When home plate umpire West Hyer signaled fair, the Johnson City Cardinals had the lead in the seventh inning and they held on for a 5-4 victory over the Greeneville Reds on Friday night at TVA Credit Union Ballpark.
“I knew it had enough to go,” Purcell said. “When it left the bat, I knew it was straight but it started to hook. When I got to first I couldn’t tell so I just kind of waited for the umpire.”
Purcell’s first homer came off of Greeneville’s Patrick Raby, who went 10-1 for Vanderbilt’s national championship team in the spring. They were the first runs allowed by Raby, a 17th-round pick.
“My mom and dad were here tonight and this was their first game,” Purcell said. “To be able to do that in front of them is a pretty cool moment.”
Raby, who played his high school ball at Farragut, walked Liam Sabino just before Purcell’s home run. Before that, he had handcuffed the Johnson City batters, striking out four in his first two innings. He finished with seven strikeouts in four innings and fell to 1-1.
The Cardinals used their legs to get their first two runs and a little pop for their third.
Trejyn Fletcher and Todd Lott both stole third base in the first inning and they scored the first two runs. Fletcher scored on Lott’s double just inside the third base line and Lott came home on Chandler Redmond’s sacrifice fly.
In the second, Johnson City’s Carlos Soler hit a solo home run to right-center field. The ball landed on top of the wall and bounced out.
The Reds got one back with a massive home run from Ivan Johnson, a blast that cleared the wall just right of straightaway center field.
Greeneville tied it with a sacrifice fly by Danny Lantigua in the fourth inning and an RBI groundout by Tyler Callihan in the fifth.
Raul Juarez’s solo homer in the sixth put the Reds up 4-3, their first lead of the night.
The Cardinals were better than flawless on defense. This might have been their best defensive game of the season.
Soler, playing right field, threw out Allan Cerda at the plate in the first inning with a strong throw to Purcell.
Using an all-out dive, Lott, the Cardinals first baseman, saved a run in the fourth inning. With Johnson City clinging to a 3-2 lead and the tying run on second with two outs, Johnson hit a smash down the first base line. Lott dove and made a clean grab while he was parallel to the ground. He got up and beat Johnson to the bag.
In the next inning, Fletcher robbed Greeneville’s Allan Cerda of extra bases with a leaping catch of a drive against the wall in left-center.
Sabino, the Cards second baseman, made a diving backhanded stop of a hard grounder in the eighth inning and flipped the ball right out of his glove to shortstop Ben Baird for a force out.
Cards reliever Tyler Peck (2-2) earned the win while Will Guay picked up his second save with two dominant innings. He struck out four batters and allowed a lone hit.
The two teams face off in the second game of the three-game series Saturday at 6:30. It’s Campbell’s Morrell Music’s Sound-Off Saturday and the Lauren Cole Band of Johnson City will be appearing in the concourse. Gates open at 5 p.m. and that’s when the music begins.