By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Bralin Jackson slapped a one-out single to right in the bottom of the 12th inning to lift the Princeton Rays to a 4-3 win over the Johnson City Cardinals, Sunday evening at Hunnicutt Field.
Jackson’s hit brought home Adderly Rosa who had walked to lead off the inning and moved from first to third on a sacrifice bunt by Spencer Edwards.
“Going up to the plate I knew I had to stay short to the ball. I knew he was going to try to blow me away with a fastball. The first pitch he threw it over my head, I got excited, tried to be a hero,” Jackson said.
“I looked at my coach, (Reynaldo) Ruiz down the first base line, he told me to stay short, so I choked up and stayed short. He threw me another fastball and I just used my hands and went the other way with it instead of trying to hit a home run.”
“I struggled a lot from the beginning of the game and I really had to dig deep down to get that last hit and I knew my teammates were tired, they were pulling for me, they were all on the bench. I wanted to be the guy that got the hit for my team, and that’s what I did.”
Johnson City scored early when the game’s second batter, Brett Wiley, walked and then raced home on Justin Ringo’s double down the right field line.
The Rays knotted the game in the bottom of the first when David Garcia powered a home run over the left field fence, his first of the season.
The Cardinals retook the lead in the fourth off Rays starter D.J. Slaton. Kenny Peoples-Walls got a one-hit single to center, went to second on a sac bunt and then a pair of walks by new Rays pitcher Oscar Armenta forced Peoples-Walls home with the go-ahead run.
Princeton again used the long ball to tie the game in its half of the fourth. Leo Correa hit the first pitch he saw from Hansel De Los Santos over the fence in right to pull the Rays even with the Cardinals at two apiece.
The back-and-forth continued in the fifth when Johnson City, against Luis Cabrera, Ronnierd Garcia drew a leadoff walk, moved up 90 feet on Luis Perez’s hit up the middle and scored on Peoples-Walls’ hit to right, giving the visitors a 3-2 lead.
Michael Holback took the mound for JC in the sixth and retired the first seven batters he faced. With one out in the eighth, Spencer Edwards lined a 0-1 Holback pitch over the fence in left to once again pull Princeton even, this time at three.
Princeton was able to put the winning run on base in the ninth, 10th and 11th innings, but could not get that timely hit they needed. In the ninth the Rays loaded the bases on an error and two walks before Fernando Baez fanned two Rays to keep the game going.
In the 10th Garcia picked up a two-out double but was stranded. And in the 11th, Armando Araiza picked up a two-out single.
Meanwhile the Princeton pitchers were effective in keeping Johnson City from touching home plate.
Cabrera retired the side in order in the eighth, the first time it had been done all night, and Darren Fischer entered and did the same for the Rays in the ninth. J
ohnson City’s biggest threat came in the 10th when they mounted a two-out rally. J.J. Altobelli walked and Yoenny Gonzalez entered as a pinch runner and Lance Jeffries singled to put runners on first and second.
Bryan got an infield hit behind second base that was fielded by shortstop Edwards, who after seeing he could not get Bryan at first, fired the ball home to shoot down Gonzalez for the third out of the inning.
Isaac Gil sat the Cardinals down in order in the 11th and allowed a single to Rowan Wick in the 12th.
“I think it was a day of second chances,” said Princeton manager Danny Sheaffer. “We had an opportunity to win the game in the ninth inning. We ended up everybody trying to be a hero and I understand the adrenaline, but you’ve got to be able to slow this game down a little bit and that’s what we’re going to try to do to guys.
“I thought we pitched very, very well late in the game. The key to the game was throwing those zeros up from seven through 12.”
In the Princeton 12th Rosa drew the inning opening walk off Anderson Gerdel. Edwards’ bunt had third baseman Wiley charging and rounding second and seeing third uncovered, Rosa continued full speed to the base.
For the second time in the game Johnson City manager Joe Kruzel added a fifth infielder and played with only two outfielders, hoping to keep a ground ball from going through, playing with three fielders on the third base side of second.
Jackson stepped in and missed the first pitch. The second pitch he slapped through the hole between first and second. Rosa trotted home with the winning run and the Rays celebrated the victory and a two-game winning streak.
Gil picked up the win for Princeton and Gerdel was tagged with the loss.
Princeton managed only seven hits in the game, three of them home runs and Garcia led the way with a homer and a double.
Peoples-Walls led Johnson City with three hits.
Johnson City pitchers struck out 12 Princeton hitters, while the Rays sat down 11 Cardinals via the strikeout route.
The third and final game of the series is tonight with the first pitch scheduled for 7:05.
At Hunnicutt Field
Johnson City……..100 110 000 000 — 3 12 2
Princeton………….100 100 010 001 — 4 7 0
W-Gil. L-Gerdel. HR: Pctn, Garcia (1), Correa (1), Edwards (1). Att - 1,047.