The Pulaski Mariners have shown dogged determination all year. In their biggest game of the season so far, that fighting spirit was on display again.
The Rookie-level Mariners worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the ninth inning before plating five runs in the top of the 10th to take Game 1 of their best-of-3 Appalachian League semifinal series at Bluefield, 9-4.
"Our team has been resilient all year long," said Pulaski manager Chris Prieto, who guided his team to 12 one-run wins and three extra-inning victories during the regular season. "We never let up."
Catcher Toby DeMello homered, doubled and drove in three runs, leadoff man Aaron Barbosa went 4-for-4 with a walk and three runs scored and shortstop Tyler Smith chipped in three hits.
Appalachian League Pitcher of the Year Edwin Diaz, the Mariners' No. 14 prospect, allowed three runs in the first inning before firing five scoreless frames to keep Pulaski in the series opener. He lost the lead in the seventh and was charged with four runs on five hits over 6 1/3 frames.
"He gave up a three-run homer in the first and he could have folded, but he didn't," Prieto said. "He went out there and found his pitches and threw up scoreless innings after that. It was nice to have him on the mound for Game 1. We faced the person who would have been the Pitcher of the Year if it wasn't Diaz."
To get to extra innings, the Mariners -- who edged the Blue Jays by a half-game for the East Division crown -- had to work out of a jam in the ninth.
Three walks -- the third being intentional -- loaded the bases with one out for Bluefield. But Rafael Pineda came on and got pinch-hitter Nico Taylor to hit a grounder to Smith, who forced the runner at the plate. Tim Locastro also grounded out to keep the game tied.
In the 10th, Jesus Ugueto delivered a two-run single, Wilton Martinez raced home on a wild pitch and DeMello homered.
"That was great to be able to add on like that because that's a very good ballclub on the other side," Prieto said. "It gave us the cushion we needed to finish them off."
Game 2 is Sunday night in Pulaski, where the Mariners can secure a spot in the Championship Series.
In other Appy League action:
Kingsport at Greeneville, postponed