By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Perhaps it was just a bad dream. At least Dennis Holmberg wishes it was.
The Bluefield Blue Jays committed three errors with two outs in the top of the ninth, and the struggling Bristol White Sox took advantage and scored five runs to leave Bowen Field with a shocking 7-6 Appalachian League victory in front of a stunned 710 spectators on Monday night.
Holmberg is hoping for no lingering effects for his first place Blue Jays as they begin a three-game series tonight in Danville.
“That is the pill we are going to have to take tonight and sleep on it,” Holmberg said. “Hopefully we will be better because of the mistakes we made today...Short team memory, we will move on.”
Bluefield (19-11), which still remains 2 1/2 games ahead of Pulaski in the East Division, led 6-2 going into the top of the ninth with hard-throwing Brett Barber on the mound for the Blue Jays, but the White Sox refused to quit.
“That was one of our better ones,” Bristol manager Mike Gellinger said. “The guys didn’t give up and they made a nice comeback...In baseball you never know.”
Barber actually struck the first batter in the ninth, but his pitch eluded catcher Jorge Saez to allow Patrick Palmeiro to reach first base. It only got worst for Barber, Saez and the Blue Jays, who didn’t commit an error until what was officially scored as three fielding miscues in the ninth.
“I would just refer to it as a meltdown inning. We haven’t had an inning like that in I don’t know how long,” Holmberg said. “I think it was four errors in one inning, obviously when you do that, regardless of the four-run lead, that just goes to show you that they went on to score five...
“A tough game to lose.”
Bristol (9-20) loaded the bases on a single by Nolan Earley and a walk to Sammy Ayala. The second of three passed balls by Saez followed, although Barber did retire the next two batters, one of which was a Cody Yount ground ball that narrowed the margin to 6-4.
“You still felt good with Barber out there to overcome,” Holmberg said. “You hate to put him in pressure situations...”
Victor Velasquez followed with a single, and moved to second when D.J. Davis allowed the ball to elude him in center field. Suddenly, the Bluefield defense, which had been perfect in backing the five-hit pitching through eight innings by Alberto Tirado and Jairo Labourt failed them.
“I don’t know, when our guys get up to the plate they battle,” Gellinger said. “We are not the greatest hitting team in the world, but we stay in there and take our walks and get good at-bats.”
Thurman Hall hit a ground ball to Dawel Lugo, but his throw bounced in the dirt, and Velasquez scored to make it a one-run game, while Hall moved to second.
“It is good for all the kids to go through that kind of stuff because it leads to a little more pressure in situations like that,” Gellinger said. “I am sure (Lugo) will learn from it.”
That was followed by a ground ball from Trey Michalczewski against reliever Francisco Gracesqui that was originally booted by Lugo, but his throw to Saez forced Hall to run back toward third base in a rundown, but Saez’s throw bounced off Matt Dean’s glove to allow Hall to score for the 7-6 lead.
“We kind of started there with a strikeout and a wild pitch there, we just didn’t make good plays out there, the rundown at third toward the end allowed the winning run to go in,” Holmberg said. “D.J. Davis made a fielding error, I think they gave an error to Lugo on the throw to first base, you count up the opportunities and it is maybe seven outs in an inning.”
Bristol, which used seven pitchers in the game, brought in Andre Wheeler and he retired three of the four batters he faced in the ninth to pick up his first save.
“We like Wheeler, he comes in there and throws strikes,” Gellinger said. “He uses all his pitches and throwing strikes and he has done a good job for us.”
Chris Boydston, who faced one batter with bases loaded and two outs in the eighth and got Derrick Loveless on a long fly ball to Hall in center, improved to 3-1.
“Looking back (Loveless) hit the ball good, but the guy made a nice play going back,” Holmberg said. “You think the four-run lead at the time, you would think a three-run triple would have been nice right there.”
Bluefield used the long ball to take that 6-2 lead into the ninth. Lugo followed a Tim Locastro triple in the first with a two-run shot over the left field fence. John Silviano hit a solo shot in the sixth off the scoreboard in right center, and Saez had a two-run homer over the left field fence in the eighth.
The Blue Jays added another run in the eighth, with Matt Dean scoring on a double steal of home.
Bristol had tied the score at 2-2 with an RBI single in the second by Zach Stoner and a Velasquez double and run-scoring single from Michalczewski in the fourth.
Bluefield, which had won four straight, out-hit the White Sox 12-7, including two hits apiece by Lugo, Locastro, Saez and Dean. Lugo scored twice and joined Saez with two runs batted in.
Velasquez had two hits to aid Bristol in snapping a six-game losing skid.
Gellinger was complementary of the Blue Jays, even as the White Sox left Bluefield with the unlikely win.
“They are very good actually, they have got a good defensive team, a good pitching club, they have got some lefthanders there that can throw the ball real well and they have got speed, their fielders can go get them,” Gellinger said. “They definitely have a good team.”
at Bowen Field
Bristol......................................011 000 005 — 7 7 0
Bluefield..................................200 001 030 — 6 12 3
Drew Bowen, Thaddius Lowry (2), Kyle McMillien (5), Chris Freudenberg (6), Devin Moore (8), Chris Boydston (8), Andre Wheeler (9) and Sammy Ayala. Alberto Tirado, Jairo Labourt (6), Brett Barber (9), Francisco Gracesqui (9) and Jorge Saez. W—Boydston (3-1); L—Barber (1-1); S—Wheeler (1). HR—Dawel Lugo (4) 1st 1 on; John Silviano (3) 6th, 0 on; Jorge Saez (2) 8th, 1 on. Att—710.