BRISTOL -- Life in the Appalachian League affords fans the opportunity to see raw talent mixed with inexperience.
So sometimes crazy things occur.
From the files of “It happened in the Appy League,” Johnson City had two runners on the ground touching second base before winding up with both safe, and advancing, by the end of the play. It was a tie game at the time, but by the end of the inning the Cardinals led by seven runs.
Final score Wednesday from DeVault Stadium: Johnson City 9, Bristol 4.
The Cardinals improved to 4-3 on the season and remained in a four-way tie for first place in the West Division. Johnson City will play at Bristol (2-5) again tonight at 7 o'clock.
Here's the scoop on the play that changed everything. With two runners on and nobody out, Bristol pitcher Cesilio Pimentel caught Oscar Mercado too far off of second base. The Pirates ran Mercado back to second, and he got there as Blake Drake slid into the bag.
Unfortunately for Bristol, Trae Arbet dropped the throw and Drake started to race back to first. The throw there was dropped by the first baseman -- but no error was charged -- and the runners wound up at second and third.
"Those are two fast guys, and in a rundown if you don't execute it right, they're going to give you trouble," said Cardinals manager Johnny Rodriguez. "It wasn't that it was a fluke, although I've never seen it happen that way."
Then the floodgates opened. Mercado scored on a wild pitch to make it 3-2. One out later, Casey Turgeon laid down a squeeze-bunt single to score Drake. Jesus Ustariz followed with an RBI single to make it 5-2.
Up next, Jose Godoy ripped a two-run single to make it 7-2. A passed ball plated the eighth run, and Mercado's RBI groundout closed out the scoring.
"It was clutch hitting," said Rodriguez. "These kids are fighters. They gave up a couple of runs on non-plays, but they didn't get down on themselves. Even when there are errors, they've got each other's backs."
Bristol scored two in the bottom of the eighth, but its rally eventually fizzled.
After a couple of slow starts, the Cards were the aggressors this time around. Turgeon was the man with the plan, authoring a short-porch-friendly shot over the right field fence in top of the second inning.
"It's 310 (feet) out there, and I got under it," said Turgeon. "The ball carried well."
Drake started a rally in the fourth inning, getting his back into it. After getting hit by a pitch, Drake said here's mud in your eye with a steal of second base.
After a groundout moved him to third base, Drake finished his hitless tour of the bases by speeding home on a wild pitch and diving to beat the tag of the pitcher.
Previously a bit lifeless, the Pirates sprung to action in the bottom of the sixth inning like they were shot out of a cannon from the side of a Galleon. An error got the inning started, and eventually Arbet scored on Daniel Arribas' sacrifice fly.
Nick Butler followed with a triple, and scored on a throwing error by Cards' shortstop Oscar Mercado to tie the game at 2-2.
Drake, Turgeon and Ustariz each had two hits for the Cardinals. Turgeon said the win was important because of the two-game losing streak.
"This early in the season, you've got to put the losses behind you," he said.
Anderson Gerdel (1-0) got the win with a scoreless inning of relief for the Cardinals. Starter Landon Beck went four strong innings without allowing a run. He gave up one hit with four walks and five strikeouts. In two starts, he hasn't allowed a run in seven innings.
Eduardo Figueroa and Nick Buckner each had two hits for Bristol.