Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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July 14, 2014

Rays break through, take Mercer Cup win

PRINCETON — So far this season every game of the Mercer Cup series between the Princeton Rays and Bluefield Blue Jays has been a battle with no more than three runs separating the teams as the games went into the final at-bat in each game.

The trend continued Monday night at Hunnicutt Field as the Rays took an early lead and held off the Blue Jays 4-2.

It was Princeton’s first win against Bluefield this season. It averted a Bluefield sweep in the three-game series and puts the series record at 3-1 in favor of the Blue Jays.

Bluefield came out swinging as leadoff batter Richard Urena and No. 2 hitter Austin Davis both singled off Rays’ starter Hyrum Formo. The threat ended however, as Formo fanned Josh Almonte and got Trent Miller to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.

Not to be outdone the Rays came out swinging in their half of the first. Leadoff hitter Riley Unroe ripped a single to right off Bluefield hurler Matt Smoral and moved to second on Thomas Milone’s ground out. Hector Montes hit a fly ball to deep center that Almonte caught against the fence for the second out of the inning.

Princeton got on the board when Nic Wilson doubled to score Unroe with the game’s first run.

Formo, after the two first inning hits, retired the side in order in the second and allowed a walk in the third. Smoral gave up a single and a walk in both the second and third innings to Princeton, but he picked up five Ks in those two innings to keep the Rays from increasing their lead.

Bluefield broke through in the fourth. Almonte led off with an infield single to the hole at short and took second on a wild pitch with two out. Gabe Cenas then singled to left, scoring Almonte and knotting the game at one.

In the chess match Princeton answered in its half of the fourth. Manny Sanchez reached on an error and Carter Burgess doubled to put runners on second and third. Blake Grant-Parks followed with a double to the left-center gap that scored both runners and gave the Rays a 3-1 lead.

Exit Smoral and enter Chase Wellbrock who got pitched out of the jam, but did give up a walk.

The Blue Jays chipped away at the lead in a big way in the top of the fifth. Rolando Segovia hit a 1-0 Formo pitch over the fence in left to bring Bluefield back to within a run 3-2. Jesus Gonzalez followed with an infield hit to short, but a double play and ground out got the Rays out of the inning.

Blue Jays manager Dennis Holmberg turned to Alberto Guzman on the mound in the fifth. Guzman retired the Rays 1-2-3 in the fifth and gave up a hit and a walk, but no runs in the sixth.

Rays manager Danny Sheaffer made the call to the bullpen to start the sixth and Kyle McKenzie gave up a single to Almonte, the first batter he faced, but then sat down the next three batters, one via strikeout.

McKenzie gave up a single to Dan Jansen to open the seventh, but then again retired the next three Blue Jays.

Carlos Ramirez became Bluefield’s fourth pitcher of the night in the bottom of the seventh. Patrick Grady drew a one-out walk and a wild pitch allowed him to move ahead 90 feet. Nick Ciuffo singled up the middle to drive home Grady with Princeton’s fourth and final run of the night.

Mario Fernandez came in for Princeton in the eighth and struck out the first two batters he faced before Miller doubled to left. Tellez followed with an infield single off Fernandez’s leg before a ground out ended the inning.

Fernandez closed out the game in the ninth, allowing a leadoff walk, before the next three Blue Jays went down to end the game.

Bluefield had 10 hits in the game. All nine Bluefield batters hit safely and Almonte had two hits, including a double.

Princeton tallied nine hits in the game with Grant-Parks, Unroe and Burgess each getting a pair. Grant-Parks and Burgess both checked in with a double and single, Unroe with a pair of singles.

Formo picked up his first win of the season and Smoral dropped to 1-2. Fernandez was credited with his first save.

The entire Appalachian League is off today for the Major League All-Star Game and both teams return to action on Wednesday. Princeton hosts Elizabethton while Bluefield welcomes Greeneville to Bowen Field. Game time at both ballparks is 7:05 p.m.

— Contact Bob Redd at


At Hunnicutt Field

Bluefield………............000 110 000 - 2  10 1

Princeton………..........100 200 10x - 4   9  0

Smoral, Wellbrock (4), Guzman (5), Ramirez (7) and Jansen. Formo, McKenzie (6), Fernandez (8) and Ciuffo. W-Formo (1-0), L-Smoral (1-2), Sv-Fernandez (1). HR: Blu – Segovia (2). Att – 862.

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