KINGSPORT — The crowds at Hunter Wright Stadium have grown accustomed to late-inning heroics this season.
Saturday evening, the largest crowd of the season was hoping to see another late rally.
The crowd got it. The Johnson City Cardinals plated two runs in the ninth inning to claim a 5-3 win over the Kingsport Mets.
Tied at 3-3 heading into the ninth, two walks and error gave Johnson City a bases-loaded situation. Cardinals batter Vaughn Bryan came through with a deep double that brought in what proved to be the winning runs.
“In their situation they made a throwing error on a bunt and that allowed runners to first and second. A walk followed that and then Bryan’s double was able to find a hole,” said Johnson City manager Joe Kruzel.
Kingsport opened the game by getting three early hits and loading the bases. The K-Mets managed just one run — on an RBI single by Jeckyl De Leon — after Pedro Perez hit into an inning-ending double play.
Johnson City came back with two runs in the second and one in the eighth, courtesy of a solo home run by Justin Ringo.
Ringo also homered Friday, a three-run homer, in Johnson City’s 11-3 win.
Trailing 3-1 in the bottom of the eighth on Saturday, RBI doubles by Joe Tuschak and Michael Bernal pulled the K-Mets even and looking for the ninth-inning comeback that never appeared.
“Kingsport is a well-coached team that competes,” Kruzel said. “They pitch really well and for us to come in here and win two is something we really needed.”
Kingsport starter Robert Whalen picked up a no-decision, going seven innings. He recorded six strikeouts and allowed two runs on five hits.
Whalen stands atop or near the top in several Appalachian League pitching categories. He is in second place league with 53 Ks on the season. Edwin Diaz of Burlington leads the league with 57.
Tuschak, who went 3-for-4 with an RBI, doesn’t see the K-Mets’ two-game losing streak as pulling the team down.
“It’s hard to sustain the way we’ve been winning. We won seven in a row and that is an accomplishment in itself,” he said. “We didn’t get that clutch hit tonight, but we will come back tomorrow against Greenville and look for the win.”
Yeixon Ruiz also had three hits for the Mets. Rowan Wick led Johnson City by going 2-for-3 with a walk.
West Division leader Greeneville dropped a 4-3 decision to Bristol on Saturday evening, leaving the Mets two games back.
Today’s game with the Astros will be followed with an off day Monday. The Mets return home Tuesday for a three-game series with Pulaski.
Johnson City hosts Elizabethton tonight at 6 p.m.