Hammond, LaPorta Lead Stars to 8-2 Opening Day Victory

(HUNTSVILLE) - Matt LaPorta's grand-slam home run, the first for a Huntsville Star on Opening Day in their history, and the two-hit pitching of Steve Hammond over six innings gave the Huntsville Stars an 8-2 victory --  their 3rd straight opening day win against the Mississippi Braves, on a cool, windy night at Joe Davis Stadium, Thursday night.

LaPorta's home run to left in the 4th inning off reliever Brad Nelson, capped a 5-run inning that suddenly put a 3-1 lead with two out in the inning, out of reach.

The Braves struck first off starter Steve Hammond, coming off a disappointing 7-9 season. Leadoff hitter Carl Loadenthal singled, stole second, and scored when a chopper went through 1st baseman Chris Errecart into right field for an error.

The Stars answered back though with a pair of runs to take a 2-1 lead when Mat Gamel singled in Michael Brantley, who led off with a double in the bottom half. Mat Gamel singled him in and Cole Gillespie's sacrifice fly with the bases loaded scored Gamel.

Carlos Corporan's 2nd inning solo home run that just cleared the fence in left field preceded the five-run outburst in the 4th.

Braves' starter Dan Smith was taken out of the game in the 4th with runners on first and third base and two out. Alcides Escobar then greeted Brad Nelson with a single to score Mike Bell to make it 4-1 before Gamel walked to load the bases, setting up LaPorta's long blast.

The Brewers' #1 draft pick last season has now gone deep in the first game he has played in at each of his three stops (Helena, West Virginia) since becoming a professional.

Hammond finished with nine strikeouts after getting each of his first six outs that way. It was a career-high for him as a Huntsville Star. He struck out nine in his last start, which was Game Five of the Southern League Championship Series in Huntsville.

Robert Hinton picked up the three-inning save, allowing just one run on one hit -- an RBI triple by pinch-hitter Greg Creek that scored former Star J.C. Boscan in the 7th.

The series is scheduled to continue Friday night, despite a poor forecast, with Stars' left-hander Derek Miller taking the hill against Braves right-hander James Parr.