The battle for the Mercer Cup was decided over the course of a four game series in Princeton between the Princeton Rays and the Bluefield Jays. It was the Jays who were able to come from behind in the series by winning the final three games to claim the Mercer Cup on Saturday night. Game one of the series took place on Wednesday night. It was Bluefield who jumped out to the lead in the top of the third inning. Richard Urena singled with one out and then advanced to second off a Lane Thomas single. Urena and Thomas was both able to score off of Rowdy Tellez triple to give the Jays the 2-0 lead. Bluefield's time with the lead would be short as the Rays answered right back in the bottom of the third inning. Angel Moreno led off the inning by reaching on a fielding error and then advanced to second base as Thomas Milone drew a walk. The bases were loaded off of a Hector Montes single into left field. Nick Ciuffo tripled into right field allowing Moreno, Milone, and Montes to all score to give the Rays the 3-2 lead.
The Rays would add to their lead in the bottom of the fourth inning. Carter Burgess singled to lead off the inning and then advanced to second on an Angel Moreno ground out. Burgess then scored as Riley Unroe doubled into right field to take the 4-2 lead.
Princeton would add two more runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Nick Ciuffo walked with one out and then Nick Wilson hit a two-run homerun, which was his 10th homerun of the season, to give the Rays the 6-2 lead.
In the bottom of the sixth inning the Rays scored yet again. Riley Unroe walked with two outs and then stole second base. Unroe would then score as Thomas Milone doubled into right field to take the 7-2 lead.
Bluefield would not score again in the contest until the top of the ninth inning. Sean Hurley hit a solo homerun over the left field wall. But that would be the only run of the inning and the Rays would take the 7-3 victory. With the win the Rays just need one win over the next three games to win the Mercer Cup.
The second game of the series took place on Thursday night. The game was scoreless until the bottom of the fifth inning when the Jays would take the lead. Rolando Segovia walked with two outs in the inning and then scored as Kevin Garcia hit a two-run homerun over the right field wall to give the Jays the 2-0 lead.
Princeton would answer back in the bottom of the sixth inning. Riley Unroe walked with one out and then advanced all the way to third on a throwing error by Bluefield's Oscar Cabrera on a pickoff attempt. Jose Paez then drew a walk. Unroe scored and Paez advanced to second as Angel Moreno singled. The bases would become loaded on a Hector Montes single. Paez then was able to score as Patrick Grady walked to tie the game 2-2.
Bluefield would quickly regain the lead as they scored in the top of the seventh inning. Lane Thomas led off the inning with a single and then advanced to second as Gabriel Cenas drew a walk. Thomas advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Sean Hurley and then scored as Rolando Segovia reached base on a fielder's choice to regain the lead at 3-2.
The Jays would add two more runs in the top of the eighth and two in the top of the ninth and the Rays would go scoreless the rest of the way as Bluefield would take the 7-2 victory. Princeton still led the battle for the Mercer Cup 5-4 with two games left.
Game three of the series took place on Friday night and it was Bluefield taking the early lead in the top of the first inning. Richard Urena led off the inning with a single and then advanced to second as Austin Davis grounded out. Urena advanced to third as Josh Almonte grounded out and then scored on a wild pitch to give the Jays the 1-0 lead.
Princeton would answer back in the bottom of the third. Manny Sanchez doubled with one out. Angel Moreno then singled into left field allowing Sanchez to score to tie the game at 1-1.
Bluefield would break the tie in the top of the sixth inning. Kevin Garcia led off with a single into center field and then advanced to second and then third on two straight wild pitches. Richard Urena drew a walk. Austin Davis singled scoring Garcia and advancing Urena two second. Josh Almonte then singled to load the bases. Rowdy Tellez grounded into a double play but Urena scored and Davis advanced to third on the play. Davis would then score off of a Lane Thomas single to give the Jays the 4-1 lead.
The Rays were unable to answer the rest of the way and the Jays went on to take the 4-1 victory. The win for the Jays set up a winner take all game on Saturday night in the battle for the Mercer Cup.
The Mercer Cup was hanging in the balance on Saturday night as game four in the series took place with the Mercer Cup up for grabs. It was Princeton this time jumping out to the lead in the first inning.
Riley Unroe led off the bottom of the first inning with a single and then advanced to second on Thomas Milone's single. Angel Moreno singled to load the bases. Unroe would score as Hector Montes hit into a double play to give the Rays the 1-0 lead.
The Rays would add to the lead in the bottom of the fourth inning. Blake Grant-Parks singled with one out in the inning. Nick Ciuffo then hit a two-run homerun over the right field wall to give the Rays the 3-0 lead.
The lead would hold all the way to the top of the eighth inning when Bluefield would look to rally back. Kevin Garcia led off with a single and then advanced to second on a Richard Urena single. Both runners advanced base on a passed ball by Princeton's Nick Ciuffo. Austin Davis singled to score Garcia and advance Urena to third. Josh Almonte reaches base on a throwing error scoring Urena and advancing Davis to second. Rowdy Tellez then stepped up and hit a three-run homerun over the left field wall to give the Jays the 5-3 lead.
Princeton was unable to answer back and Bluefield would take the 5-3 victory and win the Mercer Cup yet again. With the Mercer Cup behind them now the Rays can now focus on making the playoffs for the first time since 1998. The Rays are currently second in the Appalachian League East Division standings trailing Danville by two and a half games.
The Rays traveled to Elizabethton for a three game series that started Sunday, with a loss and will continue Monday, and Tuesday nights before returning home to host Greeneville in a three game series on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
• Game One
Bluefield (24-29)……….0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 - 3 7 1
Princeton (30-21)………0 0 3 1 2 1 0 0 X - 7 6 1
W: Ramirez (6-1, 1.45)
L: Tinoco (1-7, 5.89)
SV: Paredes, R (4)
HR: BLU: Hurley (2). PRN: Wilson (10)
• Game Two
Bluefield (25-29)………..0 0 0 0 2 0 1 2 2 - 7 12 1
Princeton (30-22)……….0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 - 2 5 1
W: Cabrera, O (3-1, 2.27)
L: Dahlson (2-1, 1.98)
SV: Isaacs (7)
HR: BLU: Garcia (1)
• Game Three
Bluefield (26-29)……….1 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 - 4 8 0
Princeton (30-23)………0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 - 1 6 0
W: Aquino (2-2, 2.54)
L: Formo (2-1, 4.58)
SV: Wellbrock (2)
• Game Four
Bluefield (27-29)……….0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 0 - 5 7 1
Princeton (30-24)………1 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 - 3 13 1
W: Fisk (3-1, 3.14)
L: Michelson (0-1, 2.45)
SV: Isaacs (8)
HR: BLU: Tellez (4) PRN: Ciuffo (3)