Durham Bulls catcher Luke Maile (46) heads home to score in the second inning of the minor league baseball game against  the Charlotte Knights at Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, North Carolina, Thursday, April 7, 2016. The Durham Bulls defeated the Charlotte Knights 7 - 3 on opening night. (North State Journal/Eamon Queeney)

Bulls open season with win

DURHAM — For most of last season Durham Bulls catcher Luke Maile struggled at the plate.

Until he hit .254 in 22 August games, Maile’s batting average was a dismal .193. He opened the season going just 2-for-22 before going on a seven-game hitting streak in late April.

Behind the plate, he was stellar, throwing out 26 of 77 attempted base stealers, good for 33.8 percent and second best among International League catchers.

Maile started this season on a high note, with 2 RBI and one run in four at-bats from the bottom of the order in the Bulls’ opening day 7-3 win against Charlotte.

“You’re looking for a guy like Luke Maile who was here last year and struggled with the batting average, struggled with the bat, although had some misfortune and bad luck in my opinion,” manager Jared Sandberg said. “Comes out and swings the bat very, very well and drives in a couple runs. That’s great for Luke to get off to the start he did.”

Delayed slightly due to rain and a long opening day ceremony, the Bulls got the season underway in front of 7,710 fans at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

After Charlotte’s Scott Carroll issued a leadoff walk to Daniel Robertson, Cameron Seizter stepped up to the plate and knocked a double into left field, advancing Robertson to third.

Robertson scored a play later as Patrick Leonard singled to center field. Two more runs, including an RBI single by Maile, scored before the Bulls recorded an out. Once Richie Shaffer hit an RBI to plate Maile and score the fifth run of the inning, Carroll was replaced with Chris Volstad.

The Bulls put up two more runs, a ground-rule RBI double by Maile in the third and a RBI single by Shaffer to record seven runs in the season debut.

On the mound, highly touted prospect Blake Snell made his season debut, allowing five hits and two runs in five innings. Snell struck out five and issued one walk.

Snell, named Baseball America’s and USA Today’s 2015 Minor League Player of the Year, warmed up under soggy conditions as rain blew through the area. Despite the unfavorable conditions, Snell bounced back for a solid first outing.

“We were looking at 5 or 80 pitches, whatever came first,” Sandberg said. “He was at 78 pitches. It was a tough battle for him from the start. He was out there warming up in the rain, 10 minute delay to start the game. You’re all amped up to get the season started and everything. He went out there and grinded through very, very nicely.”

The Bulls continue their seven-game home-opening stand with another game against Charlotte Friday night at 7:05.

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