PRINCETON — The Princeton Rays have had an up and down season so far after facing three Appalachian League East opponents at the start of the season.
After losing their first two games at Danville, the Rays picked up the win on Thursday giving the Princeton Rays their first win of the 2019 season, 3-2 over the Braves.
Matthew Peguero worked himself out of trouble in his first four innings on the mound as he gave up only one run but could not get an out in the fifth before departing with one run in and the bases loaded. The Rays ended the fifth only down 2-0 as Angel Felipe struck out one and induced a double play. Felipe threw three hitless innings in relief with four strikeouts and was the winning pitcher.
Diego Infante drove in the first run of the night for the Rays with a double in the second that scored Yunior Martinez who had singled earlier in the inning. Martinez doubled in the eight before moving to third on a wild pitch and scoring on a sacrifice fly by Brett Wisely. The P-Rays took the lead when Infante walked and scored on a Logan Allen single and error.
Jelfry Marte, Infante and Martinez each had two hits in the Rays first win of the season.
Jayden Murray got the two inning save in his pro debut with two strikeouts and only one hit allowed. In the five innings pitched by Felipe and Murray they combined to give up only one hit while striking out six and walking two.
The Rays had their home opener Friday and it could not have gone better with a convincing 8-3 win over the Burlington Royals at Hunnicutt Field.
The P-Rays pitching only allowed two hits in the game and the hitters came through in clutch situations for the Rays second win in a row.
There was no time wasted by the Rays getting on the scoreboard with a one out walk in the first from Angelo Armenta followed by a double from Luis León. Armenta scored on a bloop single from Infante who was thrown out trying to extend the hit into a double.
Hitting Aldenis Sanchez with the second pitch of the second inning led to a quick run for the Rays as he stole second, moved to third on a balk and scored on a groundout by Wisely.
Jose Lopez was solid in his debut for Princeton with five scoreless innings of one-hit ball and five strikeouts. All five of the strikeouts were looking for Lopez.
“I thought he was outstanding. He walked the first hitter of the game and then after that really settled down,” Princeton manager Danny Sheaffer said.
In all but one inning the P-Rays had runners on base due to the wild Royals (3-1) pitching that walked eleven batters and hit three others including one with the bases loaded.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who can do a lot of things, we’ve got a lot of versatility and speed,” Sheaffer said.
Two runs were scored in the seventh by Princeton without a hit due to two walks, two hit batters and one error.
The bases were loaded with no outs in the fourth for the Rays and only two runs scored as the Royals brought in a new pitcher. A fielder’s choice scored the first one and a second run came in on an infield single by Armenta.
Infante reached base in all four of his bats with an RBI single, two walks and a hit by pitch. Wisely reached base three times.
The Rays were aggressive on the bases throughout the game, taking extra bases when available. Those tactics worked splendidly when Mason Mallard singled and advanced to second when the throw went to third in an attempt to catch the lead runner.
Marte was thrown out overrunning second on an infield hit in the fourth and Armenta was picked off in the eighth.
“I much rather see aggressive base running than base to base and non-aggressive running,” Sheaffer said.
Two Royals were erased on the bases with the catcher León throwing one out stealing and the second called out due to batter’s interference when attempting to steal second base.
Bryan Herrera threw 1 2/3 innings of hitless relief but got himself in bases loaded jam in the seventh with two out. Francisco Sanchez escaped the inning with a pop out but gave up three runs in the eighth due to two walks and a double.
Ryan Allain threw a scoreless ninth for the Rays in his professional debut.
Having just entered in the top of the eighth as a defensive replacement, for Infante, Martinez added insurance runs with a two-run homer to left, his second of the season and most on the team.
Unfortunately, the Rays’ early Appalachian League winning streak came to a sudden halt at three games on Sunday when the visiting Burlington Royals engineered a 10-2 victory Hunnicutt Field.
The Royals (4-2) didn’t overwhelm Princeton at the plate but managed to push across 10 runs with eight hits as opposed to the two runs the P-Rays parlayed out of the same number of hits. Princeton committed three errors to Burlington’s one, however, and threw some wild pitches in inauspicious situations.
Royals outfielder Kevon Jackson went 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored. Maikel Garcia went 2-for-3 with three runs scored and Jake Means went 2-for-4 for Burlington, including a solo home run in the fourth inning.
Burllington starter Devlin Capellan (2-0) picked up the victory for the visitors in five innings work, striking out six and walking one while allowing two earned runs off three hits. Adan Frias collected his first save of the Appy season, striking out five and walking one over four frames.
Aldor Rodriguez (0-2) picked up his second loss of the season so far, allowing three runs off four hits over the opening 3 2/3 innings. He struck out two and walked one, giving up the solo blast to Means.
Armenta and Infante each had a pair of hits, with a double apiece for the Princeton Rays (3-3). Armenta drove in both of Princeton’s runs in the fifth inning. Designated hitter Dawson Dimon also had a double.
After a day off Monday the losing streak continued into Tuesday, as the Rays could not get their hitters going in a 6-1 loss to the Pulaski Yankees at home for the first of a three game series.
The Rays had just three hits for the game and two walks while the Yankees (4-2) had 12 hits along with six walks.
After a solid first outing of the season by Taj Bradley (0-1) he struggled against Pulaski giving up four runs on six hits in 3 2/3 innings of work. He struck out four while walking two.
Saul Torres led the Yankees with three hits while Ryder Green and Roberto Chirinos each added two hits of their own.
León had two of the three hits for the Rays. He drove in Marte for the teams only run with a groundout after Marte and Wisely reached on fielding errors by the Yankees. Gionti Turner had the other hit for the Rays who only struck out four times in the game.
Felipe allowed two runs in his 2 1/3 innings of relief on four hits and two walks while striking out three hitters. Francisco Sanchez threw two innings of scoreless relief with four strikeouts and Murray threw a scoreless ninth with two strikeouts.
The Rays are one of the teams that constantly steal but their lone attempt Tuesday was unsuccessful while the Yankees who came into the game with only two steals stole four bases and were caught stealing once.
Princeton had their best hitting performance of the season Wednesday with 15 hits in a 7-2 win over Pulaski.
The Rays scored six runs in the first four innings with eight of the nine starters contributing a hit. León and Martinez each had three hits for the Rays.
“Today was really the first offensive breakout we’ve had, and it was against a pretty good left-handed pitcher,” Sheaffer said.
Martinez hit two triples and a double while León drove in two runs and had a double. Marte and Gionti Turner each had a pair of singles.
Peguero improved in his second start of the season going five innings allowing two runs and no walks while striking out five.
The roster for the Rays right now is slim at only 27 players and everyone is going to be having opportunities to play in the next week. Taking advantage of the opportunities could lead to someone staking a spot in the starting lineup for the foreseeable future.
“We’re real thin on players right now so guys that are playing are the guys we’re going to go with, we don’t really have a bench right now,” Sheaffer said.
As of Thursday, the Rays are fourth in the Appy League East standings with a 4-4 record, and one game behind the leaders the Pulaski Yankees and the Danville Rays. After the three games series against the Yankees, the Rays travel to Bristol to face the Pirates Friday. Games start at 6:30 p.m.