The release...

The release... Princeton starter Tyree Hayes fires during the Rays 5-4 win over the Johnson City Cardinals Friday night.

PRINCETON — One manager got kicked out of the game. The other manager was on the winning side. Neither were happy after it was over.

Princeton scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning and then held on for a 5-4 Appalachian League win over the Johnson City Cardinals in front of 1,171 spectators on Friday night at Hunnicutt Field.

Despite improving to 10-6 on the season, Princeton manager Jamie Nelson wasn’t pleased with his team.

“I’m not real happy with this club and how we took the field tonight, but anytime you can be really unhappy and very displeased with our effort and still win a ball game, you’ve got to feel fortunate,” Nelson said. “We’re not here to win ball games, we’re not here to grade wins and losses, we’re here to get better as individuals, which will collectively make us all better.

“Tonight was just a horrible effort on our part and fortunately we won.”

At least Nelson was around to see the game. Johnson City manager Joe Alvarez was booted after Beau Riportella was called out at first base with bases loaded and two outs in the second inning when it appeared first baseman Eli Sonoqui had been forced off the bag by the throw from shortstop Omar Luna.

“It’s just two inexperienced guys having a hard time with the game of baseball right now,” said Alvarez, who was also upset with several calls in Johnson City’s 2-1 loss on Thursday at Princeton. “We’re dropping games and umpires don’t help, especially when they can’t call the game the way it should be called.”

Johnson City (4-11) overcame a 2-0 deficit to take a 3-2 lead in the sixth, but Princeton scored three runs on one hit off Jose Mateo in the seventh. Justin Reynolds walked, and then moved to third when a bunt by speedy Michael Ross was thrown into right field by Mateo.

“I’m sure (Ross') speed had something to do with it, I’m sure it made him panic,” said Nelson, whose P-Rays committed three of the game’s six errors. “That was the battle of the uglies tonight and unfortunately they were uglier than we were.”

A Mateo wild pitch then allowed Reynolds to score and Dustin Biell followed with a walk. A bunt by Luna brought in Ross, and Ben Humphrey — who had struck out in his three previous plate appearances — sliced a double down the left field line to bring in the eventual winning run.

“He made a great adjustment, we had talked about it in his first two at-bats, how he was pulling his head,” Nelson said. “He didn’t quite make the adjustment on his third at-bat, but I think one of the keys in that fourth at-bat is he got good pitches.

“He got a good pitch to hit and got a good swing on it and it got down the line.”

After Johnson City took the 3-2 lead on an RBI single by Travis Mitchell, Chris Fessler was brought in from the bullpen. He induced an inning-ending double play, and eventually retired seven of the eight batters he faced over 2 1/3 innings on the mound to improve to 2-0 on the season.

“This kid has improved so much over last year, and it is such a joy to watch,” said Nelson, of Fessler, who struggled in his first season in Princeton. “After watching what he did last year and how he went about it, he has done such an incredible job.

“(Princeton pitching coach) Marty (DeMerritt) has been working with him since extended spring and I credit the both of them...He is so much better, he is becoming a pitcher, last year he was nothing but a thrower. I can’t speak to you how happy I am for him.”

Michael Southern, who was Princeton’s fourth pitcher in the game, worked the ninth to get the save, allowing one run on an RBI single by Mike Folli.

Princeton scored in the first on an RBI double by Luna, and followed that in the second with singles by Mayo Acosta and Reynolds, and an error to make it 2-0. Johnson City scored single runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings on an RBI double by Casey Mulligan, an RBI single from Jose Garcia and the single by Mitchell.

The Cardinals stranded three runners in the second when Riportella was called out at first base. Alvaraz wasn’t happy, voiced his displeasure, and was tossed from the game.

“That is two of the worst umpires in the league calling today, making bad calls on both sides,” Alvarez said. “We’ve got a good club, I’m excited about these young kids, it’s just a shame that bad umpires just really force your hand…

“They’re rookies and some of these guys have been doing it twice or maybe three years. They don’t have the ability to call a game the way it should be called.”

Nelson could feel for Alvarez, but also realizes the umpires have the same dreams as the players.

“That’s why I try not to complain much, I’m a lot better at it than I used to be because you forget when you’re intense and you’re competing, you lose that sight,” Nelson said. “These guys are aspiring major leaguers as well as our players are, just in a different venue.

“It’s frustrating, I know Joe was upset with what he saw and he voiced an opinion and obviously the umpires didn’t want to accept it.”

Luna and Acosta led Princeton with two hits apiece, while Luna scored two runs and drove in two more. Ross also scored two runs for the P-Rays. Johnson City, which out-hit the P-Rays 10-7, was paced with two hits apiece by Paul Vazquez, Mulligan and Riportella.

Princeton will travel to Kingsport for a two-game series starting tonight. The P-Rays will send Jeremy Hall to the mound. Hall is 2-0 and his 0.55 ERA is second in the league.

Nelson can only hope for a better performance from the P-Rays.

“You try to be patient with these kids and I’m going to try to be as much as I can,” Nelson said, “but there are certain times you get frustrated and tonight was one of them.”

Contact Brian Woodson


At Hunnicutt Field

Johnson City……………......000 111 001 — 4 10 3

Princeton……………….........110 000 30x — 5 7 3

Javier, Mateo (6) and Vazquez. Hayes, Brophy (5), Fessler (6), Southern (9) and Acosta. W — Fessler (2-0); L — Mateo (1-1); S — Southern (1). HR — none. Att — 1,171.

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