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Pulaski rallied from a three-run deficit to sweep Bluefield in the best-of-three East Division series.
Sunday, September 1, 2013
PULASKI - It says something about the Pulaski Mariners that they can play the biggest game of the Appalachian League season with 22 home runs sitting in the dugout, use a leadoff batter and center fielder who signed as an undrafted free agent, and have a closer standing by for duty who has 3.2 innings worth of experience in the league.
All those came to pass Sunday night, but nothing seems to be stopping this ballclub at this point. Certainly not the Bluefield Orioles, who blew a three-run lead and lost the game and East Division semifinal series 6-4 before an enthusiastic Calfee Park audience of 952.
Pulaski (43-27) swept the best-of-three series and awaits a winner from the Kingsport Mets-Greeneville Astros series in the West. Kingsport won 3-1 Sunday in that weather-delayed semifinal, which resumes today at the Mets ballpark.
The championship series starts the night after the Mets-Astros series concludes with Game 1 being played at the West winner.
Pulaski won Sunday with Wilton Martinez (12 homers) and Kristian Brito (10) not in the lineup. Aaron Barbosa, who signed as a free agent in June, led off, scored, drove in a run, had two hits including a triple, and reached his first four plate appearances.
In other words, it all worked out.
"I made the observation about Martinez and Brito, too," said Mariners manager Chris Prieto after he dried off from being doused with fizzy beverages in the uproarious celebration that took place on the field after the game. "From a developmental standpoint, all our guys have earned opportunities to play in the playoffs. I felt the lineup I put out there today was the right lineup to put out there based on certain circumstances."
A lot happened in the fourth inning. It was a disastrous top of the frame for Pulaski. Two walks, an infield single to load the bases with none out, another single - this one botched in center field by Barbosa - and three runs scored as the Blue Jays (40-27) took a 4-1 lead. Starter Eddie Campbell - the ex-Virginia Tech lefty - pitched his way out of it after that, but the damage was done.
Pulaski responded in the bottom of the inning, bringing nine men to the plate to score five runs to make it 6-4. Barbosa tripled and redeemed himself with an RBI and eventually a run scored. Two Bluefield errors were critical.
"This team is resilient, they don't ever give up," Prieto said. "They believe they can win every game."
The big inning gave Campbell a shot of some energy for sure.
"For the team, it was just huge," he said. "It put all the momentum back on our side."
Campbell stayed with it through the fifth. He gave up a leadoff single to start the sixth. Prieto then came and got him. It was Campbell's longest outing of the year.
"I tried to talk him out of taking me out," Campbell said.
Prieto politely declined, instead summoning lanky Dylan DeMeyer, a South African-born, San Diego high schooled right hander. He proceeded to pitch three scoreless innngs, escaping from a two-on, no-out fix in the eighth thanks to a nifty 4-6-3 double play.
"Fastball away, got the double play I wanted, then after that, it was all over," he said.
It was really over when late call-up Carlos Missell came on to finish. He struck out the side to overcome hitting a batter with a two-strike, two out fastball.
"We knew he could do it," Prieto said.
Bluefield 010 300 000 - 4 10 3
Pulaski 001 500 00x - 6 7 1
Tirado, Hollon (4), Castro (5), Gorman (8) and Saez. Campbell, DeMeyer (6), Misell (9) and DeMello. W - Campbell. L - Tirado. S - Misell.
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