By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
A 1-0 lead in the Appalachian League is very vulnerable. Princeton’s fans were aware of that as their Rays maintained that score through the first five innings on Tuesday evening at Hunnicutt Field.
Sure enough, visiting Pulaski scored four times via two home runs off a reliever in the sixth inning and proceeded to take a 6-1 victory, their fourth in six games.
That spoiled a nice performance by Princeton (7-24) pitcher German Marquez. In his sixth start for the Rays, the 18-year-old right-hander limited Pulaski to three hits and no runs in five innings.
“I thought we saw a big-league pitcher in Marquez tonight,” said Princeton manager Danny Sheaffer. “Except for the score, and except for the sixth inning, it was a pretty good ballgame.”
Pulaski (17-13) starter Ramire Cleto had gone exactly one month since winning his first Appy League game.
He gave up three hits and a run in the first inning, then allowed just three other hits in seven innings. He struck out four batters and walked one, in his final inning, the seventh.
Pulaski manager Chris Prieto said, “Both (starting pitchers) did a great job. Our guy, Cleto, actually started off a little up in the zone, and he settled in nicely and pitched to contact and let our defense play.”
Cleto had gone through six innings on only 65 pitches.
“His pitch count allowed us to go all the way through that (seventh) inning,” Prieto said. “He got into a nice rhythm and he just became really efficient, and we were getting outs and the next thing you know, we’re in the seventh.”
Princeton’s Armando Araiza and Hunter Lockwood were each 2 for 4 at bat. Araiza singled on the first pitch he saw and darted home on Elias Torres’ double with two outs in the first.
Araiza said via an interpreter, “I was mentally ready to come here today and help the team win games in any single way that I can do it.”
The catcher said, “The first couple of innings, I told Marquez to (pitch) the fast ball so he could get ahead of the hitter. After a couple, we started mixing it with change-ups and the curve ball.”
The Rays turned to Darren Fischer to start the sixth on the mound. Pulaski’s Tyler Smith hit his first pitch over the left-field wall for his first pro home run.
Fischer hit the next batter, Jeff Zimmerman, with his next pitch. Zach Shank singled, and the Mariners’ 240-pound first baseman, Kristian Brito, fought off eight pitches before smashing his third home run of the season, a towering three-run shot that drew gasps from the crowd.
Sheaffer said about Fischer’s time on the mound, “We’re in the process of developing (players), and Fish hasn’t pitched in eight or nine days. He needed to get out there and get his work in.”
“I’m sure he wasn’t happy with the results. But he’ll get the ball again in three or four days.”
Smith’s homer “picked our spirits up a little bit,” Prieto said. “The guys were having fun. Sometimes, you need something just like that to kind of spark the offense.”
Hunter Wood pitched the final three innings for Princeton, retiring six straight batters including striking out the side in the eighth.
In the ninth, Brito and Wilton Martinez each doubled and each scored, the final run coming on the only error of the game, a dropped ball by Douglas Duran with two outs.
Gabriel Saquilon pitched the last two innings for the Mariners, allowing no hits and striking out three Rays.
The Rays’ spirits were high prior to the game, after having beaten Kingsport 9-3 on Monday afternoon. The clubhouse was very quiet following the loss.
Sheaffer said the pregame atmosphere “was a good attitude — but it’s a day-by-day process. It’s not something that you look back on and try to have momentum.
“It’s a day-to-day deal. If you lose a game, you’ve got to have a short memory. If you win a game, you’ve got to have a short memory as well. And try to come out and compete, which we will tomorrow.”
Sheaffer said, “Tomorrow we’ve got two right-handers that are pretty good right-handers going. We’ve got (Edwin) Diaz for them and (Nolan) Gannon for us, so it should be another well-pitched game, and probably the team that executes will win the game.”
Araiza said, “I’m going to do the same thing. Come in tomorrow and try to work hard to help the team in any way, so we can get the ‘W’ tomorrow.”
Prieto said, “I know from our perspective, we’re just going to come out here and try to compete for nine innings.
“We can’t really pay attention to who we’re playing; we’ve got to just play the game hard, and take care of the baseball and be convictive when we pitch, and be ready to hit.”
The Rays host Pulaski again tonight at 7:05, followed by a Thursday game in Pulaski. The weekend features the renewal of the Mercer Cup series with Princeton visiting Bluefield.
— Contact Tom Bone at
At Hunnicutt Field
Pulaski..................000 004 002 — 6 8 0
Princeton..............100 000 000 — 1 6 1
Ramire Cleto, Gabriel Saquilon (8) and Franklin Diaz. German Marquez, Darren Fischer (6), Hunter Wood (7) and Armando Araiza. WP – Cleto (2-2). LP - Fischer (0-3). Sv - Saquilon (1). HR - Pul, Smith (1), 6th, 0 on; Brito (3), 6th, 2 on. Att - 885.