KINGSPORT, Tenn.-A four-run third inning capped by a three-run home run by Isaac Benard set the tone Friday night as the Princeton Rays avoided the three-game sweep by taking down the Kingsport Mets 5-1 in Game 3 of the series at Hunter Wright Stadium.
The win for the Rays (33-27) snapped a three-game losing skid and came at just the right time as the Bluefield Blue Jays, who sit in second-place in the Appalachian League East, suffered a loss on the night. Following the contest, Princeton sits just a half a game behind the Blue Jays for the second playoff spot in the East.
Friday's 5-1 loss spoiled what could have been the first series-sweep of the season for Kingsport (22-40) who have now lost as many games the 2015 K-Mets won a season ago. The Game 3 loss also snapped a three-game winning streak which was a season-long for the K-Mets.
For the third-consecutive game in the series, the Rays jumped out to an early advantage following an RBI single from Bobby Melley in the top of the first inning.
Princeton kept churning out runs in the inning that followed as well, as Benard slashed his third home run of the season, a three-run bomb, in the frame. Melley again tallied a run-scoring hit three batters later in the inning as Princeton jumped out to a 5-0 lead midway through two innings on the night.
The five runs would be enough as the K-Mets did not get on the scoreboard until the bottom of the eighth inning. Jose Miguel Medina's sacrifice fly brought in Reed Gamache, who led off the frame with a double, to score the home team's lone run of the game.
Kingsport's starting pitcher, Adonis Uceta (3-6), lasted only 3.2 innings after surrendering the five runs off five hits. The right-hander did settle down, however, by racking up six strikeouts in the loss. A trio of pitchers came into relief of Uceta as Adrian Almeida, Placido Torres and Joe Napolitano combined to pitch the final 5.1 innings of scoreless baseball.
Sandy Brito (2-0) was awarded the win in relief after tossing two innings of scoreless baseball en route to four strikeouts in the outing. Princeton's starter, Hector Lopez, was chased with one out remaining in the bottom of the fifth inning. Lopez's final line read 4.2 innings of two-hit baseball, eight strikeouts and five walks.
Melley, who is one of three All-Stars for the 2016 Princeton Rays the Appalachian League announced earlier this week, finished the night with a 3-for-5 effort at the plate and 2 RBIs. Another Rays' All-Star, Eleardo Carera, also recorded a three-hit day with two doubles and two runs scored.
Kingsport, who had only three hits all night, saw Gamache, Jeremy Wolf and Scott Manea tally the knocks while Medina brought in the lone run of the contest with his 30th RBI of the season.
Princeton's final line was five runs off 10 hits and two errors while Kingsport's saw one run off only three hits and four errors defensively.
The K-Mets will be back in action Saturday evening when the Danville Braves visit Hunter Wright Stadium for the best of a three-game series. Coverage on the Kingsport Mets Baseball Network will resume at 6:45 p.m. with Eric Cain behind the mic.