Franklin Barreto’s two-run single in the bottom of the ninth inning lifted the Bluefield Blue Jays to a 6-5 win over the Princeton Rays on a unseasonably cold and rainy night at Bowen Field in the final Mercer Cup game of the 2013 season.
“It was a good comeback win for us,” said Blue Jays manager Dennis Holmberg.
Bluefield’s comeback was necessitated after the Rays got two-run home runs from Bralin Jackson and Hunter Lockwood in the top of the ninth to erase a 4-1 deficit and give Princeton a 5-4 lead.
Chase DeJong started on the mound for Bluefield and Hunter Wood for Princeton. DeJong was shaky at the start, allowing two runners to get on in the first and working deep into the count with several hitters. However, at one point he struck out six of seven batters and kept the Rays off the board in the first three innings.
Wood walked a batter in the first and Bluefield got their first hit in the third, a solo home run by Jesus Gonzalez, to take a 1-0 lead. Wood pitched into the fifth inning and did not allow any more Blue Jays runs, although he did give up two hits in his final inning, giving way to Luis Cabrera who retired the side.
Princeton got its first hit in the fourth, a one-out double to just inside the third base line by Lockwood. He tied the game when he scored on David Garcia’s single to left, just inside the line and past a diving Mitch Nay at third.
The game remained tied until the sixth. Tim Locastro singled up the middle to open the inning and went to third on Nay’s double to right. Both came home on Matt Dean’s single to center, putting Bluefield back on top 3-1. Dean later scored on a Cabrera wild pitch to make it 4-1.
Mark Biggs and Tim Mayza both came on in relief for the Blue Jays, Biggs in the fifth to toss two hitless and scoreless innings and Mayza in the seventh. He pitched an inning-and-two-thirds and allowed one hit. Brett Barber came on to record the final out in the eighth.
The action began in the ninth. Barreto made a spectacular play at short to get Leo Correa out on a grounder up the middle then Enmanuel Paulino had an infield hit deep in the hole at short. Enter Jackson who drove Barber’s pitch over the wall in right to bring Princeton to within a run of the lead at 4-3.
Coty Blanchard got aboard on another infield hit to short but was erased when Armando Araiza hit into a 5-4 fielder’s choice. Lockwood then hit a towering blast over the wall in left to give Princeton a 5-4 lead.
“You’ve got to give the offense credit. They came back, put us in a position to win the ball game and we gave it right back to them and we gave it back to them in a hurry,” said Princeton manager Danny Sheaffer.
In the bottom of the ninth Gonzalez led off with what appeared to be a routine popup to short. Paulino, however, dropped the ball and Gonzalez was on. D.J. Jones came on as a pinch runner and D.J. Davis followed with a walk. Holmberg went to the bench and called on Angel Rojas as a pinch hitter for John Silviano. Rojas bunted between third and home, the ball was fielded by pitcher Isaac Gil, but he had no play, all hands were safe and the bases were packed full of Blue Jays with no outs.
Barreto, who joined Bluefield earlier this week from the Gulf Coast League, then hit a sharp liner to left. Jones trotted home and Davis sped around third and touched home with the game-winning run.
“The pop fly being dropped by the shortstop was huge. It created an opportunity and a little bit of a letdown on their side,” Holmberg said. “I wasn’t going to bunt with D.J. (Davis) and he drew a big walk. Rojas had been sitting for two-and-a-half hours and the first pitch he sees he bunts for a sacrifice that turns into a hit, and the rest is history. Barreto was one of the top players in the GCL. He’s got a very good swing and he got a big hit to win the ball game.”
Barber picked up the win while Gil was tagged with the loss.
Sheaffer talked of his starting pitcher, Wood.
“He threw the ball very well. He’s on a pitch count so he couldn’t finish the fifth inning. He kept us in the ball game,” Sheaffer said. “The ninth inning just overshadowed what happened earlier in the game. You’ve got to make routine plays and we didn’t do it.”
Barreto and Dean each had a pair of hits for Bluefield, while Lockwood led Princeton with two safeties, a double and a home run.
West Division leader Bluefield opens a three-game set this evening with second place Pulaski at Bowen Field. First pitch is set for 6:05. Princeton starts a three game series at Hunnicutt Field against Danville with the first pitch also scheduled for 6:05.
The final tally for the 2013 Mercer Cup Series was Bluefield 10, Princeton 1.
At Bowen Field
Princeton (16-40)......000 100 004 — 5 7 2
Bluefield (38-17)......001 003 002 — 6 11 1
Hunter Wood, Luis Cabrera (5), Isaac Gil (9) and Armando Araiza; Chase DeJong, Mark Biggs (5), Tim Mayza (7), Brett Barber (8) and Jorge Saez. W-Barber (2-1), L-Gil (2-2) HR: PRN-Jackson (3), Lockwood (7). BLU-Gonzalez (1). Att: 684