KINGSPORT — Typically, a pinch runner in the eighth inning doesn’t have a long night of work ahead.
Ismael Tijerina, meanwhile, ended up logging nearly five full innings before lifting the Kingsport Mets to victory Wednesday night.
Tijerina cranked a walk-off single to deep center field in the 13th inning, driving home right fielder Javier Rodriguez with the decisive run in a 7-6 victory over the Bluefield Orioles.
“I’m always ready when I’m on the bench — ready whenever they need me,” said Tijerina, a native of Monterrey, Mexico. “And today was the time they needed me to get the hit and get the runner home.”
Winless in its only prior extra-inning game — a 7-6 loss to Johnson City on Saturday — Kingsport posted its second straight victory at home and improved to 5-0 against the Bluefield Orioles this season.
The game certainly lived up to the moniker of the “Wacky Wednesday” promotion at Hunter Wright Stadium.
Kingsport (13-16) took a 3-0 lead in the first inning, then lost all of it in a four-run fourth by Bluefield. The Orioles plated two insurance runs in the eighth inning, but miscues by Bluefield (8-21) directly contributed to the K-Mets’ come-from-behind victory.
Kingsport scored two runs in the eighth, the second of which came home on a two-out third strike to Eddie Lora that bounced for a wild pitch. Lora reached safely, and manager Mike DiFelice substituted Tijerina to run.
One inning late, a passed ball helped put ZeErika McQueen at third base with one out after McQueen singled to lead off the frame. McQueen scored on Aderlin Rodriguez’s RBI groundout.
Javier Rodriguez reached base in the 13th on a throwing error by Bluefield third baseman Dudley Leonora. Rodriguez looked like he’d be thrown out by a substantial margin but Leonora’s throw bounced and O’s first baseman Joe Velleggia couldn’t corral it in time.
“When you have a 6-3 lead with two innings left and you lose, it’s tough,” Bluefield manager Einar Diaz said. “Our defense hurt us again with three errors and we couldn’t get them out at the end.”
A sacrifice bunt advanced Rodriguez to second, and he remained there when Tijerina came up with two outs. He worked a full count against Bluefield reliever Chris Petrini (0-1), before belting a fly ball over the Orioles’ drawn-in outfield.
“It’s my favorite count to hit because sometimes I’m more ready and more focused,” Tijerina said. “I just tried to get contact, and I got the win.”
Peter Birdwell (1-0) tallied his first professional victory after three scoreless innings of relief. His effort followed two perfect frames of work by Josh Edgin, who fanned four of the six men he faced.
Kingsport starter Germen Gonzalez worked seven full innings and — aside from yielding four runs on five hits in the fourth — was nearly unhittable.
Richard Pena was the sole K-Mets hurler who really struggled, yielding the two eighth-inning runs and surrendering base hits to three of the first four batters he faced.
Lucas Stewart and John Semel had three hits apiece for the K-Mets. Aderlin Rodriguez and McQueen each added two.
Charles Hinojosa tripled for the K-Mets in the eighth, after Bluefield center fielder Chris Clinton crashed into the wall trying to field his deep fly ball. Clinton played out the inning but later was removed.