Eli Wilson’s RBI single in the eighth inning gave Bristol its first lead of the night and the Pirates went on to a 5-4 victory in the first game of the Appalachian League semifinals Friday night at DeVault Stadium.
The Pirates can close out the best-of-three series in Game 2, set for Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at TVA Credit Union Ballpark.
Johnson City led Friday night’s game three different times and each time Bristol rallied to tie it.
The Cardinals were officially charged with four errors, but could have been credited with two more. They also had two passed balls that led to runs. It wasn’t the kind of defensive performance they wanted as the postseason began.
A three-run eighth inning gave the Pirates a 5-3 lead. The Cardinals finished 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
Bristol’s Samson Abernathy, who tied for the league lead with eight saves, gave up a leadoff double to Mateo Gill, who had three hits, and a two-out walk to Malcolm Nunez in the ninth inning. When pinch-hitter Todd Lott hit a grounder up the middle, the game appeared over. But Fransisco Acuna bobbled the ball as he tried to tag second, allowing a run to score.
Abernathy then got a groundout to end it.
Jhon Torres drove in two runs for the Cards with an RBI single and a sacrifice fly. Carlos Soler had the other RBI on a sac fly.
With the Cards up 3-2 in the eighth, Bristol made its move.
Acuna tied it up for the Pirates with an RBI double. Acuna was then bunted to third, leaving Bristol 90 feet from the lead with one out.
Wilson lined a single off the tip of the glove of Cards second baseman Kevin Vargas to drive in Acuna and give Bristol its first lead of the night.
The Pirates added an insurance run, one that proved to be the winner, when Vargas threw a ball away. Vargas held his head in his hands after the throw.
Jake Sommers, Johnson City’s starter, struck out eight batters in five innings. He allowed two runs on five hits and both of the runs came after passed balls allowed runners to third base.
Bristol starter Jose Maldonado held the Cards to two runs on three hits over four innings. Neither starter figured into the decision.
Walker Robbins was the losing pitcher after giving up all three runs in the eighth. C.J. Dandeneau was the winner in relief.
The Burlington Royals beat the Pulaski Yankees 6-0 to start the other semifinal series. Pulaski came into the playoffs with the best record in the league.
The East winner takes on the survivor of the Johnson City-Bristol series for the championship.