An RBI single by Travis Tartamella in the 10th inning lifted the Johnson City Cardinals to a 6-5 Appalachian League win over the Kingsport Mets.
Kingsport’s Pedro Zapata had his chance for heroics with two outs in the bottom of the 10th after Michael Moras got on board with a single to left.
But Zapata, who went 2-for-5 with a double on the night, struck out swinging against Cardinals right-handed reliever Aaron Terry (5-0). The K-Mets left fielder broke his bat in disgust after the out.
“It’s an emotional game,” said Kingsport manager Mike DiFelice, whose 16-23 team was riding a six-game winning streak. “The only thing you can do is keep your head up, get some rest, come back and try to get the series.”
The Cardinals (23-19) are the second-place team in the West Division.
“It got real interesting, somewhat unnecessarily,” said Johnson City manager Mike Shildt, whose team led 5-0 after 4½ innings.
“We missed some signs ... we didn’t play like you should play with a lead. When you do that against a good ballclub, it’s going to cost you.”
Designated hitter Robert Stock initiated scoring for the Cardinals in the first inning with his solo homer off the scoreboard in right field. The Cards added two runs in the third.
Kingsport threatened to tie it up in the bottom of the third, loading the bags with singles from Gered Mochizuki, Alonzo Harris and an ever-so-tight infield hit to third from Richard Lucas. The rally ended when Jeff Flagg grounded a hard one at pitcher Cale Johnson, who knocked it down and made the play at first to slip the noose.
Ross Smith’s two-out double plated another run for Johnson City in the fourth. Travis Tartamella followed with an RBI single to put the Cards up 4-0. The visitors added another run in the fifth on Kleininger Teran’s hot RBI grounder into left field.
Yunior Castillo scored easily for Johnson City on that hit, but Ted Obregon missed a signal and tried to leg it out all the way in. He was gunned down at the plate by Zapata’s awesome throw from left.
Zapata’s fire carried over as he led off the bottom of the fifth with a double. Mochizuki drove him in with a double of his own, going on to score on Alonzo Harris’ RBI groundout.
With two outs in the sixth, the K-Mets had Zapata and Cesar Puello on second and third, respectively. On the 1-2 count, Mochizuki elicited a gasp from the home crowd when he pulled a line drive just foul of the right field line. The threat ended when he stroked a liner to Teran at third.
The K-Mets finally tied it up 5-5 in the bottom of the seventh. Leadoff man Darrell Ceciliani got on with a walk, collecting stolen bases at second and third before scoring on Lucas’ single. Pitcher Travis Lawler replaced Angel De Jesus for Johnson City. Flagg’s single to center scored Lucas, but the ball got away from center fielder Ross Smith and the 6-foot-6, 246-pound Flagg kept on trucking to score the tying run on a three-base error.
Kingsport flirted with the go-ahead with two outs in the eighth when Mochizuki got on with a single and stole second, sliding under catcher Travis Tartamella’s throw. The ball got past Castillo and Mochizuki jumped to his feet and stole third on the error. The bid ended when Ceciliani hit into a 3-1 groundout.
Home fans hooted derisively at the base ump, convinced that Ceciliani beat the scrambling Lawler to the bag.