Aviators take off in debut

ATWATER -- The Atwater Aviators treated the Merced Volunteers to a tutorial on some of the major differences between the high school and collegiate games on Friday night.

The biggest point of emphasis was patience.

Atwater, which plays in the Far West League and is made up mostly of collegiate players, allowed Vols pitchers Mike Nelson and John Ramirez to work themselves into trouble, to the tune of 10 walks.

When the Merced pitchers did leave a pitch over the plate, the Aviators made them pay.

Atwater kicked off the 2011 season in style, pounding out 13 runs on 14 hits in a 13-2 opening-day victory at Memorial Ballpark.

"I thought their pitchers did a good job of keeping the ball down in the zone," said Atwater right fielder Adam Wagner, who was 3 for 5 with a double and three RBI. "The down side of that was it led to a lot of walks.

"I thought we were patient and did a good job of jumping on mistakes. It's a nice way to kick off the season."

Despite three walks and a single, Nelson managed to limit the damage in the first inning to one run. He wasn't as lucky in the second.

The recent Merced High grad walked the bases loaded with one out. When a possible double-play ball resulted in a run and no outs, the Aviators seized the opportunity, breaking the game open with three straight singles to take a 6-0 lead.

"I just couldn't find the strike zone tonight," Nelson said. "I felt weird on that mound and at the end of my three innings I still had no idea where it was.

"Good hitters are patient and obviously those guys can hit."

The run support was more than enough for Aviators starter Kevin Christy.

The LaSalle hurler limited the Vols (0-1) to one run on five hits while striking out nine in six complete innings.

His only mistake was an Andrew Jaurique RBI double in the third inning. Jaurique finished the game 3 for 4.

"I was very pleased with some of the swings we put on the ball tonight," Aviators manager Rollo Adams said. "And it's only going to get better with some of the guys we have coming in next week."