By Chuck Ballaro, Sun Correspondent
PUNTA GORDA — If Kyle Machado can deliver performances like he did Monday, Charlotte’s baseball team should be a tough out this season.
Machado tossed five shutout innings, the Tarpons played errorless baseball and took advantage of wildness on the part of Manatee pitchers to cruise to a 6-1 victory in the opening game of the regular season for both teams.
Machado could’ve gone the distance. Charlotte coach Lavell Cudjo decided caution was the best route and took him out as his team played clean, but not perfect baseball.
“Kyle got to a pitch count and we felt he’d thrown a lot of pitches,” Cudjo said. “We could’ve kept him in, but it was about keeping his arm fresh and not get hurt early in the season.
“We played clean baseball defensively. We made some mistakes on the bases, but we’ll clean that up.”
Charlotte scored first in the bottom of the third inning. Garrett Dunson led off with an infield single and took second on a throwing error.
After going to third on a wild pitch, Shane Lemaster, who started a double play to squash a bases-loaded threat by Manatee in the top of the inning, singled home Dunson. Lemaster scored later in the inning on a wild pitch.
Charlotte chased Mantee pitcher Drew Schafer the next inning on a Lavell Cudjo single and an RBI double from Chris Naskale.
Robert Oettinger drove in Charlotte’s fourth run in the fifth with an RBI double off Sean Murphy. He would later score on a wild pitch to make it 5-0, as would Cudjo on a painful night for the Tarpons at the plate.
Five Charlotte batters took base after being hit by pitches. The Tarpons also scored three runs on wild pitches.
Meanwhile, Machado cruised with the help of his defense, which converted two double plays.
“It wasn’t really me. It was my defense. In that third inning, I was thinking about throwing strikes. I’d walked two and if I’d walked another it was a run,” Machado said. “I threw strikes and my defense helped me out.”
Machado struck out seven and allowed just three hits and two walks in five innings. Scott Lemaster came in and made things interesting by allowing a run-scoring single by Michael Murphy and loading the bases before J.T. Hawes struck out to end the inning.
Cudjo scored twice and stole two bases. Aaron Martins had a double and scored for Charlotte.
Murphy had two hits and an RBI for the Hurricanes.
CHARLOTTE 6, MANATEE 1
Manatee 000 001 0 — 1 6 2
Charlotte 002 130 0 — 6 6 0
WP: Kyle Machado (1-0), LP: Drew Schafer; Leading hitters: (C) Lavell Cudjo 1-2, 2 runs; Robert Oettinger 1-3, 2B, run, RBI. Records: (C) 1-0; (M) 0-1.