By SHAUN SAVARESE
Of The Record Staff
The first frame of first game of the last Astros season in Buies Creek began with a four-pitch strikeout. The Buies Creek Astros defeated the Salem Red Sox on Thursday, 6-3.
Brandon Bielak started the 2018 home opener with a strike. He proceeded to sit down Red Sox center fielder Chris Madera in three more pitches. The strikeout throw was a low, outside breaking ball that Madera swung at before hanging his head on the walk back to the dugout.
Beilak pitched 5.0 scoreless innings, striking out eight batters and allowing just three hits.
The Astros began the game with a four-run first inning, followed by a two-run second. And that was enough to overcome Salem, which scored three runs in the seventh.
The first 2018 Astros hit in Buies Creek belonged to second baseman Josh Rojas. Following a Ronnie Dawson walk, Rojas lined a well-hit infielder grounder to second base.
His speed proved too much for the Red Sox infield as he beat out the throw to first for the season’s first single at home.
In the stands, there were dozens of fans, but two special people were especially elated to see Rojas reach base safely.
Michelle and Jeremy Rojas, Josh’s parents, traveled all the way from Arizona to be in Buies Creek on Thursday.
They flew into Charlotte, then drove into Harnett County, where they plan to stay for two weeks.
Their second baseman son has taken them all around the country on his baseball abilities. Rojas played college baseball at the University of Hawaii and his parents went there to watch him too.
“We got here last night at about midnight,” Mrs. Rojas said Thursday, while standing in front of the gates at Jim Perry Stadium. “We’re staying here two weeks. We rented a ranch in Lillington.”
Rojas’ parents rented the Harnett County ranch using the accommodations website, HomeAway.
Mr. Rojas said though he plans to on taking his wife to Charlotte and doing some bass fishing in the Cape Fear River, the main attraction of their trip is Josh.
“We get him for breakfasts and lunches,” Mr. Rojas said. The Rojas plan to attend the Astros’ Thursday through Sunday series with the Carolina Mudcats in Zebulon.
Another fan, more familiar with The Creek, was among the first in line as the gates opened just after 6 p.m.
William Owens of Roseboro thoroughly enjoys baseball. His son played football and graduated and from the divinity school at Campbell University. His wife is currently attending the college part time.
He and his son, Josh Owens, were at the first professional baseball game played in Buies Creek, on Thursday, April 5, 2017.
“He came from Monroe last year. He would have come this year, but he’s tied up with his work as a pastor,” Owens said. “I hope they win. They had a good team last year.”
Inside the park, behind home plate, Joe and Maureen Running took their seats just before first pitch. The Runnings live have lived in Fayetteville for eight years, but have been Houston Astros fans forever.
“I’ve been an Astros fan since the beginning,” Mr. Running said. “So, it’s exciting that this is their team.”
Mr. Running watches the Houston Astros nearly every night, following them almost exclusively. “They have as a good a chance of getting into the playoffs as anybody,” He said. The major league club is 10-5 and sit in second place in the American League West.
The Runnings have lived all over the country, from Pennsylvania to Minnesota and from Oklahoma to Florida. They moved to North Carolina when Mrs. Running landed a job as a nurse practitioner at the Fayetteville office of Veterans Affairs.
“This club was out in Lancaster, Calif.,” Mr. Running said of the Buies Creek Astros. “I don’t know why they moved them here, but I think it will be a good fit.”
The Runnings attended between eight and 10 games in Buies Creek last season, and said they usually just pass through Harnett County on the way to Campbell. “Opening day last year was packed … freezing, but packed,” Mrs. Running said. “Finally, we have some nice weather.”
Next year the Buies Creek Astros will move into their new home being built in Fayetteville. The team won’t be called the Buies Creek Astros after that. A decision on the new name has not been announced.