PRINCETON — Although the Rays saw a bit of an uptick against Mercer Cup rivals the Bluefield Blue Jays during the week, this week’s games were heartbreakers for the Princeton Rays, losing on the road to Kingsport and the Jays leaving them 12-5 in the Appy League East as of Wednesday.
After a devastating 1-10 loss last Wednesday to the Kingsport Mets, The Princeton Rays came back from a five-run deficit Thursday night only to give up two runs in the eighth to lose 8-6 at Hunter Wright Stadium.
The Rays scored five runs in the fourth inning with five hits and two fielding errors by the Mets. Kevin Melendez and Jhosner Vargas had two straight singles before both scoring on two fielding errors in a row. Gionti Turner who reached on an error was able to score from third as Yunior Martinez was caught stealing second. Angelo Armenta doubled and came around to score on a Diego Infante single before Luis Leon tied the game with an RBI single.
Trevor Bridgen allowed two solo home runs in his professional debut of one inning and Jayden Murray followed with one inning giving up one run. Aldor Rodriguez replaced Murray in the third inning and threw four innings allowing two runs while striking out five.
The P-Rays broke the tie in the sixth with a single by Nick Schnell scoring Armenta who had reached on a fielding error. The Mets promptly tied the game in the bottom half of the inning on a passed ball and took the lead in the eighth on a two-run triple.
For game three against the Mets, the P-Rays rallied in the 9th inning , but fell short losing 9-8 Friday.
Down 9-3 after seven innings the Rays almost tied the game up in the ninth with runners on the corner and two outs after scoring three runs in the inning.
Luis Leon cut the deficit to two runs with a double that scored Nick Schnell and Diego Infante with no outs. A groundout by Jhosner Vargas scored Leon and moved Gionti Turner to second before he stole third with two outs.
The Rays starter Taj Bradley (0-3) was cruising along on the mound threw four scoreless innings but only recorded two outs in the fifth allowing five runs, one earned and striking out six. The Mets loaded the bases with one out and two fielding errors in a span of three hitters scored four runs. Carter Bach replaced Bradley and allowed two RBI singles.
A two-run homer in the fourth by Turner opened the scoring for Rays and Leon extended his hitting streak to 14 games with three hits.
The Rays scored one run in the seventh with Angelo Armenta scoring from second on a wild pitch strike three and subsequent throwing error. Leon scored on a single by Vargas in the eighth and a fielding error scored Turner who had singled.
Princeton Rays returned to Mercer County to face the Bluefield Jays at Bowen Field for a three game series; and it looked like they were at home beating Bluefield 14-4 in the first game.
The Rays scored double-digit runs for only the third time this season Saturday night, hitting 20, including one inning with seven hits, two with four hits and two with three hits to ring up the run totals. Every inning the Rays had a hit they scored at least one run.
“We clicked from top to bottom today. Everybody got at least one hit,” Princeton manager Danny Sheaffer said.
The Rays’ Luis Leon extended his hitting streak to 15 games with three hits and three RBIs off Blue Jay pitching. He came into the game Saturday night with six RBIs for the season and increased that to nine after five at-bats.
A prime example of the Rays stringing together hits came in the fourth inning when they scored five runs with only one extra base hit. They had six hits to start the inning and used their aggressive base running to take the extra base throughout the inning.
A double to lead off the inning from Diego Infante was followed by singles from Leon, Jhosner Vargas, Gionti Turner, Aldenis Sanchez and Yunior Martinez. Jelfry Marte wrapped up the fiverun inning with an RBI single to score Martinez.
“That doesn’t happen too often so that’s kind of dope to see that happen and it’s just wonderful,” Turner said.
All nine hitters for the Rays had at least one hit and eight of them had multiple hits. All but one drove in a run on a night where the Rays only struck out three times.
The Rays went ahead in the top of the first with four singles and Nick Schnell scoring on an infield hit by Luis Leon. They kept on being aggressive and it paid off in the seventh with two runs. Brett Wisely singled and scored from second on a single to center by Infante.
Leon followed with a double down the right field line and Infante flew around third to score his second run of the game.
The speed of the Rays was on display in the eight when Turner scored on a shallow single to center forcing a bobble and bad throw. Sanchez was able to speed all the way to third after his hit and could have scored with no one at home for a moment.
Brayden Theriot threw 2 1/3 inning of strong relief behind Lopez only allowing one hit and striking out three Blue Jays. Ryan Allain allowed two runs throwing the final two innings.
The hits kept coming on Sunday when the Rays picked up another in the win column beaing the Jays in game two, 9-4.
Princeton again got production from throughout its batting lineup, with 14 hits after breaking up a scoreless deadlock in the third with a double by Nick Schnell bringing two men across the plate.
With two outs and tow men on, Nick Schnell hit a double to right off Bluefield starter Roither Hernandez, bringing both of his Rays teammates home. Schnell also tripled and scored in the seventh inning. Brett Wisely and Gionti Turner added doubles for Princeton, and Diego Infante smacked a high home run to left center in the ninth, generating his 13th RBI of the season.
Luis Leon, owner of the top batting average in the league, went 1 for 4. His average settled in at .375.
Unfortunately, with a rain delay on Monday after a gully-washer hit Bluefield unexpectedly, the momentum was lost and the Rays dropped the next two, 3-2 and 11-4, to the Jays on Tuesday night.
The Mercer Cup is tied at three apiece with five games remaining to play.
Jol Concepcion gave the pitching performance that the Blue Jays needed in game one allowing two runs over six innings. He scattered six hits while striking out two on 75 pitches.
“He was attacking the hitters the whole time and that was key to the success he had on the mound,” Bluefield manager Luis Hurtado said.
Concepcion did a good job keeping the league leaders in batting average off balance with his hard fastball and big curveball. The Rays struggled to make solid contact and hit 13 fly balls that resulted in outs.
To close out the game Meliton Reyes threw a scoreless seventh with two strikeouts for his first save of the season.
Diego Infante scored both of the runs for the Rays scoring on a single by Gionti Turner in the second and hitting a opposite field solo shot in the sixth inning. Infante and Turner both had two hits for the Rays.
Second Game Ten runs over the fourth and fifth innings gave the Jays a sweep of the double header as they won 11-4 in the nightcap.
Rays starter Cristian Fernandez had cruised through three innings allowing only two hits but ran into a jam in the fourth. Singles by Leonardo Jimenez, Joseph Reyes and Schneider loaded the bases for Andres Guerra. He had only one hit in his last five game but made this at-bat count with a towering fly ball that went over the fence for a grand slam.
The Jays did not stop once they had a grand slam. They took advantage of mistakes throughout the rest of the game scoring on wild pitches and two-run doubles
Princeton has 11 of its 14 games remaining in July at home with Kingsport coming to Hunnicutt Stadium for a three game series that started Wednesday. They will then face the Greenville Reds over the weekend before hitting the road against Elizabethton next Tuesday.