After the fans get there, the K-Mets have been doing their part to keep them in the seats until the final out.
For the second night in a row, Kingsport’s Jeyckol De Leon had a walk-off single, driving in Bradley Marquez to seal a 3-2 Appalachian League victory over the Elizabethton Twins.
“I’m happy right now,” said the 6-foot-2, 185-pound catcher, who was penciled into Wednesday’s lineup as a designated hitter.
“I’m ready for a fastball every time. But he hung a curveball there. He missed it. I got it. I just concentrated for the middle, and I hit it,” said De Leon, who was once again doused with ice water by his celebrating teammates.
Marquez, a two-sport star who also plays wide receiver at Texas Tech, was sent in as a pinch-runner for Jeff Diehl, who’d gotten on with a walk and went to second on Joe Tuschak’s single.
Marquez’s speed in scoring position hedged the bets for the K-Mets, who left 14 runners on base. But in the end, it was a weapon that wasn’t necessary.
De Leon’s powerful line shot got over left fielder Dereck Rodriguez’s head and nearly got out of the ballpark. Diehl would have certainly scored as the ball rebounded off a high spot on the fence and rolled loose into the outfield. Granny Clampett would have probably scored.
“Every now and then you get a different guy. Leroux was the guy earlier in the season who got the big hit. Now it’s De Leon. You never know who it’s going to be,” said smiling Kingsport manager Jose Leger, whose 18-14 team is second in the Appy League West standings.
With the first seven innings chiefly occupied by a collective pitching duel — including five good innings from K-Mets starter Martires Arias — the excitement got crammed into the final two frames.
Kingsport’s Jeff McNeil put the home team up 2-1 in the bottom of the eighth, plating Yeixon Ruiz with a double to right. Champ Stuart tried to slip in behind him, but got gunned down for the third out on the 9-4-2 play at the plate.
The skids appeared to be greased for the K-Mets in the top of the ninth when Kelvin Ortiz grounded into a double play. The frustrated Ortiz threw down his batting helmet and was subsequently tossed by home plate umpire Randy Rosenberg. That’s when things really got interesting.
Elizabethton manager Ray Smith sprang into action, swiveling the bill of his cap backwards as he launched into his colorful rebuttal.
After Smith’s inevitable ejection by Rosenberg, pinch hitter Dereck Rodriguez singled, stole second and scored the tying run on Carlos Avila’s single.
“Early in the season we were winning these kinds of games. Now we’ve been a hit away for the last two weeks,” said Smith. “We needed to do something to get these guys cranked up, but I’m not saying that’s what I did. I didn’t agree with what was called. The kid was frustrated. He wasn’t trying to show the umpires up.”