It finally came together for the Kingsport Mets on Monday night at Cardinal Park.
The Mets (5-17), who opened the season 0-13 on the road, snapped a seven-game losing streak with a 1-0 victory over the Johnson City Cardinals in the first game of a double header. The nightcap was still in progress at press time.
“Finally,” Kingsport manager Jose Leger said with a sigh of relief. “Being 0-13, these guys wanted it so bad. They’ve been playing and practicing hard. They’ve never stopped pushing even though our record doesn’t show it. They came ready to play today.”
Julio Concepcion blasted a solo home run over left field in the second inning for the game’s only run, while Mets starter John Gant (1-1) gave up just four hits and struck out six in 5 1/3 innings.
“Man, that was good to get that first road win,” said Gant, a 21st round draft pick. “We’re coming together as a team and everything is going to work out.”
The two-time defending Appalachian League champion Cardinals fell to 12-12 with the loss, five games behind Elizabethton in the West Division standings.
The two rivals will start a five-game set tomorrow with four games in Elizabethton and one in Johnson City.
Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol hated seeing his team advance runners to second base in five of the game’s seven innings only to come up empty. The Cardinals went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
“That’s the frustrating part,” Marmol said. “You hope to get at least one big hit with two outs to get you going. We did that the last game, but it was non-existent today.”
Concepcion, a 22-year-old free agent from the Dominican Republic, wears the same No. 13 as Davey Concepcion, but is no relation to the Cincinnati Reds legend.
Tall and lanky at 6-4 and 194 pounds, he had just two home runs in 60 Appy League games last season, but in just his second at-bat since being reassigned to Kingsport from Brooklyn, he sent one sailing over Cardinal Park’s tall green fence.
Gavin Cecchini, the Mets’ top pick in the 2012 draft and the 12th pick overall, went 1-for-2 with a single in the first inning. He also walked and advanced to second base in the sixth inning.
Cory Jones (0-1) suffered the loss for Johnson City, giving up just four hits in 5 1/3 innings. Cesar Aguilar came in and allowed one hit in 1 2/3 innings of relief.
“Cory Jones did a nice job for us,” Marmol said. “Aguilar came in and did a nice job too. He’s done a good job since coming up here from the GCL (Gulf Coast League). We just needed a better effort from the offense.”
The Mets countered Johnson City with Gant’s strong start and Shane Bay ending a possible Cardinals’ rally with a double play in the sixth, followed by three straight strikeouts.
Gant, a 19 year-old from Savannah, Ga., stayed in control even when the Cardinals’ Bruce Caldwell and Steve Bean tagged him for doubles.
“I felt real good on the mound today,” Gant said. “Everything was working really good, nice and smooth. I was locating my fastball pretty good and that’s important since that’s the pitch you throw the most.
“Control is way more important than speed at this level. I love playing here, the most fun I’ve ever had in my life."