Blame it on the rain.
The Bluefield Blue Jays and Burlington Royals resumed their game from July 9, suspended in the first inning in Burlington, due to rain, Friday evening at Bowen Field. Not too long into the game a tremendous downpour forced nearly an hour delay. After the delay the Royals wiped out a 5-1 Bluefield lead and hit their way to a 12-5 win.
Resumption of the game in the bottom of the first saw first round draft pick Bubba Starling lift a sacrifice fly to right that scored Terrence Gore to tie the game. Bluefield’s Daniel Norris returned to the mound, for the resumption, as he was the starting pitcher when the game was halted a month ago.
The Jays broke the tie in the third. Dickie Joe Thon singled to left and went to second on Matt Dean’s groundout. Thon trotted home on Nico Taylor’s infield single. Taylor swiped second and raced home on D.J. Jones’ base hit to put Bluefield ahead 3-1.
Bluefield extended its lead in the top of the third. Seth Conner had an RBI double to score Jorge Vega-Rosado who had singled to lead off the inning. Conner scored on Dean’s double to right.
The rains came in the bottom of the third with one out and play was halted for nearly an hour.
Both Bluefield manager Dennis Holmberg and Burlington manager Tommy Shields said the rain affected their teams’ play, but in opposite ways.
“I think it (the delay) affected us a lot,” Holmberg said. “We had (Dennis) Norris on the mound and whenever he’s scheduled to pitch, it rains as it did tonight, but I thought it shifted the while momentum of the ball game.
“Their starter, our starter, at that point I thought our starter was better. We were scoring run. We were making some things happen.
“We were running a little bit on fumes in the bullpen because of some ball games we played in the past 24, 48 hours. So we weren’t fully loaded in the bullpen going into the ball game. But the momentum of the game just shifted right out of the rain delay and it was a different ball game.”
A different ball game indeed, and Shields felt the same way.
“We were as flat as a pancake and the rain delay really helped us,” Shields said. “Norris was nasty and I thought the rain delay helped us in that regard because he couldn’t come back and pitch.
“I thought the kids really battled hard, had good at-bats and did a very nice job.”
Appalachian League President Lee Landers, in attendance for the game, said there have been an unusually high number of games affected by the weather this season throughout the league.
“Last year we had five total rainouts in the league,” Landers said. “Going into tonight (Friday) we’ve had 34. You really get backed up with doubleheaders and what the rules are is you can only play two (doubleheaders) in a row and three in a seven day period, so we have some (games) that we can’t make up.
“It could affect the pennant race... Johnson City only led Greeneville by half a game going into tonight for the second place spot to make the playoffs. I’ve impressed on the managers, ‘I know you don’t like to play in the mist, but we’ve got to get these games in.’ To keep the integrity of the schedule we have to do these things.”
Another thing that is being done for the remainder of the season is the waiver of the curfew.
Normally no inning can be started after 12:50 a.m., but due to the need to get games completed, Landers has waived that rule for the remainder of the season.
Following the delay Julio Carmona went to the mound replacing Norris. Burlington also changed pitchers after the delay, Mark Peterson taking over for Freddy Rodriguez.
The Royals got to Carmona for a single run in the fifth and things remained tight between the two teams until the bottom of the seventh when the wheels came off the Bluefield bus. Shane Davis came into the game for Bluefield in the bottom of the sixth, replacing Carmona.
Beau Maggi walked to start the inning, then Mark Threlkeld homered to bring the Royals to within a run. Terrence Gore walked and Humberto Arteaga reached on an error.
The Royals then had four consecutive singles chasing Davis in favor Joe Spano. Spano got Maggi, who started the inning, to ground into a double play to end the inning. When all the counting was done the Royals had scored six runs to take an 8-5 lead.
Daniel Stumpf replaced Peterson on the mound for Burlington in the top of the eighth and sat Bluefield down in order.
Burlington, however, was not done scoring. In the its half of the inning Threlkeld led off with a double to start the action again the hit parade started and this time around the Royals had four runs reach home and their lead grew to 12-5.
Stumpf got the side out in order in the ninth and picked up his first save. Peterson got the win as his record improved to 3-0.
Davis suffered the loss, his first decision of the season.
Christian Lopes, Seth Conner and Dean each had a pair of hits to pace the Jays hitting attack, each of them with a double and a single.
Patrick Leonard was four-for-five for Burlington and Threlkeld was three-for-four with a home run.
The final game on Friday night was still in progress at press time.
At Bowen Field
Bluefield..................122 000 000 — 5 10 4
Burlington...............100 010 64x — 12 14 3
Norris, Carmona (3), Davis (6), Spano (7) and Nessy. Conroy, Rodriguez (2), Peterson (4), Stumpf (8) and Maggi.
W—Peterson, L—Davis, S—Stumpf