With his team facing elimination Monday evening, Greeneville Astros manager Josh Bonifay kept his speech short and direct.
Starter Chris Lee allowed one run over five innings and leadoff hitter Tanner Mathis homered, doubled, scored three times and plated two runs as the Rookie-level Astros emerged victorious in their win-or-go-home game against the Kingsport Mets, 7-2.
"It was a fun victory," Appalachian League Manager of the Year Bonifay said. "Everybody is excited that it's the first time in 10 years that Greeneville has been in the playoffs. They're excited, they feel good about the win and they're excited to be playing another day.
"Obviously it was a tough loss last night. We didn't get the big hits, but tonight we did. There is no pressure on them. We want them to enjoy it and have fun. Any time you play extra baseball, there should be no extra pressure. It should be enjoyable for the kids, it's their opportunity to shine."
The win ties the Best-of-3 Appalachian League Semifinals and sets up a decisive game Tuesday. The winners will travel to face the Pulaski Mariners, who swept the Bluefield Blue Jays, in the Championship Series starting Wednesday.
Greeneville, the West Division runners-up, scored four runs in the third inning and another in the fifth. Kingsport answered back with solo homers by Yeixon Ruiz and Jeyckol De Leon in the fifth and sixth innings, but the Astros padded the lead with one run in the eighth and another in the ninth.
"We got outstanding starting pitching from Chris Lee and [Austin] Chrismon did a great job coming in for the sixth, seventh and eighth," Bonifay said. "Tanner Mathis has been our team MVP all year long. He comes up with big hits and it is nice to have him set the tone for our offense every single night."
The Astros will send Frederick Tiburcio to the mound for Game 3. Tiburcio is 3-2 in 12 starts this year. He leads the team in innings pitched (55 2/3) and his team-low ERA among full-time starters (2.43) is fifth on the circuit. He also ranks second among the club's pitchers with 51 strikeouts.
Bonifay expects Robert Whalen, who ranks second in the Appalachian League with a 1.97 ERA and 76 strikeouts, to start for the Mets.