KINGSPORT — The Kingsport Mets had Johnson City starter Chris Notti on the ropes early, but the young pitcher kept his cool.
His teammates responded with some run support after a shaky first inning, propelling the Cardinals to 6-2 victory in the rubber match of a three-game set at Hunter-Wright Stadium on Sunday.
The K-Mets never got the ball out of the infield in the bottom of the first inning, but they managed to hang a pair of unearned runs on Notti. The 6-foot-5 right-hander got out of the jam and Edgar Lara wasted no time getting those two runs back with one swing of the bat.
Lara’s two-run homer tied things up in the top of the second, and Hector Alvarez came around to score on a fielding error by Kingsport’s Darrell Ceciliani to give the Cards a lead they never relinquished.
“Give a lot of credit to Chris Notti because you’re talking about two runs scoring without a ball leaving the infield,” Johnson City manager Mike Shildt said. “He really hung in there. It could have gotten away from him, but he really competed.”
While the Cards shook off a rough frame and didn’t allow a run the rest of the game, the K-Mets weren’t so lucky.
A sloppy fifth inning that featured a wild pitch, a passed ball and a throwing error allowed Johnson City to build a 5-2 lead.
“It’s all about taking advantage when people give you an opportunity,” Shildt said. “We were aggressive and made the most out of what we could take.”
The Cards tacked on another insurance run in the top of the eighth thanks to a throwing error and a bases-loaded walk.
Kingsport finished with four fielding errors. Meanwhile, impatience at the plate led to 14 strikeouts against Cardinals pitching.
Afterward, Kingsport manager Mike DiFelice was able to look past his team’s poor performance and spot some growth.
“It was one of those games where you’ve got some mental mistakes,” he said. “Compared to some of the games we had earlier in the year, it’s nowhere near. We were in the ballgame the whole game.”
Although there were plenty of errors, DiFelice pointed out that his pitching staff, prone to allow opponents to hang big numbers on the board early in the season, kept his team within striking distance.
“My hope is that this game isn’t going to lead to other games,” DiFelice said. “We didn’t play that good as a team today, but we were still in the ballgame. Hopefully we come out tomorrow and play a sound game.”
Notti (2-1) went five innings, giving up those two unearned runs on five hits with five strikeouts. Zach Russell, Jose Rada and David Kington came on in relief and combined to throw four shutout innings.
Jhonathan Torres (0-4) was tagged for five runs, four earned, on eight hits in 4 2-3 innings of work.
Ted Obregon was 3-for-5 for Johnson City while Alvarez and Audry Perez each had two hits and scored twice. R.J. Harris was 3-for-4 with an RBI for Kingsport.
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