The Cardinals overcame early defensive miscues and rallied to beat the Burlington Royals 8-6 Wednesday night at Burlington Athletic Stadium to win the Appy League finals two games to one.
It was the Cardinals’ sixth win in an elimination game in the last nine days and it gave Johnson City its 13th Appy League championship, its fifth since 2010.
“These guys, we are teaching about always fighting and never giving up and that’s what these guys were doing,” Cardinals manager Roberto Espinoza said. “It feels really good for them, for the same reason that they are competing from Game 1, through the whole game and the whole season. And that’s what these guys did.”
William Jimenez, who wasn’t even in the starting lineup, provided the game-winning hit with a two-run double in the seventh inning.
Dylan Pearce pitched two hitless innings to close the deal and earn his first postseason save.
“I’m out of words right now,” Pearce said. “We have a great team and we battled. We had a lot of heart today. I’m really proud of our guys.”
HOW THEY WON
Malcolm Nunez’s RBI single through a drawn-in infield in the seventh inning tied it 5-5. Nunez finished 2 for 5 with three RBIs.
Jimenez, who entered the game two innings earlier as a pinch hitter, followed with a two-run double into the right field corner to put Johnson City up 7-5. Aaron Antonini then singled off the first baseman’s glove to stretch the advantage to 8-5.
Burlington’s Jack Gethings hit a solo home run to right field in the seventh to make it 8-6.
For a team playing for the championship, the Cards completely forgot how to catch and throw the ball in the early going. They committed four infield errors in the first three innings — five overall — allowing Burlington to erase their 3-0 advantage.
When Vinnie Pasquantino belted an RBI double off the right field wall in the third inning, it was the Royals’ second hit off of Jake Sommers. It also tied the game.
Moments later, Burlington’s Jake Means executed a squeeze bunt and Will Hancock followed with a run-scoring single and suddenly, the Royals were up 5-3.
The Cards jumped out in the first inning for the second night in a row, scoring three times before the Royals had a bat in their hands. Jhon Torres and Nunez had RBI singles and Carlos Soler drove in the third run with a groundout.
Sommers, who got virtually no help from his defense, lasted just three innings thanks to the four extra outs. Only one of the five runs he allowed was earned and he gave up three hits.
WHAT A RELIEF
Will Guay worked 3 1/3 solid innings of relief and was pulled after allowing Gethings’ home run and a single in the seventh. He was the winning pitcher.
Walker Robbins came on and picked Maikiel Garcia off of first base to set up Pearce’s heroics.
“I’m very happy for these guys,” said Espinoza, who was making his first postseason appearance in three years as Johnson City’s manager. “These guys deserve this.”