KINGSPORT — For one fleeting moment in the top of the fifth inning, it appeared that all Kingsport starter Domingo Tapia was going to have to show for his brilliant outing was a no decision. But the K-Mets sprang to action in the bottom of the frame, plating three runs to break open a tie game and put themselves well on their way to a much-needed 4-1 Appalachian League victory over the Pulaski Mariners.
With the victory, Kingsport remained two games behind Western Division leader Elizabethton, which also won on Thursday night.
Tapia (4-4), who entered the game with an ERA of 5.06, surrendered just one earned run on four hits in six innings of work.
“Tapia was outstanding and our bullpen did a good job keeping a very good hitting team at bay,” Kingsport skipper Frank Fultz said. “(Tapia) has been a lot more consistent over the last few days. “His ability to command his secondary pitches is what makes the difference. Everybody knows he has a great fastball, but when he can throw his offspeed pitches over the plate for strikes, then you have a pretty good looking pitcher.”
Kenneth McDowall and Jared West slammed the door, combining on three innings of no-hit ball. West threw a perfect ninth inning to earn his sixth save of the season.
Tapia didn’t allow a hit until Pulaski’s Jordy Lara led off the fifth inning with an infield single. Bryan Brito also singled on a ground ball that didn’t make it out of the infield and Lara tied the game up when Patrick Brady grounded a single into center.
But Kingsport wasted no time answering the bell. Chad Zurcher, Dustin Lawley and Camden Maron all drove in runs in the fifth to put the K-Mets in the drivers’ seat.
“The team has a lot of resiliency,” Fultz said. “When the other team scores, we seem to come back and answer. Tonight was no exception to that. That’s been our strength over the course of this season.”
Once Kingsport had the lead back, McDowall and West didn’t give Pulaski’s line-up much hope of staging a late rally. Brady walked to lead off the eighth inning, but that was the only Mariner Kingsport’s relievers allowed to reach base.
“They’ve done another brilliant job,” Fultz said. “Kenny McDowall was outstanding and West, they have been our go-to guys in win situations and they did the job.”
Maron and Tillman Pugh had two hits each for the K-Mets, who head to Princeton tonight for a crucial series against the Blue Jays.