Alexander Reyes looked like a level above Wednesday night.
Pitching in front of a packed house on Faith and Family Night at Cardinal Park, the 18-year-old New Jersey native tossed a cool one-hitter for six innings and punched out 11 batters. The Cardinals went on to defeat Bristol 5-1 in an Appalachian League baseball game.
Johnson City (6-1) remained in first place in the West Division, but Elizabethton (6-1) kept pace.
Reyes, who grew up in Elizabeth, N.J., moved to the Dominican Republic when he was 17 years old. He lived there with extended family for a year to become an international free agent, and the Cardinals signed him in December of 2012.
In his first professional outing, Reyes was marginal. This time, he was dominant.
In one stretch from the second through the fifth inning, he recorded nine of the 12 outs via strikeouts. He also struck out five batters in a row during one overpowering stretch.
“What he did was throw three pitches for strikes,” said Cardinals’ manager Joe Kruzel. “He kept the hitters off balance. He was getting his fastball over early in the count, and he was also throwing his change and breaking ball for strikes.”
Add it all up, and Reyes could only smile when asked if he was having fun out there.
“The difference in this game and my first game was throwing my off-speed stuff for strikes,” said Reyes. “I worked a lot with coach Paul Davis, and I felt comfortable on the mound.
“I felt like I could throw any pitch on any count. My fastball was pretty good, but I was hitting my spots and that’s what counts.”
Despite racking up all of those strikeouts, Reyes said he was just pitching to contact. Kruzel said Reyes’ game plan was solid.
“He attacked the hitters and didn’t try to nibble early,” said Kruzel.
At the plate, Rowan Wick had a big day for Johnson City. He went 3 for 4 with three runs batted in. Wick had a single, double and triple in his first three at-bats, missing the cycle with a fly out to right field in the bottom of the eighth inning.
“He hit the ball hard tonight,” said Kruzel. “He squared a couple up.”
Justin Ringo added two hits for Johnson City, which took a 2-0 lead in the second inning. Ringo hit an RBI double to right field, and Wick drove in Ringo with an RBI single.
In the third inning, the Cardinals got a line drive triple to straightaway center field from Ricky Pedroza. The ball rolled all the way to the wall at the 400-foot mark. However, the Cards failed to push Pedroza across the plate with a pair of line outs and a popup.
In the sixth inning, the Cardinals expanded their lead to 5-0. Ringo had an RBI single, Wick cracked an RBI triple off the center field fence, and Lance Jeffries Jr. later added an RBI single.
Johnson City used four pitchers to finish off Reyes’ masterpiece: Stalyn Lopez, Anderson Gerdel, Zach Loraine and Michael Holback. In the ninth inning, Holback loaded the bases with a single and two walks, but got Victor Velazquez to ground into a double play to end the threat.
Notes: Today’s game will also be against the White Sox and will start at 11:30 a.m. It is an early starting time because of the Movies in the Park promotion scheduled for tonight at Cardinal Park. …
Friday’s game will be played at ETSU’s Thomas Stadium. It will have a regular starting time of 7 p.m.