When Pulaski manager Chris Prieto moved his top two power hitters to the bench for Game 2 of the Appalachian League semifinals, he felt confident the rest of his lineup would fill the void.
True to form, No. 9 hitter Gabrial Franca ripped a pair of key doubles and the bottom half of the batting order sparked a five-run fourth inning that propelled the Mariners to a 6-4 victory over Bluefield.
The win gave the Mariners' Rookie-level affiliate a two-game sweep of the Blue Jays and its first appearance in the Championship Series since 2008. The trip comes in the team's first season under Prieto, who sat Wilton Martinez (12 homers) and Kristian Brito (10) to give other players some playing time.
"Winning is a part of development, teaching them the winning attitude," Prieto said. "Watching them go out there and fight every pitch, that's special to me. That's what I love to see. You can see the energy that comes from the team."
Bluefield got a two-run single from Franklin Barreto and scored three times in the top of the fourth to take a 4-1 lead that proved to be short-lived.
The Mariners responded with five runs in the bottom of the inning, with Franca playing a leading role in the rally. The 19-year-old second baseman plated the tying run with a double to left, then scored the go-ahead run on Aaron Barbosa's triple.
Five of Pulaski's six runs were charged to Bluefield starter Alberto Tirado (0-1), Toronto's 14th-ranked prospect.
"It was just great for us that, when we went down, to see us virtually do what we've been doing all year, fighting back," Prieto said. "We weren't worrying about the score. We were winning every pitch and staying in the game through nine innings. It was nice to respond the way we did."
Mariners starter Eddie Campbell (1-0) picked up the win after striking out nine over five innings. The 21-year-old southpaw allowed four runs -- three earned -- on six hits with two walks, a week after a 12-strikeout performance against Kingsport.
Carlos Misell pitched the ninth for Pulaski, working around a hit batter by striking out three, to pick up his first postseason save. In four Appy League outings, the 21-year-old Venezuelan has fanned 13 over 5 2/3 scoreless innings.
In other Appy League action:
Kingsport 3, Greeneville 1
Following Saturday night's rainout, Kingsport took the opener of the other semifinal behind five strong innings from Chris Flexen (1-0). The 19-year-old right-hander limited the Astros to five hits and three walks while striking out three. Persio Reyes picked up the save after yielding a run on two hits over the final four frames.
The Mets scored a pair of runs in the first as Jeyckol De Leon and Joe Tuschak hit RBI singles. Yeixon Ruiz, who doubled and scored in the opening inning, singled home Adrian Abreu in the fourth. Box score »