 season with a gritty 2-1 series victory over the FIghtin’ Phils on the road in Reading, the Patriots pulled back the curtain and officially welcomed the Anthony Volpe homecoming tour into TD Bank Ballpark for the teams home opener on Tuesday against Erie.

Somerset and the SeaWolves played this one close the entire way; the offenses combined to strike out 26 times (more on that later) and were knotted at one run apiece heading into the bottom of the ninth. Just when it looked like we were bound for extra innings, Brandon Lockridge, who is off to a .313/.389/.500 start over the first four games, followed a two out single by Andres Chaparro with a double that split the left center field gap to plate the winning run all the way from first base and give Somerset the 2-1 walk-off victory.

“That was awesome,” added manager Dan Fiorito. “The guys fought all night; even when some of the at bats got away from us, we hit some balls hard and right at guys. We just kept competing and fortunately Chaparro with two outs there puts a base hit into right and then Lockridge crushes one in the gap. It was an awesome way to end opening night.”

Brandon Lockridge. Photo by Matt Kardos

“They pitched really well tonight,” said Lockrdige. “I was just trying to take it one pitch at a time; I got to two strikes and tried to shorten up. I swung thru a couple of his sliders and I knew he was going to come back to it and then I think that is what I hit right there. First career ever walk-off. I was telling a couple of the guys that was a really good feeling, especially in the home opener; big crowd and everything. It was kind of unbelievable.”

While offense was certainly limited on Tuesday, that was due large in part to the exceptional arms that both teams showcased over the course of the night. Fiorito handed the ball to right-hander Jhony Brito to make his season debut for the Patriots, and he looked strong in his four innings of work.

The 24-year old Brito, on a low pitch-count like the entirety of the staff is at this early juncture of the season, thew 64 pitches on Tuesday, 42 of them for strikes. The Dominican native fired four shutout frames. allowing just three hits and a walk while fanning six.

“I thought he [Brito] was great,” Fiorito said. “I love having Jhony out there – he works fast and he’s got a great demeanor about him. He is just so poised and to see the strides that he has made, velo-wise; in spring training he was touching 96 and 97. Last year was more predominantly two-seam and he’d get a ton of ground balls but he’s getting more and more swing-and-miss. He is a fun arm.”

Jhony Brito. Photo by Matt Kardos

Fiorito added, “Between [Luis] Medina, Randy [Vasquez] and {Ken] Waldichuk, for him to be our fourth starter, that just shows how deep our rotation is. He is a special arm, he can very well go under the radar and I think he is going to have a great year.”

Relievers Steven Jennings, Michael Gomez and Barrett Loseke proved to be pivotal in holding Erie to just one run on five hits over the final five frames of the game. They combined for seven of the 13 strikeouts recorded by Somerset pitching on Tuesday.

Strikeouts:  While Somerset sits at 3-1, they have scuffled a bit offensively, particularly in the area of plate discipline and swing decision in the early going. The team has struck-out in the double digit figures in each game thus far, and have fanned a total of 48 times (12 per game average) over that very short stretch.

“Some of it is just being early in the season,” Fiorito said. “Guys are competing and that’s something that they are working towards. I feel like as the year goes on, they are going to get better with it. I had the same group last year and it wasn’t as much of an issue as what we are seeing now, in terms of higher strikeout numbers, but they are competing and that is all I can ask of them.”

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“We’ve got a really good hitting team and you are going to see that throughout the year,” said Lockridge. “First time really facing outside competition; we had a few games in spring training, so seeing different pitching pitch us differently than what we faced, so kind of getting acclimated to that. Calming down, you get the jitters early on in the season trying to make something happen that doesn’t need to happen at the time. I think once we settle in you are going to see a really good hitting ball club.”

The Volpe Draw: The official attendance in Somerset on Tuesday night was 5,007 – pretty darn good for a week night game in April, even if it is opening night and fireworks. At least 100 of those fans through the turnstiles were there in support of Anthony Volpe, who said pregame that he had at least that many friends and family members expected to be in attendance for his home debut. The 20-year old uber prospect went 0-for-3 with 3 strikeouts and was also hit by a pitch.

“It’s something special and something I am very lucky to say that I have, just that supportive of a family,” said Volpe.

Anthony Volpe signs autographs for fans. Photo by Matt Kardos

Rotation Plans: The Patriots are going to roll with a six man pitching rotation this season. Right-hander Mitch Spence is slated to take the ball on Wednesday night in game two of the series for Somerset before righty Sean Boyle toes to rubber on Thursday to complete the first turn through the talented Patriots rotation.

Photos:

Anthony Volpe. Photo by Matt Kardos

Anthony Volpe. Photo by Matt Kardos

Andres Chaparro. Photo by Matt Kardos

Luis Medina. Photo by Matt Kardos

Josh Breaux. Photo By Matt Kardos

Michael Beltre. Photo by Matt Kardos

Elijah Dunham. Photo by Matt Kardos

Blake Perkins. Photo by Matt Kardos

Max Burt. Photo by Matt Kardos

Somerset Patriots mascot, Sparkee. Photo by Matt Kardos

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