When you think you’ve seen it all in baseball, you might want to think again.
The Pulaski Mariners found a way to win on the road at Pioneer Park in game one of the Appalachian League Championship Series against the Greeneville Astros, 5-3, and did so after hitting into an unorthodox run-scoring triple play.
Toby DeMello – who flied into the wacky run-scoring 9-3-5-6-4 triple play – continued to swing a clutch bat in the postseason, knocking in three runs to give him six RBIs in three playoff games.
Pulaski fell behind for the third consecutive playoff game, allowing two runs in the bottom of the first. M’s starter Jose Flores issued a leadoff walk to Tanner Mathis and two outs later, Chase McDonald blistered a hanging curveball for a two-run shot to left.
The M’s came back with a single run in the second. Jesus Ugueto drew a one-out walk and advanced to second on a Francis Ramirez wild pitch with two outs. DeMello followed with an RBI single, cutting the deficit in half, 2-1.
After both teams were held scoreless in the third, Pulaski took their first lead of the night in the fourth. Four straight batters reached to begin the inning; Jeff Zimmerman singled to left, Wilton Martinez walked, Ugueto laid down a bunt single, and Kristian Brito drew a four-pitch walk to knock in Zimmerman from third.
With the bases still loaded and no outs, it appeared Pulaski was set for a huge inning.
That’s when the 9-3-5-6-4 triple play occurred – Greeneville made it look routine.
DeMello lofted a medium-depth fly ball to Ariel Ovando in right who fired towards to the plate in an attempt to get Martinez tagging from third. McDonald cut off Ovando’s throw – realizing Martinez would be easily safe at the plate – and instead fired to Angel Ibanez at third with Ugueto trying to move up 90 feet. Ugueto eventually was tagged out in a rundown by Astros’ shortstop Thomas Lindauer, who then flipped the ball to Juan Santana at second who applied the tag on Kristian Brito trying to advance from first.
The Mariners’ catcher was credited with a sacrifice fly on the play.
Greeneville was held scoreless in the fourth and fifth innings but finally was able to tie the game in the sixth when Flores exited. Dylan De Meyer came on in relief and allowed a leadoff double to Brian Holberton. Moments later, McDonald hit a game-tying RBI single to center.
The Pulaski offense stormed right back with two runs in the top of the seventh on three straight hits opening the frame. Ugueto doubled, moved to third on Brito’s bloop single to right, and scored on another DeMello RBI single to center. Two outs later, Aaron Barbosa laced a two-out run-scoring single to left.
Down by two, Greeneville’s best scoring chance came in the seventh when De Meyer issued back-to-back one-out walks. Carlos Misell came out of the bullpen in relief, and had to pitch around a DeMello throwing error that allowed Astros’ outfielders Brett Phillips and Mathis to advance to second and third.
Misell walked Santana on four pitches to load the bases and was forced to deal with Greeneville’s three and four hitters.
He got the University of North Carolina-product Holberton to fly out to shallow left, bringing up the Astros’ mammoth first baseman McDonald. Misell got ahead in the count 1-2 before ringing up McDonald with a 94-mph fastball to end the inning.
Misell finished off the Astros in dominating fashion, retiring the side 1-2-3 in both the eighth and ninth innings to seal the Mariners’ game one victory. He recorded his second save of the postseason – this one requiring eight outs – and hasn’t allowed a run in eight total innings as a Pulaski Mariner.
De Meyer (1-0) earned his first postseason victory while Erick Gonzalez (0-1) took the loss.
Flores, coming off of a one-inning outing at Elizabethton, fared much better in his first postseason appearance. The right-hander lasted five innings, allowing just two runs on two hits – both in the first. He walked three and struck out three.
Pulaski hit 5-for-8 with RISP and left just three men on base. The Mariners outhit the Astros 7-4. Ugueto (2-for-3, 2B, BB, 2R) and DeMello (2-for-3, R, 3RBI) were the only Pulaski batters with multiple hits.
Game two is scheduled for a 7:00 p.m. ET first pitch Thursday night at historic Calfee Park. The Mariners are seeking their first Appy League title and have a shot at bringing a championship to Pulaski for the first time since 1991 when Pulaski was an affiliate of the Atlanta Braves. Edwin Diaz – the Appy League Pitcher of the Year – is on tap to start for the Mariners.