The offense of the Princeton Rays put in an effective start and a scoreless finish on Wednesday night.
The Kingsport Mets scored three runs in the second and fourth innings, and shut down the Rays after the fourth frame, to fashion a 7-4 win in their first visit to Hunnicutt Field this year.
The first two hits of the game gave the Rays a 1-0 lead in the first. Thomas Milone reached on a hit to left and Hector Montes' shot into the left-center gap got him home easily.
Kingsport's Wuilmer Becerra knocked his first Appalachian League home run, over the right-field wall with two men on base, and erased the Princeton lead with one swing in the second inning.
Kingsport manager Jose Leger said, “We've been working on that, these past couple of days, of getting the ball to go deep – and of getting a better pitch to hit. He got his pitch right there, and sure drove it. A strong kid... .”
That swing would never have taken place if Princeton center fielder Omar Moreno has been able to catch up with a hard-hit ball by the Mets' Ivan Wilson with two outs already in the books. Instead, despite Moreno's hustle, it was a triple, followed by a base on balls to Zach Mathieu, and then Becerra's shot.
Princeton manager Danny Sheaffer said, “The difference in that game looks like a three-run homer (but) Moreno almost made a great play in center field to stop damage. … He's made several of them so far this year.”
“We just came up on the short end, but we're playing hard.”
The Rays promptly tied the game in their half of the second. Carter Burgess singled and came all the way home when Kingsport pitcher Christian Montgomery threw wildly to first base as Jose Paez neared the bag. Riley Unroe's bloop single over the second baseman drove Paez in soon after.
Double plays by the Mets ended the second and third innings.
Kingsport took the lead again in the third, 4-3, on an RBI hit by Eudor Garcia. The Mets added three more runs in the fourth.
Becerra was hit by a pitch and Branden Kaupe singled past first base on the next offering on a textbook hit-and-run play. Luis Guillorme placed an RBI single into shallow center field.
He and Kaupe then executed a double steal. It paid off when Kaupe scored on a wild pitch and Oswald Caraballo hit a long sacrifice fly to right field, plating Guillorme.
Leger said, “I had the perfect guy at the plate with Kaupe for the hit-and-run. Then we got (runners on) first and second and saw a good opportunity to steal there. He got a good jump, and it worked out for us.”
The first two Princeton batters reached in the bottom of the fourth. Manny Sanchez got caught in a rundown between second and third base for the first out, but Burgess eventually worked his way to third. He scored the last run of the game from there when new relief pitcher Ty Williams was called for a balk.
After that, though, Williams got through the next two innings allowing only a double to Nic Wilson and a single to Burgess. Fellow reliever Luis Rengel took the mound for the seventh and eighth, giving up a single to Moreno and a double to Sanchez.
None of those single-hit innings produced much of a threat.
Mets closer Ismael Tijerina wrapped up the game by striking out two Rays and inducing a flyout to left for the final out.
The Princeton bullpen did its job as well. Damion Carroll sat down the first six batters he faced. Steve Ascher came on in the seventh and retired six of seven Mets to whom he pitched. Tomas Michelson handled the top of the ninth, allowing a two-out single before striking out the Appy League home run leader, Brandon Brosher.
Brosher ended 2 for 5 with a pair of early singles. Guillorme was 2 for 4 for Kingsport (4-3).
Princeton (3-4) got 2-for-4 nights from Montes and Burgess.
Burgess said, “I got on a couple of times. The ball found some holes; it was nice, but unfortunately it wasn't enough for us.”
The Rays left seven men on base, five in scoring position.
Burgess said, “We tried to do a little too much, to get on base, and swung at some bad pitches. But pitching's good, all the way around (the league). That could have been the case, too.”
Sheaffer said, “The difference in that game is, they got the hit with men in scoring position, and we didn't.”
“I still like our team. I like the way we're playing. We've got a very young team, with some high energy, so it should be a pretty good summer.”
Williams took the win in relief. Princeton starter Freddy Alvarez picked up the loss, allowing seven earned runs in 3 2/3 innings.
The series continues tonight with a 7:05 first pitch at Hunnicutt Field.
Burgess said, “We'll be ready for tomorrow. The day's coming.”
—Contact Tom Bone
At Hunnicutt Field
Kingsport......031 300 000 — 7 10 2
Princeton.......120 100 000 — 4 9 0
Christian Montgomery, Ty Williams (4), Luis Rengel (7), Ismael Tijerina (9) and Brandon Brosher. Freddy Alvarez, Damion Carroll (4), Steve Ascher (7), Tomas Michelson (9) and Blake Grant-Parks. WP – Williams (1-0). LP – Alvarez (0-1). Sv – Tijerina (2). HR – Kgpt, Becerra (1), 2nd, 2 on. Att – 493.