The evening started in grand fashion with Vi Ripken, the first lady of Harford County baseball, tossing a strike on the ceremonial first pitch and a small but spirited crowd gathering at Thomas Run Park for the county's first professional sporting event in 50 years.
No one seemed to mind the low-lying lighting or the makeshift bleachers that greeted the Aberdeen Arsenal to Atlantic League baseball.
On the field, everything was proceeding neatly, with Aberdeen leading the Lehigh Valley Black Diamonds by two runs entering the ninth inning. Then the threatening skies rained disaster on the Arsenal.
Lehigh Valley---the team that plays all its games on the road for want of its own stadium -- exploited three Arsenal errors and blasted five key hits for a six-run ninth inning to ruin the historic opener, 9-5.
Former Philadelphia Phillie Kim Batiste struck the key blow, a two-run double that gave the Black Diamonds the lead before the Arsenal began booting the ball away to aggravate the situation.
Most of the damage occurred against Aberdeen's closer, Jose Alberro , after Eric Olszewski had surrendered a leadoff home run to Asbel Ortiz to set the tone for the inning.
Before the disappointing finish, both teams had played an entertaining and rather error-free game, with Angel Miranda of Aberdeen and Brad Cornett -- fellow 11-game winners for Lehigh Valley last season -- dueling into the sixth on rather even terms.
The Arsenal took command in the bottom of that inning, driving out Cornett in favor of Javier Dejesus, with David Steed knocking in one run with an infield hit and Yuri Sanchez delivering a bloop, two-run single that pushed the team ahead for the first time, 4-3.
Sanchez doubled home another run in the eighth and stood to be the offensive hero until the cave-in arrived in the chilly conditions at the finish.
Except for the ending, it was a creditable opening night in a rush-it-together situation for Aberdeen, which is home to Lehigh Valley tonight and tomorrow before heading on the road.
"I'd hoped for a larger crowd [it was 1,158]," said Arsenal general manager Keith Lupton. "But I'm happy. The fans were enthusiastic and seemed to enjoy it. The weather this spring hasn't been the best."
Batiste also homered for the Black Diamonds and leadoff man James Landingham had a triple, double and single and scored twice. Besides Sanchez, the Arsenal's biggest offensive weapon was former Oriole farmhand T.R. Lewis, who raked two doubles and a single.