Princeton never gave up the lead after the decisive inning and hung on for a 6-5 victory Wednesday night at a rainy Hunnicutt Field.
The Cardinals (22-18) had their four-game winning streak snapped, but they remained in first place in the Appalachian League’s West Division. Kyle Skeels provided some offense for Johnson City with an RBI single and solo home run.
The Cards made it interesting in the ninth inning, loading the bases and bringing the go-ahead run to the plate with no outs. Malcom Nunez ripped a double down the third base line, scoring two runs. But their bid for a 15th come-from-behind win ended there.
Each team scored two runs in the second inning, with the Cards’ coming on Skeens’ RBI single and Kevin Vargas’ sacrifice fly, and Princeton’s coming on a two-run double from Aldenis Sanchez.
Sanchez put the Rays up 3-2 in the fourth inning with a run-scoring single. Johnson City right fielder Victor Garcia misplayed the ball for a two-base error, allowing Sanchez to move to third base.
It was the second error of the game for Garcia, who had earlier made a bad throw. The Cardinals committed four errors.
Angelo Armenta followed with an RBI double and Jelfry Marte drove in a run with a single for a 5-2 Princeton advantage.
Skeels’ home run, his second of the season, made it 5-3 in the sixth inning. The Rays’ Nick Schnell got that run back with a run-scoring single in the bottom of the inning.
Johnson City reliever Will Guay worked two scoreless innings in a homecoming of sorts. Guay played at nearby Concord University, where he pitched seven complete games this spring.
The two teams meet again Thursday night in Princeton before the Cards return home to TVA Credit Union Ballpark to begin a seven-game homestand with a game against the Bluefield Blue Jays on Friday night. The first 750 fans receive a Steve Spurrier bobblehead and the former Heisman Trophy winner, who grew up in Johnson City, will be on hand to throw out the first pitch.