BILOXI — The first game of the 2016 season went about as well as the Biloxi Shuckers could have expected.
Biloxi jumped out to a 3-0 lead after one inning and cruised to a 4-0 victory over the Chattanooga Lookouts on Thursday night before a crowd of 2,542 at MGM Park.
Three Shuckers pitchers combined to hold Chattanooga to just three hits while striking out 11 and walking three.
Biloxi starting pitcher Josh Hader threw only threw four innings, but he was effective while he lasted. The lefty allowed two hits in four innings, striking out five and walking three.
Hader didn’t always have full control, but he had to battle through taking a line drive off his back in the top of the fourth.
Biloxi manager Mike Guerrero noted that Hader was probably a little more excited than usual considering he turned 22 Thursday and it was opening day.
“I thought Hader had good stuff, but he didn't command the ball the way he's used to,” Guerrero said. “He threw the ball well.
“I think he was a little excited out there on opening day. You'll see him. He'll get better.”
Biloxi relievers Drew Gagnon and Tristan Archer combined to throw five scoreless innings, allowing just one hit.
Gagnon (1-0) picked up the win with one hit allowed in three innings of work. He struck out five and walked none.
“I think our bullpen save us,” Guerrero said. “Gangnon did a great job and Archer did a great job. Five scoreless out of the bullpen, that's pretty good.”
Shuckers left fielder Kyle Wren put pressure on the Lookouts all night long out of the leadoff spot with a 3-for-4 effort at the plate with two runs scored.
He singled in the first. He beat out a grounder to first in the third. He reached on a bunt single in the fifth and took second on a throwing error by Chattanooga second baseman Levi Michael.
“It's a nice way to start any time you get three hits in the first game,” Wren said. “After you push through (that first game), you can settle in and relax up there.”
Wren spent the first half of the 2015 season in Biloxi before moving up to Triple-A in Colorado Springs. He appeared determined Thursday to make sure his second stint in Biloxi won’t last long.
“The Brewers let me know I was going back to Double-A. That is a little bit of motivation,” Wren said. “I'm trying to do the exact same thing I did last year - set the table, get on base, steal bases and play good defense. Hopefully, this is a short stint and I'll be back at Triple-A.”
Chattanooga starting pitcher Jason Wheeler had Biloxi’s number in 2015, winning the Southern League Championship Series MVP by leading the Lookouts to a 3-2 series win over Biloxi.
The Shuckers got to Wheeler early Thursday, putting up three runs in the first inning.
Wren and Nate Orf singled to start the first and Garrett Cooper later brought home the two men with a two-out single to right for the 2-0 lead.
Victor Roache pushed across the third run by bringing home Jacob Nottingham from third on a ground-rule double to deep center field.
Wheeler settled down to last five innings, but the Shuckers got to him one more time in the fifth on an RBI single to right by Brett Phillips to bring home Wren from third.
Wheeler (0-1) allowed three earned runs on four hits while striking out five and walking one in five innings.
Orf was the only other Shucker with multiple hits, going 2-for-4 with one run scored.
Thursday’s game was the first of a five-game series against the Lookouts. Game two is set for 7:10 p.m. Friday at MGM Park.