By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Appalachian League baseball made its 2013 debut in Princeton Sunday evening as the Princeton Rays welcomed the Burlington Royals to Hunnicutt Field. Burlington scored early and late thanks to Rays’ errors and claimed a come-from-behind 3-2 win.
“We’ve got to make the routine plays. We had two errors tonight and they resulted in three runs and the errors,” said Princeton manager Danny Sheaffer.
“We’ve got a young club and they’ve got to play with a little bit of confidence instead of nerves and I think once they get the first win under their belt, things will loosen up a little bit.
“Right now they’re putting a lot of pressure on themselves and I think it’s my job to try to ease the mood a little bit. We expect a lot out of them because we’ve seen them perform in extended spring and so the expectations aren’t too great, they’re just a little nervous right now.”
The game’s leadoff hitter, Desmond Henry, laid down a bunt single on the game’s first pitch. Princeton pitcher Jacob Faria’s pickoff throw then sailed down the right field line and Henry raced to third, where he later scored on Mauricio Ramos’ one-out single to left to make it 1-0.
After that first inning Faria took control for the Rays. He struck out the side in the second on 10 pitches, picked up another K in the fifth and fanned two more Royals in his final inning of action, the fifth.
The Rays at the plate had opportunities against Jake Newberry. In the second back-to-back singles by Hunter Lockwood and Yoel Araujo put two on and a wild pitch moved them to second and third with no outs.
However, Newberry mustered a strikeout, a line out, and the inning ended when Lockwood was tagged out at the plate attempting to score on a wild pitch.
Princeton drew even in the fourth. David Garcia got aboard on a one-out single to center and stole second. Lockwood’s fly to center moved him to third and he scored on Araujo’s hit to left.
The Rays took the lead in the fifth when Travis Flores drove a 0-1 Newberry pitch over the Subway sign in left field for his second home run of the season.
“He (Flores) is swinging the bat OK. He swung the bat real well in Danville, obviously tonight he hit the big home run, but we’re going to need the other six or seven guys around him to produce as well. I think they will. They’ve still got jitters, they’ve still got a little nerves going but we’ll get it going,” Sheaffer said.
Faria worked the first five innings, did not allow an earned run. He gave up five hits and struck out eight Burlington batters.
Faria talked about his performance and how he approached the Burlington hitters. “I am pretty comfortable knowing that our defense is back there. I know the guys back there usually play pretty good defense, so just being able to throw strikes and count on them to make the plays, it can’t get much easier,” he said.
“Guys like that you just attack them, especially when they are not putting balls in play that hard or they might be missing a couple of pitches, just go right after them because they’re going to be sometimes overzealous and mishit certain pitches.”
This is Faria’s second year in Princeton and he sees an advantage to that.
“My first season was just a little tough, pitching against teams I’d never played before,” Faria said. “I think this year it’s a little easier, just being familiar with every park and everyone here, not so much confidence-wise, just being more comfortable.”
Speaking of his starting pitcher, Sheaffer said, “He (Faria), threw a great ball game and unfortunately he put himself a little bit behind the 8-ball with the throwing error in the first but we came back and took the lead and we were in a position to win the ball game.
“Unfortunately we just didn’t make the routine plays at the end of the game to finish it off.”
Oscar Armenta took the ball for Princeton in the sixth and pitched two innings of scoreless ball before giving way to Luis Cabrera in the eighth.
Cabrera allowed a hit and struck out a batter in his first inning of work, but the Royals came out swinging in the ninth.
Leadoff hitter Chad Johnson singled and Kevin Kuntz entered as a pinch runner. After striking out Alex Newman, Andrew Ayers hit a tapper back to the Cabrera who wheeled to throw the ball to second for what could have been a game-ending double play.
The ball sailed into center field and all hands were safe. Jerrell Allen followed with a double to right that scored Kuntz with the tying run. Ayers, representing the go-ahead run, moved to third. He scampered home on Henry’s sac fly to right.
The Rays donned the rally caps in the bottom of the ninth in search of their first win of the young season. Garcia singled to left, his second hit of the game to open the inning, but he was caught stealing.
All was not lost, however, as Lockwood drew a walk, ending the night for former West Virginia Miners pitcher Sam Lewis, who had relieved Newberry in the seventh inning. Andrew Edwards came on and got Araujo to fly to right for the second out, but still the Rays had a glimmer of hope.
Coty Blanchard was hit by a pitch and the potential winning run was on first base. Jesus Araiza followed with a walk to load the bases.
Flores came to the plate and with a 1-2 count, hit a sharp grounder to first baseman Bobby Brown, who stepped on the bag to end the game and keep Burlington perfect (4-0) on the season and Princeton (0-3) winless.
Garcia and Araujo each had a pair of hits for the Rays.
Henry, Ramos, Johnson and Allen each had two hits apiece for the Royals.
Burlington manager Tommy Shields said, “It was a good win. We didn’t mount much of a threat after the first. We had that one inning where we had two guys on, nobody out, we couldn’t get the sac down, but our guys never quit and that’s great to see.
“The pitching has been outstanding for us. It’s going to have to be our strength all year. We’re not going to bop, we’re not going to score a lot of runs, so we’ve got to pitch well and they’ve done an outstanding job.”
Lewis picked up the win and Edwards earned the save. Cabrera suffered the loss.
The teams meet in game two of the three game series tonight at Hunnicutt Field with German Marquez taking the mound for Princeton and Luis Santos getting the ball for Burlington.
First pitch is set for 7:05.
At Hunnicutt Field
Burlington……………..100 000 002 — 3 9 0
Princeton………….......000 110 000 — 2 6 2
W - Lewis (1-0). L - Cabrera (0-1). SV - Edwards (1). HR - PRN: Flores (2). Att - 966.