Bluefield manager Dennis Holmberg looked down the bench and called on Jonathan Davis to pinch-hit with two runners on and two outs in the seventh inning.
He was ready.
“Dennis is a great coach, he always tells us to be ready to come in and make a contribution to the game and I was just waiting on my name to be called,” Davis said. “I went up there, took some deep breaths and got it done today.”
Davis’ two-run pinch-hit double was all the offense Bluefield would need, while Blue Jays’ hurlers Jairo Labourt and Tom Robson combined to allow just three hits in a 2-0 Appalachian League victory over Burlington in front of 622 spectators on Thursday night at a sometimes rainy Bowen Field.
“I thought we played well tonight, we didn’t swing the bats as well, we were in and out of a lot of at-bats in early counts and making outs, but it doesn’t take but one inning to win a ball game,” Holmberg said. “Tonight it was that inning that Jonathan Davis got that pinch-hit.”
Burlington’s pitching wasn’t bad either, with three Royals allowing just two hits. Starter Zach Lovvorn worked 4 2/3 innings of no-hit baseball before Matt Dean doubled two outs in the fifth.
“Lovvorn threw outstanding, he had his “A” stuff, was perfect through 4 2/3rds,” Burlington manager Tommy Shields said. “Our pitchers did everything you want them to do, we just have to score some runs.”
Offense was rare on this night, with the lone runs crossing the plate in the seventh. Davis, a 15th round draft choice earlier this month from Central Arkansas, hasn’t played much through eight games, but has been ready when called upon.
“We have got some great players on the team that have earned their way into the lineup,” Davis said. “I am a new guy coming in so anytime my name is called on I try to go out there and do the best I can and that is all you can ask from a guy.”
Lovvorn allowed just the Dean double and a walk in six innings on the mound. Labourt countered by surrendering just three hits, while striking out four and walking one — and broke three opposition bats — through five, while Robson worked the final four frames, allowing one baserunner on a walk in the eighth.
A light rain began to fall soon after Dean made contact, and forced a short delay in a fast-moving game to refresh the mound and home plate area prior to the top of the sixth.
“I was just hoping we could get one run just in case it downpoured and we could score that run in the fifth...,” Holmberg said.
Bluefield also played flawless in the field, and turned three double plays.
“I thought Labourt was outstanding, Robson was outstanding, the pitching for the most part on both sides was pretty good,” Holmberg said. “I think ours was just a little bit better overall.”
Lovvorn was equally stingy through six, but southpaw Javier Reynoso faced control issues in the seventh, walking Eric Arce and Dean, with both runners moving into scoring position on a passed ball and stolen base by Dean.
“I think it was 4 2/3rds before we got our first hit, their pitcher was working fast, he was doing a nice job, he was throwing strikes, a lot of off-speed stuff, we just couldn’t figure him out,” Holmberg said. “Sooner or later something is going to happen and you just hope it is going to be for us,
“Jonathan Davis came off the bench, got that big pinch-hit double and drove in the two runs.”
Holmberg made the situational switch, replacing lefty hitting John Silviano with the righty-swinging Davis, who has been productive, collecting four hits in nine at-bats in limited playing time.
“We told the guys so much happens in the eighth and ninth innings of ball games,” Holmberg said. “We have told them just be prepared to go in the seventh inning, start to stretch, swing a bat, get loose because you have got a chance to be a difference maker in a ball game and certainly he was that tonight.”
Davis led Central Arkansas to the Southland Conference title, and the Bears took College World Series runner-up Mississippi State to the final game of the NCAA regionals before calling it a season.
“We were in the final game in the regionals,” said Davis, who had 49 RBIs and 25 stolen bases in the spring for the Bears. “That was actually our first year going to a conference tournament and then we won it and then we went to the regionals and made some noise so it was a great year for Central Arkansas.”
It was a great night for Davis, who worked the count to 2-2 against Reynoso and then hit a shot past by third baseman Mauricio Ramos to bring in pinch-runner D.J. Jones and Dean, while Davis hustled to second and pumped his fist after putting the Blue Jays on the board.
“I have been pretty pleased, coming out of college and playing every day, I am not used to sitting on the bench, but that is just something that comes along with the game,” Davis said. “If I continue to do what I am doing I think I will be able to get in the lineup a little more.
“Anytime I am getting in I just go out there and have fun, play for my team, that is all I can do.”
Shields wasn’t surprised to see Davis come through in the clutch.
“I actually know Davis a little bit,” Shields said. “I saw him in the spring and he can swing the bat a little bit.”
While Labourt surrendered singles to Ramos, Michael Mercurio and Chad Johnson, the Royals (5-3) never did get a runner past second base. Robson allowed a walk and nothing else over the final four innings.
“They pitched well and we hit some hard balls right at some guys at the wrong time, but that is all right,” Shields said. “It will change.”
Bluefield (5-3) threatened again in the eighth, but Andrew Edwards — who replaced Reynoso in the seventh — was able to work out of trouble. Robson was able to retire the side on the ninth to move the Blue Jays into a tie for the lead in the East Division with the Royals.
The Blue Jays will look for the series sweep tonight with a 7:05 p.m. contest with Burlington.
“I think they are playing well, they are playing hard, they are competing real well,” Holmberg said. “We are playing good defense, the pitching has been outstanding, we have swung the bats very well for the most part overall.
“You are going to run into some ball games that are low scoring, it is going to be that one swing of the bat that maybe is the difference in the ball game...I feel good with where we are at right now, and we have a good clubhouse, a good mix and we really have a long way to go.”
Bird seed: Scott Silverstein, a product of the University of Virginia, was promoted to Vancouver of the Northwest League after the game. Silverstein, a 23rd round draft choice by Toronto earlier this month, pitched once for Bluefield last weekend in Pulaski.
—Contact Brian Woodson
at Bowen Field
Burlington.................000 000 000 — 0 3 1
Bluefield....................000 000 20x — 2 2 0
Zach Lovvorn, Javier Reynoso (7), Andrew Edwards (7) and Chad Johnson. Jairo Lebourt, Tom Robson (6) and Jorge Saez. W—Robson (1-0); L—Reynoso (0-1). HR—none. Att—622.