Trailing 5-2 in the seventh inning, the Twins pushed a run across the plate to pull within two.
Kingsport sent its pitching coach to the mound to make a change. After he returned to the dugout and the pitcher had not thrown a pitch, K-Mets manager Frank Fultz hiked out to the mound.
Elizabethton manager Ray Smith immediately went out to speak to the umpires.
“That’s a rules infraction,’’ Smith said. “The batter has to see a pitch before a second trip to the mound.’’
There was some question as to whether the K-Mets’ reliever had been formally announced prior to Fultz’s trip to the mound.
Smith formally protested the game, leaving the official outcome in the hands of the Appalachian League office.
If the win stands, the K-Mets (21-23) will be two games behind the Twins (23-21), who hold second place in the West Division standings. The top two teams in each division advance to the postseason playoffs.
“The guys understand that we’re trying to get ourselves in position to play meaningful baseball,’’ Fultz said. “This win goes a long way in that direction.’’
Elizabethton took an early 2-0 lead only to see the K-Mets break through with a critical run in the bottom of the fifth when Chad Zurcher’s single brought home Tant Shepherd.
The K-Mets erupted for four runs in the sixth, taking advantage of three hits and a Twins err o r.
“Our pitcher was cruising along pretty good there for a while,’’ Smith said. “A bloop single and Kingsport gets on the board. He starts missing his pitches and the next thing you know they’ve scored four runs.’’
Kingsport added two insurance runs in the seventh that may make the protest a moot point.
A highlight of the game for the K-Mets was a spectacular catch of a ball that seemed destined to clear the fence in right-center.
Kingsport’s Jonathan Clark raced to the wall, leapt into the air and snatched the ball before it cleared the fence, denying Elizabethton’s Eddie Rosario a potential home run.
“I think Clark’s catch had as much impact on the outcome of this game as any of the runs we scored,’’ Fultz said.
Shepherd and Greg Pron both had two hits for the K-Mets. Pron and Luke Stewart drove in two runs apiece.
Kingsport starter Domingo Tapia (3-4) earned the win after going six innings, allowing two hits, two unearned runs, walking three and striking our four.
Jared West pitched the ninth for his fourth save of the season.
Kingsport goes on the road for a three-game set at Burlington, starting tonight. The K-Mets return home on Tuesday when they host Pulaski at 7 p.m.