KINGSPORT — A four-run third inning was all the offense Greeneville needed Monday night to upend Kingsport 7-2 in the Appalachian League West Division playoffs at Hunter Wright Stadium.
The Astros’ win forced a third and series-deciding game Tuesday night at 7, also at Hunter Wright.
The K-Mets won the opening game of the series 3-1 on Sunday in Greeneville.
Tonight’s victor advances to host East Division pennant winner Pulaski on Wednesday night in the league championship series.
Greeneville got quality pitching from starter Chris Lee, who went five innings. He allowed just one earned run, struck out four and walked two.
The Astros batters, meanwhile, roughed up K-Mets starter Carlos Gomez. After cruising through the first two innings, Gomez began to falter.
The Astros’ Ariel Ovando opened the top of the third with a high, lazy flyball that just wouldn’t stop carrying. Kingsport right fielder Michael Bernal raced all the way to the wall to no avail — the ball bounced off the scoreboard for a home run.
That’s when the floodgates opened for Greeneville.
Thomas Lindauer followed Ovando with a double to center. Brett Phillips laid down a perfect bunt that he beat out for a single and advanced Lindauer to third.
Tanner Mathis then stroked a double to right that scored Lindauer and moved Phillips over to third. Phillips scored on a sacrifice fly by Juan Santana and Mathis made his way to third.
Another sac fly by Edwin Gomez scored Mathis, and the Astros found themselves on top 4-0.
“Ovando got us started there in the third,” said Greeneville’s Josh Bonifay, the Appalachian League’s manager of the year. “That just seemed to get everything going for us.
“Once we got the lead, our pitching staff really did an excellent job,” Bonifay added. “We had a quality start from Lee and good relief pitching.”
Mathis hit a home run in the fifth to give the Astros a 5-0 advantage.
Kingsport answered in the bottom of the fifth when Yeixon Ruiz blasted a homer over the left field fence to narrow the deficit to 5-1.
The K-Mets’ biggest threat came in the sixth inning when Jeyckol De Leon hit a line shot over the wall in left off Astros reliever Austin Chrismon to make the score 5-2.
Dominic Smith and Pedro Perez then brought the Kingsport fans on their feet with back-to-back singles. But Chrismon settled down and struck out the next three batters to end the uprising.
Greeneville tacked on single runs in both the eighth and ninth innings for the final margin of victory.
“It was not a bad game,” said K-Mets manager Jose Leger. “We just couldn’t get anything going offensively.
“Gomez didn’t have his best stuff tonight, and when he started getting the ball up in the third they took advantage of it.
“Winning the first game was big,” Leger added. “It gave us a cushion. But now tomorrow is another story.
“These guys have worked hard all year. They deserve to be here. We just have to go out tomorrow and play really hard.”