JUPITER - The Fort Myers Miracle defeated the Jupiter Hammerheads 5-1 Thursday night in their 2014 Florida State League season opener.
The Miracle struck for a pair of runs in the first inning. Levi Michael led off with a double down the left field line and Jorge Polanco followed with a single through the left side off Jupiter starter Trevor Williams. Then, Dalton Hicks lined a 2-0 fastball off Williams' elbow. The ball ricocheted toward first and Michael raced home to score the first run.
After examining the elbow, first year Jupiter Manager Brian Schneider removed Williams (0-1). Chipper Smith came on and retired Adam Brett Walker, but gave up a sacrifice fly to Max Kepler, who lifted a fly ball to center field to drive in Polanco from third to push the Miracle lead to 2-0.
Smith only gave up two more hits through the next four innings. Jupiter cut the Miracle lead in half in the bottom of the first. Miracle starter Jason Wheeler gave up back-to-back hits to Cameron Flynn and Terrence Dayleg. Austin Barnes then hit a sharp grounder to third. Niko Goodrum made a diving stab and threw to first to retire Barnes, but Flynn scored to make it a 2-1 game.
The Miracle pitching staff did not give up a run for the remainder of the game. Wheeler (1-0) went 5 2/3 innings, scattered five hits, walked two and struck out four. Steven Gruver entered in the sixth and stranded two inherited runners and three more of his own in the seventh.
Tim Shibuya pitched a perfect final two innings with a pair of strikeouts. Shibuya had some cushion thanks to a three-run eighth by the Miracle.
Polanco led off with a single to left off Jupiter reliever Reid Redman. After Hicks struck out, Walker laced a base hit. With runners at first and second, Kepler turned on a 2-2 pitch and smoked a ground ball into the right field corner for a two-run triple. Kepler finished 1-for-3 with three RBI.
Mike Gonzales added a third run in the inning with an infield hit and the Miracle cruised to a 5-1 win.
Eight of the nine hitters in the Miracle lineup recorded a hit and all nine reached base safely. Jorge Polanco was 2-for-5 with two runs scored and Walker was 1-for-4 with a run scored.
The Miracle (1-0) face the Hammerheads at 6:35 p.m. Friday. The teams then change venues to Hammond Stadium for the Miracle's home opener Saturday night.