Johnson City's Brett Wiley beats the tag of Jorge Montenegro while scoring on a wild pitch. (Dave Boyd/Johnson City Press)
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Johnson City Cardinals fans received rally towels for the home opener Sunday night, and waving them seemed to be effective.
The Cardinals overcame a 4-2 deficit to improve to 4-0 with a 5-4, 10-inning victory against the Danville Braves.
Kenny Peoples-Walls singled with one out in the 10th, advanced to third on Rowan Wick’s line single to right field and scored the winning run on Kyle Grieshaber’s sacrifice fly to center.
It appeared the Braves might take the lead in the 10th, but Fernando Baez came on with one out and stranded leadoff batter Kyle Wren at third base thanks to two straight strikeouts.
Peoples-Walls’ clutch hit completed a 3-for-4 night. The swift shortstop from Los Angeles had a double and a walk, and is 8-for-14 on the season (.571). He wasn’t surprised to see Grieshaber come through at the end.
“I expected him to (come through),” Peoples-Walls said. “He makes solid contact quite often. So I was ready for whatever. ...
“I’ve been getting good pitches to hit and being patient. Everything’s working out so far. We’ve just gotta keep it rolling.”
Grieshaber, a lifelong Cardinals fans, was undeterred after going undrafted earlier this month.
“I grew up in St. Louis, so I’ve always been a Cardinal fan,” Grieshaber said. “I thought I was gonna get drafted. Things didn’t shake out that way. It’s not a big deal. I kind of had a feeling something was gonna happen. ...
“The first day I put this jersey on was when we had, like, a meet and greet with the fans. I looked down and I was like, ‘Wow, this kind of looks like a big-league jersey.’ So it’s pretty cool.”
Baez was cool under pressure when he came on in the 10th. He struck out Victor Caratini and Bryan De La Rosa, the respective Nos. 3 and 4 hitters in the lineup, to keep Wren’s potential go-ahead run off the board.
Wren is the son of Atlanta Braves GM Frank Wren, who was in attendance. He saw his son line a single to center after fouling a pitch off the front of his helmet to lead off the 10th.
Wren stole second and advanced to third on Mikey Reynolds’ sacrifice bunt. Johnson City manager Joe Kruzel then brought in Baez, who he said had been eager to pitch after rain shortened his first appearance Friday to one-third of an inning.
“He’s really a good kid that likes to pitch and compete,” Kruzel said. “You know, he came in to a very tough situation tonight and bulldogged it. He went right after the hitters, didn’t fool around. He said, ‘Hey, if you’re gonna beat me today, it’s gonna be with my best stuff.’”
Added Grieshaber: “(Baez) came out there and he dominated. He understood what the task was at hand, and he was able to come through big for us. Really, that gave us the win right there.”
Lance Jeffries’ two-out double scored Peoples-Walls to give Johnson City a 1-0 lead in the second. Danville parlayed four singles, a walk and an error in to a three-run third.
Johnson City cut it to 3-2 in the bottom of the third when Brett Wiley scored on a wild pitch, but Reynolds answered that when he lined a solo home run to left in the top of the fifth.
Peoples-Walls doubled Ronnierd Garcia to third base with one out in the bottom of the fifth, and Wick tied the score, 4-4, with a line single to center.
The Cardinals’ Stalyn Lopez, Zach Loraine and Baez (1-0) combined for five innings of scoreless relief.
Kruzel was impressed with his teams’ rally.
“I liked the character they showed,” Kruzel said. “They fell behind ... and then they fought back to get to 4-4, and we battled out of some very tough situations early in the game. And late in the game those pitchers pitched their butts off to keep the game where it was to give us a chance.”
Wick finished 2-for-4 and Justin Ringo was 2-for-5. Seth Moranda (2-for-3, walk, RBI) was the lone Brave with more than one hit.
Game two of the three-game series is tonight at 7.