Cards sweep Royals to claim Appy League crown

Dave Ongie • Sep 7, 2016 at 10:37 PM

If there is such a thing as a knockout blow in baseball, Bryce Denton landed it in the bottom of the seventh inning at TVA Credit Union Ballpark on Wednesday night.

Denton launched a three-run homer deep into the night, capping a five-run frame that broke open a 4-4 tie. The Cardinals went on to beat the Royals 11-6 to sweep the best-of-three Appalachian League Championship Series and secure the franchise’s fourth league title in the last seven seasons.

“His whole at-bat, I was thinking, ‘Man, if we can just get this one runner standing on third in, it would be really good for our team right here,’ ” Johnson City manager Chris Swauger said. “And then he hammers one into the post office. It’s just a testament to the way our team has played all year. They get down a couple in the first inning, and it’s just not a big deal.”

The Cards erased that early 2-0 deficit by plating three runs in the bottom of the second inning. Denton connected on a two-run double to knot the game at 2 before DeAndre Asbury-Heath brought him home with a sac fly to center field.

An RBI single by Joshua Lopez in the bottom of the third pushed Johnson City’s advantage to 4-2 before Burlington’s Jonathan McCray hit a solo homer in the top of the fourth to pull the Royals within one run. They finally tied the game with a sac fly by Kort Peterson in the top of the seventh.

But Johnson City didn’t waste any time getting back on top. J.R. Davis laced an RBI double down the right-field line to put the Cards ahead 5-4. After Davis scored on a sac fly by Allen Cordoba, Denton capped off the five-run frame with a long homer to left field off of Burlington reliever Ofreidy Gomez.

“I faced that guy earlier in the year,” said Denton, who went 2-for-4 with five RBIs. “He’s a great pitcher, really locates well. I was able to get a good count and I was looking for a fastball on the inner half. I was able to get the pitch I was looking for and put a really good swing on it.”

Johnson City reliever Yeison Medina did a spectacular job after starter David Oca had to leave the game in the top of the fourth. Medina (1-1) came on and held Burlington to one run on one hit in four innings of work before giving way to Keaton Siomkin.

Davis, Fiedler and Knizner each had three hits and an RBI for the Cardinals, who pounded out 13 hits on the night. McCray had a pair of homers, Gabriel Cancel rapped a pair of hits and Peterson drove in a pair of runs for Burlington.

For Swauger, who won a title in his second season as a manager, Wednesday’s win was a sweet final chapter for the 2016 Cardinals.

“To see these guys grow, seeing the fruit of all their work is intrinsically valuable to me,” Swauger said. “These guys showed up every day and never complained about the long days and all the work we did. So to be standing here with a trophy, it’s the ultimate celebration. I’m just proud of them as a whole group.”

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