Johnson City hands Kingsport first loss of season

Jeff Birchfield • Jun 24, 2018 at 10:29 PM

The Johnson City Cardinals applied the lessons from Sunday’s batting practice to hand the Kingsport Mets their first loss of the Appalachian League baseball season.

Brian Sanchez had five RBIs, including a go-ahead three-run home run in the seventh inning, to lift the Cardinals to a 12-9 victory Sunday night at TVA Credit Union Ballpark.

Johnson City improved to 2-4 on the young season, while the Mets fell to 5-1.

“Our hitting coach Cody Gabella talked to our guys about taking a different approach at the plate,” Johnson City manager Robert Espinoza said. “The guys received the information, applied the information and this is the result you get.”

It was back and forth for most of the game.

Kingsport took a 2-0 lead in the top of the third, but Johnson City answered with one run in the bottom frame and three more in the fourth to take a 4-2 advantage.

The Mets responded with a five-run top of the fifth, including a three-run home run by Phil Capra. But the Cards tied in the bottom of the inning with three runs of their own before Kingsport scored on a sacrifice fly in the sixth for an 8-7 lead.

Sanchez had his big swing of the bat to swing the contest in the Cardinals’ favor in the seventh. Leandro Cedeno followed with a solo home run as the Cards tacked on two more runs for a 12-8 lead in the eighth.

True to the form the Mets have shown early in the season, Capra hit a sacrifice fly to score Anthony Dirocie for a run in the ninth.

For the game, the Mets outhit the Cardinals 13-8, including a 5-4 advantage in extra-base hits.

“There is no quit in this ball club,” Kingsport manager Sean Ratliff said. “We’ve been swinging the bats great since game one and it showed again tonight with 13 hits. We did a good job and stayed in this game until the very end. We just got ourselves in trouble giving up a lot of walks and we ran out of outs.”


Johnson City lead-off batter Jonatan Machado went 3-for-5 with a RBI and Zach Jackson was 2-for-5 with a pair of RBIs. Third baseman Nolan Gorman scored three runs, while Cedeno, Carlos Soto and Sanchez scored two runs apiece.

The five RBIs by Sanchez included a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning and another in the fifth.

Oneiver Diaz threw the first five innings, giving up nine hits and seven runs (all earned). Tommy Parsons (1-0) pitched the next two innings, giving up one run and was credited with the win. Kyle Leahy closed with the final two innings for his second save.


Dirocie was 3-for-3 with two RBIS and three runs scored to lead the Mets. Mark Vientos ended 3-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs, while Kenny Hernandez and Beracierta each had two hits. Capra finished with a team-best four RBIs.

Matt Cleveland started on the mound for Kingsport and gave up four runs over 3 2/3 innings. Eric Villanueva went the next 1 1/3 innings before handing over to Daison Acosta. After giving up the three-run homer, Acosta (0-1) was scored with the loss and a blown save. Andrew Ryan threw the final inning on a night when the Mets pitchers gave up 12 walks.


Looking at the overall hot start, Kingsport’s skipper was pleased with how his team has come out the first two series.

“Without question, we feel good where we’re at right now,” Ratliff said. “We’re playing good defense and we’re pitching well. Tonight was a blip on the radar. Defensively, we’ve been good and offensively, we’ve been really, really strong. We’ve played well the first two series and if we keep this up, we’ll be in a good place.”

Johnson City’s manager also came away with some positives after his team battled back to take the final game of the series.

“These guys are showing that they have a lot of character and they’re going to play hard,” Espinoza said. “They did at Bluefield (where the Cardinals’ two losses were by one run) and they showed it again tonight.”


Johnson City will head to Elizabethton for a two-game series Monday and Tuesday. They will head to Kingsport later in the week for a three-game series against the Mets at Hunter Wright Stadium.

The Mets head to Greeneville the next two nights to face the Reds before hosting Johnson City on Thursday.

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