The only trouble was, something very, very bad followed right on its heels.
After coming back to take a 7-5 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning, Kingsport’s defense and pitching melted down in the top of the ninth. The Bluefield Orioles rallied for 10 runs and deposed the K-Mets 15-7.
“In baseball, I’ve seen so many things happen. Anything can happen in baseball,” said Bluefield manager Einar Diaz, whose lineup rapped out seven hits and capitalized on four Kingsport errors in the final frame.
The crowd of 1,713 fans who turned out for ALS Night (Lou Gehrig’s disease) was clearly stirred up when the home team appeared poised to break out of its three-game slump.
A three-RBI double by Kingsport shortstop Gered Mochizuki capped a six-run rally in the bottom of the eighth inning that put the K-Mets out front by two runs.
The 5-foot-7 Mochizuki, who’d singled in the sixth inning but ended up stranded on third, brought the fans to their feet when he roped it into the corner near the foul pole in left field.
The elation was short-lived.
Kingsport manager Mike DiFelice brought out right-hander Samuel Taveras in the ninth, replacing southpaw pitcher T.J. Chism, who’d struck out three and walked one over two scoreless innings of relief work.
An error by second baseman Ryan Mollica allowed leadoff hitter Omar Casamayor to get on board — and evidently into Taveras’ head.
Two singles later, Taveras was done and well on his way to recording his first loss and blown save of the Appalachian League season. Relievers Travis Babin and, finally, Oscar Melendez were trotted out to try to stop the bleeding.
When it was all over, the double-digit Orioles rally had capitalized on seven hits, the four K-Mets miscues and a walk.
The first seven innings were a cavalcade of missed opportunities for the home team, which, up until Bluefield’s final rally, remained frustratingly in contention.
Bluefield’s gains were steady and methodical. Casamayor was driven across on a Kipp Schutz single in the first inning. In the second, Jose Kianes doubled and went on to score on a Larry Riviera single. Edhinho Meyer’s two-run homer over the Hampton Inn sign in left field made it 4-0 in the third inning.
Two Kingsport errors led to Bluefield’s run in the sixth. By then, the K-Mets were down 5-1 — their lone run plated on Tyler Howe’s RBI walk.
Kingsport left a grand total of 16 runners stranded, including loaded bases in the first, third and seventh innings. The K-Mets missed other prime scoring opportunities when they rapped into double plays in the second, fourth and sixth frames.
Mochizuki, who went 2-for-5 and was in on the K-Mets’ lone double play, wasn’t the only ray of hope. Third baseman Joseph Bonfe went 3-for-5 with a double and an RBI. Mollica went 2-for-5 while leadoff man R.J. Harris got on base three times and scored once.
Howe reached base five times for Kingsport, walking twice and getting hit by pitches in the fifth, seventh and eighth innings.