Light was more frightening than darkness for the Johnson City Cardinals on Thursday.
Four Cardinals pitchers combined to walk eight batters and Johnson City stranded 10 base-runners in an 11-7 loss to the Bristol White Sox that took in excess of four hours thanks to two delays for lighting issues.
The first delay, which lasted 30 minutes, came when three outfield towers’ lights went out after Johnson City (23-13) had scored two runs with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning to cut Bristol’s lead to 7-6.
The game was played perhaps 20 minutes without lights on the left-center field tower.
They eventually came back on, but all of the lights went out with one out in the top of the ninth. Following a 23-minute delay, the White Sox (17-19) scored four runs to essentially seal the victory. Sean O’Connell’s two-out three-run double concluded Bristol’s scoring.
The teams took the delays in stride.
“You’ve got to remember where we’re at,” said Bristol manager Pete Rose Jr. “We’re not playing in billion-dollar stadiums and stuff like that. You’ve just got to keep playing. That was just kind of part of it.
“It’s not their fault; it’s not our fault. It just happens. You’ve just got to make way with the situation and get back to business.”
Another round of darkness probably would’ve forced the remainder of the game to be resumed today before game two of the three-game series.
“We weren’t going to sit here all night,” Johnson City manager Mike Shildt said, “but we all felt if we could get it in within a reasonable time we should try instead of showing up tomorrow and trying to play an inning or two, then having to wait and play a nine-inning game. It just wouldn’t have made a lot of sense to do that. So we stuck it out.”
Of course, concerns of a recurring problem tonight did come to light in both clubhouses.
The strike zone had the Cardinals pitchers in the dark Thursday. Left-handed starter Benjamin Freeman (2-2) walked three batters in 4 1/3 innings en route to the loss. He walked Michael Johnson and Cory Farris to help load the bases and set the stage for Ross Wilson’s 395-foot three-run double during the White Sox’s five-run third.
Freeman allowed six hits and seven runs, and was lifted in the fifth after a one-out walk put runners at first and second.
Left-hander Nicholas Gillung replaced Freeman, and after allowing a bloop single to Grant Buckner that loaded the bases, he forced in a run by walking Mike Marjama on four pitches.
“We just weren’t very sharp on the mound,” Shildt said. “We walked too many guys, and to Bristol’s credit, they put some good swings on it and made us pay for it.”
Wilson, a 10th-round draft pick from the University of Alabama in 2010, played in 57 games for the South Atlantic League’s Kannapolis Intimidators this season. He also doubled in the ninth, walked and scored three runs.
“He’s been swinging the bat well since he’s been here,” Rose Jr. said. “He’s right in the heart of the order. He’s down here rehabbing a shoulder. To have him on our club is nothing but a plus for me, and he helps some of the young guys tremendously.”
Buckner was 4-for-5 with a double and an RBI. Kyle Robinson led off the top of the third with a home run to the right of the Dr. Enuf sign in left-center field.
Johnson City out-hit Bristol 14-12. Catcher Kolby Byrd and first baseman David Washington were each 3-for-5, and second baseman Tyler Rahmatulla doubled, tripled, scored twice and drove in a run.
Rahmatulla tripled with two outs in the sixth to score Ronald Castillo, who had also tripled, and Rahmatulla scored on Byrd’s flare single over shortstop Brad Salgado. Washington also had a triple.
Johnson City designated hitter Roberto De La Cruz was 2-for-5 with a home run and two RBIs.
“The ball comes off his bat well,” Shildt said. “Now, he’s getting more disciplined and getting better pitches to hit, and that’s allowing his power into play a little bit more.”
De La Cruz’s home run, a no-doubter to left field, came on the first pitch he saw from right-handed reliever Bryan Blough in the ninth. Blough struck out 14 in a complete-game victory when Kennesaw State beat East Tennessee State at Cardinal Park on April 22.
Notes: This was the teams’ first meeting this season, but, thanks to Rita’s Italian Ice, it wasn’t Rose’s first trip to Johnson City.
“I come here all the time,” Rose Jr. said. “This is my first time at the ballpark, but I go to Rita’s just about every day. I searched on my phone and – the Swedish fish mango gelati, there you go.”
Rose’s children, 6-year-old son P.J. and Isabella Marie, 4, also think Johnson City is a cool place. P.J. (Pete Rose, III) was in the bullpen urging anyone to toss him a foul ball in the bottom of the ninth.
“Get your pap to get you one,” Cardinal Park fixture Maynard Crowe said with a smile. … Leadoff batter Steven Ramos doubled, stole third base and walked twice after entering the game with one walk on the season. He's stolen 17 bases without a caught stealing. … Cardinals’ third baseman Neil Pritchard hit a two-run home run in the fourth, his third of the season. … Bristol right-handed reliever Jason Van Skike struck out the side while pitching a scoreless eighth. … Billy Joe Bowman was in attendance. Bowman pitched on Science Hill’s 1947 state championship team, and won two games and homered for Tennessee in the 1951 College World Series. … Johnson City remained three games in front of Elizabethton atop the Appalachian League’s West Division. The Twins lost 8-1 at home against Danville. … Some 85 of the 720 in attendance remained through the two delays. Tonight’s game is at 7.