The Pulaski Mariners broke a 4-4 tie with five runs in the 10th inning to defeat the Bluefield Blue Jays 9-4 on Saturday night in the first game of the 2013 Appalachian League East Division playoffs at Bowen Field.
The drama-filled game included a Bluefield out due to batter interference, a Pulaski out called on runner’s interference, and the ejection of Bluefield manager Dennis Holmberg at the end of the eighth inning for arguing about an out call right in front of him at third base.
The winning manager was as pleased as Holmberg was agitated.
Pulaski manager Chris Prieto said, “That was a great game on both ends. When you play baseball, that’s the kind of game that you’re just like, wow, we were actually a part of that game.”
“It was great to come out on top. That’s a good ballclub over there (Bluefield).”
Having lost seven straight games, Bluefield must win tonight in Pulaski or their season comes to an end.
Pulaski’s Wilton Martinez lofted a sacrifice fly in the first on Saturday evening to get the initial run across. Bluefield took a 3-1 lead later in the inning on a home run over left field by Mitch Nay.
Appalachian League pitcher of the year Edwin Diaz of Pulaski settled down after that, allowing three singles and two walks before being removed in the seventh. He was assisted by a pair of inning-ending double plays powered by shortstop Tyler Smith and second baseman Gabrial Franca.
The Mariners tied the game 3-3 in the third on a two-run double by Jeff Zimmerman, and went ahead in the next inning via back-to-back doubles by Kristian Brito and Toby DeMello.
However, Bluefield forged a 4-4 tie in the seventh. Matt Dean led off with a first-pitch single, moved to second on Frank Barreto’s sacrifice bunt, and scored on a two-out single by Jorge Saez.
Saez said, “It was nothing more than a simple adjustment. I didn’t try to do too much; I just hit it up the middle. (It) got by, and tied the game.”
In the eighth, Derrick Loveless smacked a ball deep to center field and headed for third base. He was called out on a close play.
Holmberg said, “I thought we were getting some bad calls throughout the course of the entire ballgame. It was a bang-bang play at third base with Loveless. ... I thought he was safe. The old saying is that the tie goes to the runner, and it was pretty close.
“But it was just one call after another call. That was the difference in the ballgame there.”
At the end of the frame, he picked up his argument again with the home plate umpire, and was ejected as Bluefield fans cheered in support of Holmberg.
Bluefield reliever Yeyfry Del Rosario kept the home team in the game with three innings of two-hit ball, striking out six.
The Blue Jays loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth but came up empty when Nico Taylor hit into a force-out at the plate and Tim Locastro grounded out for the third out.
Holmberg said, “The bases (were) loaded in the ninth inning, and we just didn’t come up with the big at-bat out of Nico, and we got a second chance after that.”
In the 10th, Smith was hit by a batted ball between second and third and was called out, but Martinez wound up on first to keep the bases loaded.
Jesus Ugueto, who had struck out four times, then singled to score two runs.
Ugueto said with the help of an interpreter, “I looked for a good pitch. I knew I could hit a fly ball, for one score. I hit it the opposite way. I found the pitch and hit the ball hard.”
“We had a good record on the road this season. I never felt nervous, because I have confidence in our team.”
Prieto said, “We probably caught a break there. I don’t know who got the break. That interference could have been a double-play ball, too. The ball bounced our way a little bit, tonight.”
A wild pitch allowed Martinez to score, and DeMello closed it out with a home run past the flagpole in left center.
Holmberg said, “It was a tough pill to swallow, and we’re just going to have to come back and play tomorrow (Sunday) night.”
“I feel good about going to Pulaski. We’ve played well there before. It doesn’t matter where you go, as long as you win.”
Prieto said, “This has been a resilient team all year. They’ve really battled each pitch, and they’ve been really good at dismissing the last pitch and getting to the next pitch. My hat’s off to our team. They have really shown that they can play the game the right way.”
Ugueto said, “It’s important to win this game, because we’re going to home and we play better there.”
Saez said about Bluefield’s focus in the game, “It’s not that we lost it. We’ve always had it, and we had it at the beginning of the year and lately we’ve been sliding back, but we know we’ve always had it — the sense of urgency.
“We want to win. It’s playoff time, we’re geared up, ready for it. It’s just in us. There’s nothing more to it than that.”
In the 10th, he said, “I guess you can say we had a few shots. I guess you could say we got it taken away.
“At the end of the day, we had the bases loaded (and they) got the job done at the end. There’s nothing more you can ask. They just executed when they needed to. We had that second chance there at the end, and we didn’t. So it is what it is.”
Game two of the best-of-three series is scheduled for a 7 p.m. start today in Pulaski. The third game, if necessary, will also be at Calfee Park.
The winner of the current series moves on to the championship round later this week against Kingsport or Greeneville.
Saez said, “We’ve still got two more games. Definitely we’re going to fight back, just as hard as we did in this game. We want to win it. We feel that we should have been in first place. We know that we have the team that can come back and do it, even at their place.
“So we’re ready.”
— Contact Tom Bone at firstname.lastname@example.org
At Bowen Field
Pulaski...........102 100 000 5 — 9 13 1
Bluefield........300 000 100 0 — 4 9 1
Edwin Diaz, Leoncio Munoz (7), Rafael Pineda (9), Luis Pina (10) and Toby DeMello. Jairo Labourt, Yeyfry Del Rosario (6), Phil Kish (9) and Jorge Saez. WP - Pineda. LP - Kish. HR - Pul, DeMello, 10th, 1 on; Blfd May, 1st, 2 on. Att - 310.