By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
A new sign appeared this week in the Bluefield Blue Jays’ clubhouse. It read “A Sense of Urgency.”
Whether a product of that motto, or a confirmation of it, the Blue Jays came through again on Friday evening, coming back to defeat the Burlington Royals 5-2 to wrap up their marathon of six games in three days.
Mitch Nay, whose clutch single produced the go-ahead runs in the fifth inning, said, “Fourteen innings a day for three days straight is tough, but we managed to get through it.”
After winning five of the six games, Bluefield (17-10) now leads the Appalachian League East by two games and has a five-game cushion ahead of Burlington (12-15).
Bluefield manager Dennis Holmberg said, “Within the division, playing Burlington, and getting some distance between them (and us) was big. Everytime you win a doubleheader, it’s huge. If you split a doubleheader, it’s ... OK.
“I was proud of the guys to win five games out of six.”
“Playing the game with a sense of urgency, every pitch, every at-bat, every play, every ball that you hit, running it out — it’s a tough thing to sell to young kids, but they have to have this mentality to just get after it and play hard every day.”
Brady Dragmire (1-1) earned the win for Bluefield, keeping his head after falling behind 2-0 in the second. He gave up a home run to right-center by Sam Bates, followed by a single from Tyler Chism. Chism scored on an infield double-play.
Holmberg termed Dragmire “a little mature beyond his years, a little bit.”
“Brady Dragmire competed. He did a real nice job out there competing and not letting maybe a home run and maybe another run get him down. He got his work in, threw five innings with a limited pitch count, like all these starters are on.”
Dragmire said, “I’ve learned that baseball is a game of failure and success. Failure is going to happen, no matter what. The biggest thing is, I know why I got the two runs against me, so for me, it’s a learning experience.”
“I don’t need to beat myself up, but it’s definitely a learning experience, and (you) take it from there and get better each day.”
He allowed four runs — all singles with the exception of Bates’ homer — and finished his outing by getting seven straight outs. He credited his defense.
“As a pitcher, when I see my outfielders making diving plays, and catches off the walls, it’s nothing better,” he said. “I owe them something.
“It saves my ERA, and it helps us as a team bond together and become a family — which we have, for sure, on this team.”
Almost every inning had some flavor of exceptional play from the Blue Jays’ defense. Jonathan Davis hustled to make a grab in left field in the first inning. Dawel Lugo snagged balls at the edge of a shortstop’s range.
Holmberg said, “Mitch (Nay) made a diving catch on a line drive to his left. Brady even had one ‘sense-of-urgency’ type of play with a fast runner at the plate.”
Burlington starting pitcher Cesar Ogando started strong, giving up two singles in four efficient innings as his fluid motion delivered the ball to the plate.
But he allowed the bane of a pitcher’s existence, the leadoff walk, to Jorge Saez to start the fifth. Then, after a strikeout, he surrendered a double to left by Garrett Custons, and D.J. Jones followed with a two-RBI single up the middle to tie the game.
Ogando walked two consecutive batters and was relieved by Cruz Guevara. The Royals reliever uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Jones to put Bluefield ahead 3-2.
Then Nay knocked a grounder past Guevara, and the ball plunked off second base and dribbled into the outfield. Both Jonathan Davis and Nico Taylor scored for the final lead of the night.
Nay said, “Those are the kind of hits you love to have. They sort of even out the line drives that you hit at people. ... I just wanted to put something into play, and get the ball into the outfield so we could get those other two runs in for some run support.
“I managed to do it, any way I could. Off the base, it really doesn’t matter.”
Holmberg said, “Being down 2-0, they scratched and came back. Dennis Jones got a big base hit up the middle, Mitch Nay came through with a big two-run single, too.”
Alvido Jimenez came out of the bullpen to start the sixth inning on the mound for Bluefield and retired six of the last seven Burlington batters.
Dragmire said, “As soon as Alvido came in and started shutting the door on the guys, I had a smile on my face. It’s a sense of confidence, and a sense of urgency that we have as a team. As soon as I saw him get the first out, I knew we had ’em.”
Holmberg said, “Jimenez came in tonight and threw two good innings. Six games in three days, there’s a lot of people playing and a lot of people pitching.”
Jimenez said, “I threw last night, but I’m ready every day. We’ve got a very good team. Every day, we try to win the game. I want to (have) a champion here. Every day, I’m ready, I’m prepared for the opportunity — happy for the opportunity.”
Both pitchers acknowledged that they were aware that executives and scouts from Toronto were sitting behind home plate.
“The first thing, I tried to throw a strike,” Jimenez said. “I got a big lead, three runs. (I) just concentrate and throw strikes.”
Dragmire said, “Actually, I knew earlier in the week that they were going to be here, and then it slipped my mind until today and I saw them up there.
“And right around game time I had tunnel vision and I usually can tune the crowd out. Even if it’s our staff up there in the stands, it’s not going to affect my game.”
Nay said about Dragmire, “He gave us a chance in that game for the offense to come through, and we did. One pitch got away, but Brady’s always going to be on. He’s a good pitcher.”
Bluefield continues its homestand tonight with Bristol coming to town.
Tim “Rock” Raines, a seven-time Major League Baseball all-star in a career spanning 1979-2002, is scheduled to throw out the ceremonial first pitch tonight at 7 p.m.
— Contact Tom Bone at
At Bowen Field
Burlington........020 000 0 — 2 4 1
Bluefield...........000 050 x — 5 6 2
Cesar Ogando, Cruz Guevara (5) and Pedro Gonzalez. Brady Dragmire, Alvido Jimenez (6) and Garrett Custons. WP - Dragmire (1-1). LP - Ogando (0-2). Sv - Jimenez (2). HR - Burl, Bates (4), 2nd, 0 on. Att - 760.