Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

August 9, 2012

Mercer Cup champs

Princeton claims Cup in 13 innings

PRINCETON — Brandon Martin raced home with the game-winning run in the bottom of the 13th inning and Princeton pitchers retired the final 26 batters they faced and the Princeton Rays beat the Bluefield Blue Jays 4-3 and claim the 2012 Mercer Cup.

“Score, score, score, that’s all I was thinking,” Martin said following the game and during the Rays’ celebration of winning the Cup.

“When we conceived the idea of the Mercer Cup 21 years ago, this is what we wanted it to be every year,” said Princeton general manager Jim Holland. “It was a great series, a lot of great games, just the fan spirit of both sides for the whole duration was unbelievable. We think it’s the best one-on-one rivalry in minor league baseball. There’s nothing like it and may it last for many years to come.”

Princeton manager Michael Johns said, “Our bullpen was unbelievable. Weaver got better after the first inning and Echarry, Sawyer and Silvestre did a great job. I’m really proud of the guys and I can’t say enough about our defense.”

The Blue Jays were just off the bus when they began hanging digits on the scoreboard. Leadoff batter Jorge Vega Rosada walked and went to third on Eric Arce’s single to the gap in left. Christian Lopes plated Rosado with another single to left and Dwight Smith Jr.’s single up the middle loaded the bases.

Jonathan Weaver got Santiago Nessy to fly out to right, but Rays’ right fielder Willie Argo banged into the wall. Arce tagged and scored, but Argo left the game, replaced by James Harris Jr.

Nico Taylor followed with a hit to left to score Lopes and give the Blue Jays an early 3-0 lead.

Princeton charged back quicker than one could say “Mercer Cup.” Leadoff hitter Brandon Martin hit an 0-2 pitch from Deivy Estrada off the scoreboard for a home run. Andrew Toles and Harris had back-to-back singles, then executed a double steal to put two runners in scoring position with one out. Estrada managed to get a K and a ground out to avoid any further damage.

Both pitchers settled in after the rocky first inning. Weaver sat the Blue Jays down in order thanks to a double play in the second and Estrada retired the Rays in order in the third.

Princeton gave the ball to Ely Echarry to begin the fourth and Jacob Anderson promptly greeted him with a single to left. A ground out and wild pitch put Anderson on third, but Echarry got a ground out and K to keep the Jays from adding to their lead.

In the fourth, with one out, Oscar Hernandez turned on the first pitch he got from Estrada, banging it over the left field wall to bring Princeton to within one run, 3-2.

Bluefield made the call to the bullpen in the sixth, brining on Griffin Murphy. Estrada worked five innings, allowed two runs on five hits, struck out six and did not walk a batter.

Princeton mounted a two-out rally in the seventh as Martin doubled and Reid Redman walked. Lady Luck came the Rays’ way when Jays catcher Nessy attempted to pick Redman off first after the ball got away from him at the plate. Nessy’s throw to first sailed into the Princeton bullpen in right field. Martin scored from second with the game-tying run and Redman was stationed at third. Toles then walked to put runners on the corners. Toles stole second, but Harris grounded out to end the inning.

Echarry was spot-on as he retired the last 11 batters he faced.

Princeton had its opportunities. The Rays got two aboard in the ninth and in the 10th they loaded the bases with no outs and failed to get the winning run home.

With a 23-inning game fresh in their memories, Princeton put an end to things in the 13th. Martin walked and Redman hit a one hopper to Bluefield third baseman Matt Dean. Dean’s throw was wild and Martin, running on the pitch, went to second, rounded third and continued home, sliding ahead of the throw and giving Princeton the win.

The Princeton pitchers shut down the Blue Jays. Nick Sawyer came on in the ninth and worked three perfect innings. Pedro Silvestre took the ball in the 13th for a perfect inning and he earned the win.

The two teams wrap up their three game and season series tonight at Hunnicutt Field, first pitch is set for 7:05.

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