By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Hunter Wood struck out 12 and allowed one hit over five innings, and Yoel Araujo slammed two home runs to the deepest part of the ballpark and knocked in six runs as the Princeton Rays ran their winning streak to five games with a 10-3 win over the Bristol White Sox, Friday night at Hunnicutt Field.
Wood was spot-on from the start for the Rays as he retired the first 13 batters he faced, 10 via strikeout.
Bristol’s first baserunner and hit came with one out in the fifth when Trey Michalczewski singled to center. Wood gave up a walk later in the inning but then came back to pick up a strikeout to close out his night.
“I felt great. The ball, when it was in my hand, I’ve never had the ball feel that good in my hand before. I threw only one curve ball for a ball and all the rest were strikes and I had good command tonight. I just tried to keep getting ahead in the count and overall I felt like I had a good night,” Wood said.
Rays manager Danny Sheaffer said, “It was his (Wood’s) best game of the year so far. For me was the most impressive hitter he faced was after he walked a guy he came back and threw two breaking balls for strikes right away and got strikeouts. He’ll get the ball again, he’ll get one more start and try to build on this one, but by far his best outing.”
Meanwhile the Princeton batters were putting digits on the scoreboard. David Garcia was hit by a pitch to leadoff the second. Travis Flores singled him to second, a Johnny Eierman groundout moved him to third and he came home on Wilmer Dominguez’s single to right with the game’s first run.
The Rays added to their lead in the third. Spencer Edwards drew a leadoff walk and Araujo hit the first pitch he saw from Robinson Leyer over the 24-foot high fence in straightaway center for a two-run home run that gave Princeton a 3-0 lead.
Princeton came out swinging again in the fourth against Leyer. Enmanuel Paulino opened the inning with a double to right. Eierman’s sac bunt moved him to second and Dominguez’s infield single scored the run.
Bralin Jackson’s bunt singles put two on and after Leyer picked up a K, Araujo hit a 2-1 pitch again to straightaway center for a three-run homer, making the score 7-0.
“If you look back, Araujo is hitting about .280 since Aug. 1,” Sheaffer said. “To come from where he started in the season is a big accomplishment.
“Tonight he got some results from some things he’s been working on, staying through the middle of the field and he hit three balls hard through the middle of the field and two of them happened to leave the ballpark.”
Bristol turned to its bullpen in the fifth as Grant Monroe sat the Rays down in order thanks to a double play. Princeton turned to the pen in the sixth as Stepan Havlicek came on and pitched two innings of no-hit, no run ball.
Kyle McMillen worked the sixth for the White Sox. He walked a batter and hit Jackson, the second time he had been hit in the game, but a double play kept the Rays from adding to their lead.
Matt Ball got the call for Bristol in the seventh and after retiring the first two batters by strikeout, he hit Garcia, the second time he had been struck in the game. Flores followed with a home run to left, his seventh of the year to make it 9-0.
Princeton scored its final run in the eighth, Dominquez reaching on an error and eventually scoring on Araujo’s single up the middle.
Josh Kimborowicz pitched the bottom of the eighth for the Rays and allowed a single, only the second Bristol hit of the game.
Edgar Gomez came on in the ninth for Princeton and got a rude greeting from the inning’s first batter, Victor Velasquez, who tripled to the corner in right. Velasquez scored the White Sox’s first run on a wild pitch. Jettrey Santos and Nolan Earley followed with back-to-back singles. Santos scored on Michalczewski’s ground out to first and Earley touched home on Cody Yount’s hit to center. Gomez extinguished the fire when Nick Parent grounded out to short to end the game.
Araujo led Princeton at the plate with three hits, including his fifth and sixth home runs of the year and six RBIs. Jackson had a pair of hits as did Flores and Dominguez, who added two RBIs.
Wood picked up the win and Leyer suffered the loss. Princeton pitchers struck out 14 Bristol batters.
Wood said he got stronger as the season went on.
“I’d been in college for 10 months and being here, starting allowed me to rest my arm and get stronger and I feel like I am pitching much better,” said Wood, who came to the Rays from Howard Community College in Texas in June’s draft.
“I’ve found my groove right now and it’s turning out great.”
Since starting 7-27, Princeton is 14-13 in its last 27 games.
“The last impression is usually the lasting impression,” Sheaffer said. “We ran into some bumps early, whether we didn’t hit and we pitched, or we didn’t pitched and we hit, but we’re putting some things together right now and guys are having fun. But we’re not doing anything different preparation wise. We’re still doing everything we did at the beginning of the season, they’re just starting to get it right now and having more fun.”
The two teams conclude their three-game series tonight at Hunnicutt Field with the first pitch scheduled for 7:05.
—Contact Bob Redd at
At Hunnicutt Field
Bristol (16-42)…....000 000 003 - 3 5 1
Princeton (21-40)...012 400 21x - 10 10 0
Robinson Leyer, Grant Monroe (5), Kyle McMillen (6), Matt Ball (7) and Sammy Ayala, Nick Parent (8); Hunter Wood, Stepan Havlicek (6), Josh Kimborowicz (8), Edgar Gonzalez (9) and Wilmer Dominguez. W-Wood (3-3), L-Leyer (2-7). HR- PRN: Araujo 2 (6), Flores (7). Att -789.