Unfortunately, on Friday Kingsport’s offense was virtually nonexistent in a 4-1 Appalachian League loss to the Bluefield Orioles at Hunter Wright Stadium.
“Take your hat off to those guys, they made some good pitches,” Kingsport manager Mike DiFelice said. “Sometimes you get one one night and one the other night. Hopefully we’ll get them both at the same time.”
Kingsport starter Chris Hilliard cruised through the first four frames, allowing just one hit. But Bluefield blew open a scoreless tie in the top of the fifth inning, stringing together six consecutive singles to plate four runs.
The Orioles didn’t hit Hilliard (0-1) particularly hard in the fifth, but they continually found the creases in Kingsport’s defense.
“Hilliard did a very good job of pitching,” DiFelice said. “He didn’t walk anybody and he gave up ground balls. Some nights those ground balls are right at somebody and maybe they don’t get those runs.”
Meanwhile, Kingsport had trouble putting much of anything together against Bluefield’s pitching staff.
Starter Jorge Almanzar (1-0) came through with five innings of shutout ball, striking out seven batters and surrendering just three hits on his way to the win.
Joshua Dowdy followed up with two more shutout innings before the K-Mets finally got to Thomas Phelps in the ninth inning.
Joseph Bonfe hit a one-out double to get things started and John Freeman came up with a two-out single to bring Bonfe home.
Jeff Flagg came to the plate representing the tying run and hit a laser into left field, but Kipp Schutz came up with a diving catch to seal Bluefield’s first win of the season.
Despite the lack of offense, DiFelice was proud of the way his team bounced back after blowing a nine-run lead against Johnson City on Thursday.
“Defensively we were sound and offensively we were taking hacks,” he said. “We played a sound baseball game. To me, there was no letdown.”
Zachary Rosenbaum came up huge for Kingsport after coming on to relieve Hilliard in the sixth inning.
The righty tossed four innings of shutout ball, allowing three hits, striking out four and walking nobody.
After Kingsport’s pitchers combined to walk 12 batters on Thursday, Hilliard and Rosenbaum both managed to consistently find the strike zone of former major league umpire and state representative Dale Ford as neither issued a free pass on Friday.
Omar Casamayor did most of the damage for Bluefield (1-3), going 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Edinho Meyer added two hits and scored a run for the Orioles while Schutz and Javier Santana each knocked in a run.
Even though Kingsport (1-3) is off to a shaky start, DiFelice said he isn’t ready to panic. With so many young players getting their first taste of professional baseball, he expected some growing pains.
“I’m very proud of the way we played today,” DiFelice said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys and it’s been a pretty interesting nine or 10 days for them.”
Kingsport will be back in action against Bluefield this evening at 7 p.m. Since inclement weather delayed the start of Friday’s game, the fireworks display originally slated for last night will now take place following tonight’s game.