Campbell strikes out nine; Franca clubs two clutch doubles
By Cheyne Reiter
The Pulaski Mariners finished off a series sweep in round one of the Appy League playoffs, wiping away the Bluefield Blue Jays Sunday night at Calfee Park with a 6-4 victory.
Pulaski’s win was the second is as many nights over the Jays and locked them into the Appy Championship Series for the first time since 2008.
The M’s sent left-hander Eddie Campbell to the mound, fresh off a 12-strikeout performance against the Kingsport Mets on Aug. 25th, a 15-0 one-hit shutout.
Bluefield had seen Campbell twice during the regular season and fared well against the southpaw who spins off a filthy 12-6 curve along with a 90-92 mph fastball. In two appearances against the Blue Jays, Campbell was less than spectacular. In nine total innings, he accumulated 12 strikeouts but allowed seven hits and seven walks, going 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA.
In front of 952 fans Sunday night, Campbell’s curveball was at its best again.
The former Virginia Tech Hokie struck out two batters in each of the first four innings and exited after allowing a leadoff single to Matt Dean in sixth.
The Blue Jays plated one run in the second inning to jump in front. Mitch Nay drove a double off the fence in left-center and scored one out later on Franklin Barreto’s RBI single to center.
Pulaski came back with a run of their own in the home half of the third. Gabe Franca won an eight-pitch at-bat with Alberto Tirado, doubling down the right-field line. After Aaron Barbosa struck out, Tyler Smith one-hopped the fence in right-center for a RBI double, tying the game at one.
Bluefield regained the lead in the fourth, using two hits, two walks, and an error to take a 4-1 lead. Campbell issued two walks to start the frame, and Dean reached on an infield single to load the bases. On the ensuing pitch, Barreto lined a two-run single to center. Pulaski’s Barbosa raced in but overran the ball, allowing Dean to score from first with Barreto hustling all the way to third. Campbell got back-to-back strikeouts before Jonathan Davis flew out to deep center to end the inning.
In game one, the M’s offense picked up Edwin Diaz who trailed 3-1 after one inning.
Game two was a similar story.
The Mariners rallied for five runs in the fourth, the go-ahead run coming on Barbosa’s RBI triple to right-center. Luke Guarnaccia led off with a rare walk – he had just five in 137 regular season at-bats. Isaiah Yates hit a groundball to Jays’ third baseman Mitch Nay, but Nay turned his attention toward second base and the ball popped out of his glove. After Toby DeMello lined out sharply to left, Dan Kemp hit a routine grounder to Barreto at short. The 17-year-old’s throw to first was wide of Dean, allowing Guarnaccia and Yates to score. Franca followed with an RBI double to left to tie the game. After Barbosa’s triple, Jeff Zimmerman hit a two-out RBI single to right.
Campbell (1-0) finished with nine strikeouts, allowing four runs (three earned) on six hits and two walks. The left-hander was relieved by Dylan De Meyer who delivered three scoreless innings. De Meyer allowed two singles to start the eighth but got Rowdy Tellez to bounce into a 4-6-3 double play.
Carlos Misell (S, 1) closed out the Blue Jays by striking out the side in the ninth. He beaned Tim Locastro on a 1-2, two-out pitch, but struck out Derrick Loveless to end the game.
Right-hander Alberto Tirado – Toronto’s No. 14 prospect according to MLB.com – took the loss, lasting just 3 1/3 innings. He allowed five runs (one earned) on three hits and three walks. He struck out three.
Barbosa and Smith carried over their stellar performances from the series opener. Barbosa – who reached all five times Saturday – went 2-for-4 with a RBI triple, walk, and a run scored. Smith finished 1-for-3 with two walks and a RBI double after reaching four of five times Saturday.
Pulaski has an off-day Monday as they await the outcome between the Kingsport Mets and the Greeneville Astros. The Mets lead the series 1-0 after a 3-1 win in Greeneville.
Jose Flores gets the nod for the Mariners in game one of the Appy Championship Series. He went 6-1 and had a 3.00 ERA in 12 starts during the regular season. Game one will be on the road, either in Kingsport or Greeneville beginning Tuesday or Wednesday night. A Pulaski team hasn’t won the championship since 1991, the longest drought in the Appy League – back when they were an affiliate of the Atlanta Braves.
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