It was a kid’s day at a kid’s game.
David Garcia plays that game for the Princeton Rays.
“It is great to see the kids out here,” said Garcia, who reached base four times, while clubbing a solo home run in Princeton’s 9-3 win over Kingsport. “As a kid you love it, you look up to all these players and so it was a good deal for them.”
The same goes for the Rays, who collected nine hits and scored nine runs to snap a five-game losing skid by defeating the Mets in an 11:05 start in front of 692 spectators at Hunnicutt Field.
Many of those fans were children, who made it a lively atmosphere on Kid’s Day, chanting “Let’s Go Rays” while stomping their feet at the urging of the P-Rays’ mascot, Roscoe the Rooster.
“It was different, we woke up, we didn’t have a lot of early work going on, I think our bodies were more alive today,” Garcia said. “Personally for myself, it was a nice change of pace, we came out here and I think we played with fun.
“It was really nice, we had a live crowd. It felt good, my first at-bat when they called my name it got really loud, that was new all year and it felt nice.”
Princeton (7-23) fell behind 1-0 in the first, but then scored nine unanswered runs through the opening six innings, the Rays’ second most runs this season, which equaled Princeton’s largest margin of victory among their seven wins on the campaign.
“If I look back on the last two or three weeks of the season, we could be .500 over the last 14 games, but it just didn’t work out that way,” Princeton manager Danny Sheaffer said. “In the end I think adversity will make this team stronger, make them individually tougher, it was nice to get a lead and kind of cruise through the ninth.”
Jesus Araiza led the Rays with three hits, including a double, two runs scored and an RBI, while Garcia reached on a home run, two walks and a force play in the first inning that tied the score at 1-1.
Travis Flores also clubbed a two-run home run in a three-run third for the Rays.
“Two walks and a home run, it felt great,” Garcia said. “I was actually talking to Travis Flores, he also had (a home run) today, and we were just talking about how good it feels to have a home run and feel your swing again and it was nice to feel that today.”
It was lengthy game, taking nearly three hours for nearly 280 pitches, including a 31-minute rain delay in the seventh. That didn’t bother Sheaffer, whose Rays got six-hit pitching from a trio of hurlers, including Luis Cabrera, Clayton Crum (2-1) and Josh Kimborowicz.
“It wouldn’t have mattered if we had played at midnight to get a win, I didn’t care, but a day game is always good,” Sheaffer said. “Anything to break up a routine in this game because this game is so monotonous so anytime you can do something like that it is good so we appreciate those things once in a while.
“If you are on the winning end of that game you really don’t notice that, you only notice it if you lose. It could have taken four hours and it is worth it to get the win.”
Kingsport took the lead in the first when Champ Stuart walked, stole second, moved to third on an infield single from Jeff McNeil and scored on a force play on a ground ball from Jonathan Leroux.
Cabrera threw 59 pitches in just three innings, but the Mets didn’t score again until Amed Rosario homered off Crum in the seventh. By then the Rays were up 9-1, and enjoying a rare win on the diamond.
“It was great to see, you can see the confidence you in the dugout, everyone was loud, having fun now,” Garcia said. “It was one game, you can’t get too excited, you have to stay focused, but it was really nice to see the bats come alive.”
Araiza had a first inning one-out double against Kingsport starter Andres Perez (0-1), moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a force play off the bat by Garcia.
A pair of walks in the third would cost Perez. Elias Torres walked, stole second, moved to third on a Hunter Lockwood sacrifice fly and scored on a wild pitch. Perez then walked Garcia and Flores socked his fifth home run of the season over the left field fence for the 3-0 lead.
Princeton out-hit Kingsport (16-14) 9-6, while the Mets had three errors and the Rays had just one miscue in the field, as the Rays won for the first time since July 15.
“It’s been on both sides of the baseball, defensively we have had some mental errors and offensively just not getting quality at-bats, swinging out of the zone has been a huge one for us and just staying confident,” said Garcia, of the issues that have hampered the Rays. “We have been going with little bats for so long and I think our confidence is getting tested so we have to stay focused.”
Princeton scored in five of the first six innings, with Coty Blanchard hitting a double in the fourth and scoring on a single by Torres. Garcia followed with a solo home in the fifth, and Rays completed their scoring in the sixth on an RBI single by Araiza and two more scored when Leroux’s attempted pickoff throw to third from behind the plate flew into left field.
Torres, Garcia and Araiza each scored two runs each for the Rays. Garcia and Flores drove in two runs apiece.
Kingsport scored its final run on a solo home run in the ninth by Richie Rodriguez, who had two hits, including a double. Rosario also had two hits in the loss.
Princeton, which will host a pair of games beginning tonight with Pulaski, will seek its first win streak since sweeping three straight from Johnson City on June 29-July 1.
“We are going to try, we have got to do everything right,” Sheaffer said. “We have got to execute everything on the field to be able to win some games.
“In the end it is going to make them better baseball players because if they don’t execute they are not going to advance and if they execute they have got a chance to. It will make them better.”
Garcia and the Rays hope to execute just fine again tonight.
“That is the plan every day to come out here and do what we did today,” Garcia said. “Hopefully this is a confidence booster that we needed.”
—Contact Brian Woodson:
at Hunnicutt Field
Kingsport..................100 000 101 — 3 6 3
Bluefield....................103 113 00x — 9 9 1
Andres Perez, Alberto Baldonado (4), Ruben Reyes (7) and Jonathan Leroux. Luis Cabrera, Clayton Crum (4), Josh Kimborowicz (6) and Jesus Araiza. W—Crum (2-1); L—Perez (0-1). HR—Travis Flores (5) 3rd, 1 on; David Garcia (3) 5th, 0 on; Amed Rosario (2), 7th, 0 on; Richie Rodriguez (2) 9th, 0 on. Att—692.