Pulaski manager Chris Prieto preaches the importance of winning one pitch at a time. Toby DeMello has won more than a few pitches in the Appalachian League playoffs.
DeMello capped a three-RBI night by singling in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning Wednesday night as Pulaski beat Greeneville, 5-3, in Game 1 of the best-of-3 Championship Series.
"I don't expect myself to be the hero," the catcher said. "Fortunately, I was able to come up in some RBI situations and, luckily, I got the job done tonight."
After delivering an RBI single in the second and lifting a bizarre sacrifice fly in the fourth, the 23-year-old catcher had another chance to come through in the seventh. With runners at the corners, he sent the first pitch from reliever Erick Gonzalez (0-1) back up the middle for another run-scoring single.
"Late in the game, first and third, I was trying to stay up the middle. If I hit into the double play, but we scored the run, that's fine. Just get the ball on the ground up the middle," DeMello explained. "He hung a slider, first pitch."
Three batters later, Aaron Barbosa singled home the St. Mary's College product to make it 5-3.
The lead proved more than enough for Carlos Misell, who tossed 2 2/3 scoreless innings to earn his first postseason save.
"He's just got electric stuff," DeMello said. "You can't pick up the ball out of his hand very well. It comes at you."
The reliever recorded five strikeouts, perhaps none more important than the first. With the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Astros first baseman Chase McDonald -- who homered earlier in the game -- came to the plate.
"If he's gonna beat us with anything, I want it to be on [Misell's] best pitch -- changeup," DeMello said. "If it works, it works."
It did. McDonald fanned and Misell retired the next six batters to put Pulaski one win from its first title since 1991.
"It feels pretty good," DeMello said. "The locker room is exciting right now."
If there was a negative for the Mariners, it came in the fourth. DeMello's sacrifice fly snapped a 2-2 tie, but the Astros limited the damage by completing a triple play.
"I've never seen it," said DeMello, who homered, doubled and drove in three runs in Game 1 of the semifinals. "It happens, it's baseball. You've never seen it all."
The Mariners can complete a sweep with a win at home on Thursday night.