Even with a 7-0 first-inning lead, the Bluefield Blue Jays found they could not coast through the second game of their unlikely doubleheader on Friday evening at Bowen Field.
The Princeton Rays would not go quietly, pulling within three runs of a tie before the Blue Jays swung some big bats late and took a 13-8 Mercer Cup Series victory in front of a crowd of 1,146.
Seven of the first eight Bluefield batters scored in the first inning, a disastrous start for Princeton pitcher Nolan Gannon. He gave up only two singles, but walked two and hit two other batters with pitches.
Gannon was gone after 1/3 of an inning. The first batter faced by reliever Stepan Havlicek was Jesus Gonzalez, who hit a three-RBI double.
On the other side of the scorebook, Bluefield pitcher Brady Dragmire struck out six Rays in three innings. He gave up four singles and a walk in the fourth, leading to three runs — two of them crossing the plate on a single by No. 9 batter Wilmer Dominguez.
But Dragmire was soon gone from the mound as well, after striking out three straight batters in the top of the third.
Bluefield manager Dennis Holmberg said Dragmire was struggling a bit to get strikes across. “I think he lost his tempo, his rhythm. I think he lost his confidence a little, perhaps. But he battled, he competed, to get through three (innings) and he got his pitch count up a little.”
“Brady Dragmire — who has been pitching extremely well — just wasn’t himself tonight. All of a sudden, you start going to the bullpen ... and we kind of let them crawl back into the game.”
“The objective should be throwing strikes, being competitive, and not being non-productive.”
“I don’t think we lost our competitive edge. It’s just that the pitching didn’t come out and bang through (the lineup).”
Eight Blue Jays were retired in order leading up to the fourth inning.
Princeton manager Danny Sheaffer said, “We played decent defense in the second game. ... Unfortunately, we’re a little thin right now, and we’re expecting our players to do too much.”
Mitch Nay raised the Bluefield lead to double digits with a three-run home run — his sixth — off the scoreboard in center field and the hometown fans cheered his clout, and the 10-3 advantage it produced.
Nay went hitless in the first game and that memory returned to his mind after the second outing was over.
“You’ve got to erase that from your mind,” he said. “What you did before doesn’t matter. You’ve got to turn the page. ... After the first game, I just wanted to make good contact. When you do that, good things will happen.”
Princeton bounced back with five runs in the next inning. Bralin Jackson led off with a walk — his fifth of the doubleheader day — to begin the merry-go-round, which eventually included doubles by Coty Blanchard and David Garcia and a triple from Leo Correa.
The Blue Jays fans did not breathe easy again until the bottom of the sixth, which D.J. Davis began with a monster home run to right field on the first pitch. It was his sixth of the season, also.
“The night at the plate was going well for me,” Davis said. “We were all seeing the ball well, and we weren’t swinging at bad pitches.”
Tim Locastro then singled, and with two outs, Matt Dean crushed the third home run of the game over left field for the final runs.
Though Francisco Gracesqui pitched just 1 1/3 innings of relief for Bluefield, he earned the win to go 3-0 this season. Alvido Jiminez handled the final two innings for the Jays and was credited with his fourth save of 2013.
Blanchard and Elias Torres batted 2 for 3 for the Rays. For the Blue Jays, Andres Sotillo had a 2 for 3 night, and Nay and Dean were both 2 for 4.
Sheaffer said, “We’ve had something like a split season. ... The last half, we want to be competitive, and we’ve been sort of snakebit against Bluefield, but we’ve been competitive for the last two weeks or more.”
The final game of the season between the two clubs is this evening, with first pitch set for 7:05 at Bowen Field.
At Bowen Field
Princeton.................030 050 0 — 8 11 0
Bluefield..................700 303 x — 13 11 1
WP - Gracesqui (3-0). LP - Gannon (1-5). Sv - Jiminez (4). HR - Blfd, Nay (6), 4th, 2 on; D.J. Davis (6), 6th, 0 on; Dean (4), 6th, 1 on. Att - 1,146.
Blue Jays snag resumed game
By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD — Phil Kish does a lot of sitting, while waiting to get his chance to pitch. He likes it that way.
“I am always anxious to get in the game because down in the bullpen you are sitting around until the last couple of innings and your name gets called and you are ready to go,” Kish said. “Even in college I did the same thing so I am used to it by now.’
Kish worked out of a jam in the eighth and finished it off in the ninth, as Bluefield won a game that took nearly 22 hours to complete, defeating Princeton 6-3 in the completion of a suspended game on Friday evening at Bowen Field.
Bluefield led the Rays 1-0 in the top of the fourth on Thursday when a power outage forced the game to be suspended until the following evening.
Jorge Saez and Tim Locastro had three hits each, D.J. Davis drove in two runs and Lydell Moseby scored twice, as the Blue Jays built a 5-1 lead going into the top of the eighth.
Joe Lovecchio replaced Yeyfry Del Rosario for Bluefield to begin the frame, and promptly walked two batters, sandwiched around a triple to right by Emmanuel Paulino.
That was enough for Bluefield manager Dennis Holmberg, who summoned for Kish from the bullpen with runners on first and third and no outs.
“I just like to getting the ball in that situation when it is a close game,” said Kish, a free agent signee in June out of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Fla. “That just means they are putting the ball in your hands to take care of the business.”
He’s been doing that for a while. Kish is the NAIA’s all-time leader in saves with 44. He got his fourth save as a professional against the Rays, including his second with the Blue Jays since arriving in Bluefield from the Gulf Coast League earlier this month.
“I love it so far, I just got up here in early August and since I have been up here and it’s great having a crowd that supports you,” said Kish, who was 2-1 with an 0.64 ERA with two saves in nine games in Dunedin, Fla. “It is the best feeling ever.”
Princeton was able to push a third run across on a sacrifice fly by Hunter Lockwood. Kish retired the next batter on a force play in the infield, Yoel Araujo followed with a single, but Kish then fanned Travis Flores on three pitches to end the inning.
No big deal to Kish, that’s what he loves about his role. Kish did it especially well at Southeastern as a senior, recording 18 saves while allowing just one run and just 22 hits in 30 innings on the mound.
“After a while coming into from the pen and playing every day, you get used to it,” said Kish, who has an 0.82 ERA in seven games for the Blue Jays, and has now struck out 29 batters in 25 professional innings. “It is not a big deal anymore.”
Bluefield added a run in the eighth on a sacrifice fly by Derrick Loveless, leaving Kish with a three-run lead to protect. He did just fine, retiring three of the four batters in the ninth. He will be ready when called upon again.
“Just sit down and wait until my name is called again, you just want to get the job done, all you want to do is keep the game in the same spot it was when you left it,” said Kish, who turns 24 on Aug. 30. “That is pretty much my goal, they expect you to come in and keep the game where it is at, that is pretty much what I hold on.”
Bluefield took a 1-0 lead on Thursday on an RBI single by Dawel Lugo, who was promoted to Vancouver after the game, and replaced by GCL import Franklin Barreto on Friday.
Princeton tied the score at 1-1 in the fourth when Yeyfry Del Rosario — who replaced Jairo Labourt to begin the game on Friday — threw wildly on his first pitch to allow Armando Araiza to score from third. He had doubled the previous day and moved to third on a sacrifice fly by Lockwood.
Josh Kimborowicz, who replaced German Marquez, promptly hit Moseby with his first pitch in the bottom of the fourth, and the son of former Toronto Blue Jays’ center fielder Lloyd Moseby, moved to third on one of five Princeton errors and scored on a triple to right by Locastro.
Bluefield added two more in the sixth when Saez and Moseby singled and scored on a single by Davis. The lead grew to 5-1 on an RBI single by Matt Dean.
Del Rosario improved to 4-2 for Bluefield, while Kish picked up his second save. Kimborowicz dropped to 1-4 for the Rays, who were out-hit 13-5, with Araiza having two hits for Princeton (16-39). Bralin Jackson walked four times. Princeton also committed five errors in defeat.
Barreto collected a double and single in his Bluefield debut, and also made an error in the field.
Kish is excited to play a role in a pennant race as Bluefield (37-17) continues to maintain the best record in the Appalachian League with the postseason approaching in less than two weeks.
“It is nice coming up there and having a chance to win something,” Kish said. “That is always a plus too.”
Bluefield will complete its season series with Princeton tonight at Bowen Field. The Blue Jays lead the Mercer Cup competition nine game to one this year.
at Bowen Field
Princeton..................000 100 020 — 3 5 5
Bluefield...................001 102 11x — 6 13 1
German Marquez, Josh Kimborowicz (4), Edgar Gomez (7) and Armando Araiza. Jairo Labourt, Yeyfry Del Rosario (4), Joe Lovecchio (8), Phil Kish (8) and Jorge Saez. W—Del Rosario (4-2); L—Kimborowicz (1-4); S—Kish (2). HR—none. Att—n/a.