Likely the warmest opening pitch in Joe Faber Field history occurred Friday when R.J. Martinez fired in a strike at 7:10 p.m. Central Daylight Time.
Working on a breezy 97-degree evening in central Minnesota, the three-year starter from Minot State University helped the St. Cloud Rox post their first win of 2021, 5-4 over the Duluth Huskies.
In front of a packed stadium of nearly 2,000 fans for the first time since 2019, Martinez dominated Duluth through seven innings allowing just one run, striking out six without a walk.
After Martinez was pulled with 85 pitches, St. Cloud relievers allowed three runs in the eighth but escaped a bases loaded jam to preserve the lead.
Intimidating reliever Kevin Davis struck out the side in the ninth for his first save. Davis struck out 48 batters over 30.2 innings the past two seasons for the University of South Carolina Upstate.
Duluth pitchers lacked control, walking eight St. Cloud batters and allowed two runs
on wild pitches.
Dixie State University's Tyson Fisher hit St. Cloud's first home run of 2021. The massive right-hander pulled a moonshot over the left field ivy in the fifth.
Friday was the first victory for new Rox manager David Bellamy, who took the helm after two years as an assistant. The ceremonial first pitch for the home opener was thrown by longtime Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who received a warm ovation.
The Huskies are now 1-4, while St. Cloud is 1-2. The teams meet again Saturday at Wade Stadium in Duluth.
A.J. Kaufman provides coverage of the St. Cloud Rox and Northwoods League for KACMEDIA.