Meanwhile, the K-Mets turned in their best overall performance of this Appalachian League season in a 10-4 victory over the Bristol Sox.
Hilliard’s accurate effort over six innings set the tone in a comfortable win for the home side.
Hilliard yielded four runs — one earned — on six Bristol hits. Jeff Flagg paced the Kingsport lineup with his 3-for-5, four-RBI game. The K-Mets also turned three double plays and got a tremendous leaping catch into the left-field wall by Justin Garber to end the top of the second inning.
“That’s what we’re looking for right there,” Kingsport manager Mike DiFelice said. “That’s what you strive for, that’s why we come out here early every day — to try to get that.”
Hilliard got first-pitch strikes, and plenty of them. In fact, the first 14 batters he faced had 0-1 counts against them.
“We’ve given up runs here and there, but tonight I just wanted to go out and throw strikes and try to get ahead and stay ahead,” Hilliard explained.
“He’s been our most consistent pitcher, from day one,” DiFelice said of Hilliard. “It was nice to see him continue to do what he’s been doing for us, getting out there and challenging hitters.”
Hilliard worked a perfect first inning and the K-Mets’ offense did the rest, tallying at least one run in each of the first four frames to amass a 9-4 lead.
Bristol got within a run in the top of the fourth. A two-out error by Alonzo Harris prolonged the inning. The next batter, Sox catcher Miguel Gonzalez, put it over the left-field wall for a three-run homer to pull Bristol within 5-4.
“That one error today has kind of been the signature of our season,” DiFelice observed. “We get a couple guys on base, make an error and then can’t seem to put the next guy away.”
This time, the K-Mets answered, hanging up a four-spot in the bottom half of the inning. Flagg answered Gonzalez’s three-run dinger with one of his own, only to right field.
Garber added three hits and two runs scored. Harris crunched a solo homer to left with two outs in the second inning. He and R.J. Harris each had two hits and two runs scored.
Though still in last place in the West Division, the K-Mets (8-13) have won three of their past five ballgames
“I think it’s coming together a little bit,” Flagg said.
EXTRA BASES: Admission is free for tonight’s rubber game between the K-Mets and Sox. Gates open at 6 p.m., with the first pitch at 7. ... Tyler Vaughn and John Semel had two hits apiece for Kingsport. Semel also might have the most unique at-bat song in the Appalachian League, the theme song to “The Price Is Right.” ... Bristol left fielder Brady Shoemaker went 3-for-3 — improving to 8-for-8 in the series against Kingsport — before he was pulled for a pinch hitter. ... Zachary Von Tersch worked the final three innings for his first professional save.