Birthday boy Luke Guarnaccia’s three-run home run was the icing on the cake in the Pulaski Mariners’ 7-3 victory at Cardinal Park in game one of a scheduled doubleheader on Thursday.
Game two was rained out. Another doubleheader is scheduled to begin today at 6 p.m.
The left-handed batting Guarnaccia lined a first-pitch offspeed offering far beyond the fence in right-center field with one out in the seventh and final inning, giving the Mariners (11-7) a 7-1 lead. It was the second home run of the season for the brand-new 21-year-old.
“Definitely, it’s a pretty good little birthday gift to myself,” Guarnaccia said. “My dad listens to the games on the radio. So he just texted me ‘happy birthday, home run’ … and stuff like that.”
The loss snapped a four-game wins streak for the Cardinals (11-8), whose pitchers were in a giving mood. Hard-throwing starter Alexander Reyes (1-2) only allowed one hit in four-plus innings, but five walks and a hit-batsman led to two Pulaski runs (one earned).
Johnson City pitchers combined for 10 walks in seven innings. Fernando Baez walked three in 1 2/3 innings of relief, including a bases-loaded, two-out walk to Ian Miller that gave the Mariners a 3-1 lead in the sixth.
Baez was then lifted, and ensuing batter Jesus Uqueto greeted Anderson Gerdel with an RBI single to left. Gabrial Franca tried to score from second on Uqueto’s single, but catcher Rowan Wick caught left fielder Yoenny Gonzalez’s one-hop throw and tagged Franca out to retire the side.
Despite Reyes’ struggles, Guarnaccia was impressed. Reyes, a 6-foot-3, right-hander, was consistently in the low to mid-90s, and he struck out Tyler Smith looking at a crowd-pleasing curveball to end a perfect first. It was one of three strikeouts.
“He’s a pretty good pitcher,” Guarnaccia said. “He throws the ball really well. He’s got some velo. He’s got a really nice curveball, too.”
Johnson City shortstop Kenny Peoples-Walls’ two-run home run to left in the bottom of the seventh concluded the scoring. Peoples-Walls hit a 3-1 pitch a long way for his second home run of the season.
It concluded a 3-for-4 night that raised Peoples-Walls’ average to .406.
Cardinals’ leadoff batter Vaughn Bryan (.329) was 4-for-4 with two runs and made a fairly difficult catch look easy on Smith’s 380-foot shot to center to strand Miller at second base in the top of the third. Bryan led off innings in each of his at-bats, including a bunt single in the third which led to his run that tied the score at 1 on Ronnierd Garcia’s fielder’s choice.
Johnson City second baseman Brett Wiley (.339) was 2-for-4 and stole his second base of the season. Richy Pedroza also got his second steal of the year. Pedroza was 1-for-3 with a walk and line-out.
Pulaski starter Ramire Cleto allowed one run in four innings. Emilio Pagan (1-0) pitched two scoreless innings for the victory. Dylan De Meyer got the final two outs for his first save.