KINGSPORT — The Johnson City Cardinals found offensive production the model for success in its Appalachian League season opener in the Model City.
The visiting Cardinals pounded out 13 hits, six of them for extra-bases, to defeat the Kingsport Mets 9-3 on Thursday night at Hunter Wright Stadium.
With the Cardinals’ outburst and no miracle for these Mets on the horizon, a large and enthusiastic crowd of 1,023 fans for the opening day dwindled to less than half its size by the late innings.
“I think we strung together some really good quality at-bats, some tough at-bats,” new Johnson City manager Joe Kruzel said. “They battled in there and fought off some tough pitches. They would wait and get a ball in their spot where they could do some damage with it.
“A lot of it was their ability to fight in their at-bats to get us the quality at-bats, and we found some holes.”
Brett Wiley led the way for the Cardinals. He was 3-for-4 with four RBIs, which included a three-run home run over center field in the fourth inning. He added a RBI double in the eighth inning.
Wiley, who played last season in the Gulf Coast League and played two games last week for Class A Peoria, was happy to get his stint in the Appy League off to a roaring start.
“I’m glad to be playing baseball and want to play hard everywhere I go,” Wiley said.“I felt really good, just felt comfortable out there. I was getting in good hitter’s counts and they were throwing me fastballs I could hit. I was just taking the pitches that were close and getting the ones that were good to hit. Hopefully, they put them down there for you.”
Kenny Peoples-Walls, a fourth-round pick in the 2011 draft out of Los Angeles, ended 3-for-5 on the night. Designated hitter Rowan Wick finished 2-for-3, and also walked twice.
Still, it was the Mets who struck first as Jeff Diehl had a RBI-single to put them 1-0 in the bottom of the first.
The Cardinals quickly answered with five runs in the top of the second, highlighted by a two-run triple by Kyle Grieshaber. Yoenny Gonzalez added a RBI ground out, and after a third out was averted due to a Kingsport error, Peoples-Walls belted a RBI single.
The Mets had took advantage of an error and two wild pitches to score one run, but the Cardinals stopped any further damage with a bases-loaded double play. Kingsport added a third run off a RBI ground-out in the third inning.
However, Wiley hammered his three-run homer in the top of the fourth for an 8-3 Johnson City advantage. His double in the top of the eighth provided the game’s final run.
It wasn’t a great night for the Cardinals’ starting pitcher Alexander Reyes. The much ballyhooed youngster from the Dominican Republic lasted just 21?3 innings, giving up five hits, two walks and two earned runs.
Anderson Gerdel gave up just one hit over the next 22?3 innings to pick up the victory.
“Reyes was trying to overthrow a little bit, but that’s normal,” Kruzel said. “He’s 18 years old and it’s his first day out so you expect it a little bit. But, Gerdel came in and calmed the whole game down for us. It saved some of the bullpen too so that was an outstanding job by Anderson.”
Diehl went 3-for-5 to lead Kingsport and Michael Bernard finished with a 2-for-5 effort. Martiers Arias suffered the loss, giving up three hits, three walks and five runs (three earned) in 12?3 innings.
Game 2 of the series is scheduled for tonight at 7 p.m.