Former East Tennessee State pitcher Bo Reeder made an effective return to Cardinal Park, but he couldn’t save the day against the red-hot Johnson City Cardinals.
Leadoff batter Matt Williams doubled, homered, drove in two runs and stole two bases to help the Cardinals improve to 9-1 with a 6-3 win against Pulaski on Thursday at Cardinal Park.
Neil Pritchard was 3-for-3 with three RBIs, including a two-run single that gave Johnson City a 5-3 lead with no outs in the bottom of the seventh. Pritchard’s first RBI, which came after Williams hit a one-out double in the third and stole third base on the ensuing pitch, gave Johnson City a 1-0 lead.
“They’ve got some real baseball IQs,” Johnson City manager Mike Shildt said. “We value that highly in the organization. (Williams) hits a big home run, hits a double and steals third and brings the infield in, and Pritchard’s able to deliver a nice two-strike RBI.”
Williams did strike out to end the eighth thanks to some sinking fastballs from Reeder, who set an Atlantic Sun Conference record for saves (18) this season. Reeder took the mound for the bottom of the eighth with the Mariners (7-3) trailing 6-3, but got a rousing ovation from some 20-25 friends and family members.
ETSU coach Tony Skole and his wife and two sons were also in attendance.
“They were loud up there,” said Reeder, who struck out two in his lone inning. “I was happy for them to be here. There was a lot of love for me up there in the stands, so it was just good to be back at home and have a good cheering section, also.”
After getting the first batter he faced, Roberto De La Cruz, to ground out, Reeder did hit Jesus Montero with a first-pitch fastball. The adrenaline was pumping.
“Oh yeah, I had a little bit going,” Reeder said.
Both of Reeder’s strikeouts came on swings at fastballs. Reeder gets some good sink and his fastball also appears to run in on right-handers.
“There’s been a couple of broken bats this season off the handles,” Reeder said. “I assume that’s what it’s doing.”
Mariners manager Rob Mummau has been impressed during his limited exposure to Reeder.
“From what we’ve seen ... he really pounds the bottom of the strike zone with his fastball,” Mummau said. “He’s very aggressive and he’s got a good idea of what he’s doing out there on the mound. Overall, you know, (he is) a polished pitcher at this level.”
Reeder said the most difficult thing is no longer playing every day. Reeder also played third base at ETSU.
“I think now that he’s just pitching his career could take off,” Mummau said. “Now that he’s spending 100 percent of his time on pitching you might see a little more velocity and a little sharper breaking ball.”
Johnson City starting pitcher Eduardo Hiraldo allowed thre runs on four hits and three walks while striking out six in six innings. Hiraldo’s runs came on home runs — a one-out, two-run home run by Jean Acevedo in the fifth inning and a two-out solo shot from Jordy Lara in the sixth.
“He had a couple of home runs that got him, but other than that he really pitched well,” Shildt said.
Sidearm right-hander Heath Wyatt (2-0) pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings for the victory. Tyler Mills worked a scoreless ninth for his second save.
Game two of the three-game series is tonight at 7.