KINGSPORT — Quick: When was the last time the Kingsport Mets were in the Appalachian League playoffs?
The answer is 1996, or at least it was until Jeyckol De Leon’s bloop single in the 10th inning on Wednesday evening at Hunter Wright Stadium locked up a playoff position for the K-Mets and ended the organization’s 17 year playoff drought.
Kingsport’s win coupled with a loss by the Johnson City Cardinals punched the K-Mets’ ticket into the postseason.
Standing in first place with a half-game lead over Greeneville, the Mets can finish no worse than second in the Western Division.
The regular season ends Friday with a three-game divisional playoff beginning Saturday.
De Leon’s single scored Yeixon Ruiz, who had singled earlier in the inning.
Bluefield had walked pinch-hitter Dominic Smith to get to De Leon, who recorded his third walk-off hit this season.
It looked grim early as Kingsport fell behind 4-1 and didn’t show many signs of life during the first six innings. But the K-Mets rallied with a five-run seventh to take a 6-4 lead.
The Blue Jays came back with two runs in the ninth to knot the score at 6.
Kingsport’s second baseman Jeff McNeil went 4-for-6 and raised his season average to .321. He is now has the second highest batting average in the league.
The playoff format has the second-place team hosting the first game of the three-game series with the second and third games hosted by the first-place squad.
The winner will then face the Eastern Division champion in another three-game series for the league championship.
Game 2 of the series with Bluefield will be played tonight with the first pitch scheduled for 7 o’clock. Tonight is also Reader Appreciation night sponsored by the Kingsport Times-News.