BRADENTON -- Gift Ngoepe hails from South Africa.
Stefan Welch was born and resides in Australia.
They're two men from two countries not normally associated with baseball.
Thursday night, however, they became linked together in Bradenton Marauders lore.
Welch was hit by a pitch with one out and the bases loaded in the 11th inning to score Ngoepe from third and give the Marauders a 3-2 season-opening win over the St. Lucie Mets in front of 4,256 fans at McKechnie Field.
"We're diversified. We have guys from all over," manager Carlos Garcia said. "But we came together as a team, and that's what counts."
Opening Night blowouts have been the custom for the Marauders, who outscored opponents 31-3 combined in their last two McKechnie Field debuts. Thursday night was different: The Mets and Marauders scored runs in the first two innings and spent the next three hours trading zeroes before Ryan Fraser's slider spun into Welch's right leg.
"I was looking for a good pitch to hit, to drive to get that run in," said Welch, who spent all of last season with St. Lucie. "It was crazy ... crazy way to win.
"It was a bit weird. It hit me, then it took me a second to realize that we won."
While Welch went to first, Ngoepe trotted home, putting a cap on his memorable Marauders debut. The shortstop singled three times, scored two runs and closed the top of the 11th by sliding past second base to glove Darrell Ceciliani's grounder and rob him of a hit.
Ngoepe also teamed with centerfielder Ryan Chambers to throw out Wilfredo Tovar trying to stretch a double into a triple in the top of the sixth.
"He knows where he's got to be when the ball is hit," Garcia said of Ngoepe, who batted .306 in 25 games last season with the Pittsburgh Pirates' low Single-A team in West Virginia. "The double cut was perfect."
Aiding the Marauders' cause was the work of its bullpen. Eliecer Navarro, Casey Sadler and Jhonathan Ramos teamed for 71/3 innings of scoreless relief, with Ramos (three innings, one hit, two walks, two strikeouts) earning the win.
"They came out aggressive, challenging hitters," Garcia said, "putting the ball in play and letting the defense do the work. ... Everybody pitched two innings plus, and it was good to see that."
Welch, Mel Rojas Jr. and Carlos Paulino also had hits for the Marauders, who host the Mets again at 6:30 p.m. today. A.J. Burnett, on the mend after undergoing eye surgery in Marcharch, will get the rehab start for Bradenton.
"It was a heart-pumper," Welch said of Thursday's win.