Slim playoff chances remained for the Princeton Rays after they defeated the Bristol White Sox 4-3, Saturday afternoon at Hunnicutt Field.
Alex Keudell pitched six strong innings for the Rays, but was not involved in the decision as Randy Davis got the win and Nick Sawyer shut the door and earned the save. Willie Argo was four-for-four to lead the Princeton hitting attack.
“I thought Keudell was really good. He gave up two (runs) in his last inning,” said Princeton manager Michael Johns. “We stretched him out to 80 pitches, he has not been to 80 pitches yet, but he did a really nice job.
Johns also spoke highly of Argo’s game.
“I didn’t realize Argo had four hits, so I owe him some money,” Johns joked. “It was a good day for him and he’s been good for us all year.”
The Rays struck first scoring twice in the fourth. Argo led off the frame with a single to center. Dan Duran’s double just inside the right field line with one out to put runners on second and third. Argo scampered home when Oscar Hernandez lifted a sacrifice fly to center, and Duran came around with the second run on John Alexander’s double, also down the right field line.
Keudell held Bristol at bay the first five innings, allowing a hit in the first and fourth. The Sox got to the University of Oregon product in the sixth. Kale Kiser doubled to right and went to third on a ground out. Nick Basto drew a one-out walk, as did Alex Williams to load the bases. Keudell got Cory Farris to pop out to short for the second out, but Jose Barraza singled to right, scoring Kiser and Basto to knot the game at two.
Princeton responded in its half of the sixth. Argo got aboard on a bunt single and scored on Duran’s second double of the game, again to right field, to make it 3-2 in favor of the Rays.
The chess match continued in the seventh when Steve Nikorak welcomed Davis to the game, reaching on an infield error.
He would later come around to score on a single to left by Jake Brown, tying the game at three.
Donning the rally caps in the bottom of the seventh, Princeton forged ahead again. Julian Morillo led off the inning with a triple to center and scurried home on a wild pitch with the go ahead and eventual game-winning run.
Bristol got two aboard against Davis in the eighth, a hit batter and a single, but Johns called on Sawyer from the bullpen. Sawyer came in with two out and fanned the first batter he faced in the eighth and then struck out the first two hitters he faced in the ninth. Brown smacked a two-out single to left, but Sawyer recovered and struck out Basto to end the game.
Princeton trails Danville by three games in the wild card chase with three games to go in the season. A Danville win, or a Princeton loss would eliminate the Rays from playoff contention.
“We needed a win. Hopefully we can carry some momentum going to Elizabethton,” Johns said.
“We need a lot of help but all we can do is what we can control and hopefully we can sneak our way in.”
The Rays open their final series of the season, tonight in Elizabethton.
At Hunnicutt Field
Bristol............000 002 100 — 3 9 1
Princeton.......000 201 10x — 4 9 3
Darwin Matos, Jordan Guerrero (7) and Jose Barraza. Alex Keudell, Randy Davis (7), Nick Sawyer (8) and Oscar Hernandez.
W—Davis, L—Guerrero, S—Sawyer