Kingsport, Tenn.-Saturday night witnessed one of the better pitching matchups the Appalachian League has seen all season long as Ian Anderson and the Danville Braves took Game 1 over Joel Huertas and the Kingsport Mets in 2-0 fashion from Hunter Wright Stadium.
Danville (30-31) inched one step closer to a .500 record with the opening-game win Saturday night as the Braves are still a longshot in making the 2016 Appalachian League playoffs with just five games remaining in the season. Kingsport (22-31) dropped its second game in-a-row with the loss after outhitting the Braves 6-4 by game's end.
The real story on the night was the effort given by both starting pitchers out of the gates. Neither Anderson nor Huertas looked poised to have a good night on the mound following a rough two first innings on the hill, but both settled down to compile a combined final line of nine innings, four hits, no runs and 12 strikeouts.
In fact, Kingsport's Huertas did not surrender a hit during the five-inning start while accumulating eight strikeouts in the process.
The southpaw for the K-Mets began the first inning with a five-pitch walk right out of the gate to Danville's leadoff man, Derian Cruz. Two batters later, Huertas would walk another before inducing a pop out into foul territory from Ramon Osuna to end the inning.
Anderson, who was selected third overall in the first round by the Braves a couple of months ago in the 2016 June Armature Draft, yielded a leadoff single from William Barring and watched Ricardo Cespedes reach first base a batter later following a fielding error by Darien McLemore at second base.
With two on and no outs, Anderson induced the first of three 4-6-3 double play balls Danville turned on the night and was an out away from escaping trouble with Barring now standing at third base. Jeremy Wolf then came to the plate and grounded out to his counterpart, Alex Lee, at first base to end the inning.
Huertas again faced trouble in the second inning as the pitcher allowed another leadoff walk to first base to begin the inning. Walter Rasquin followed suit with the misfortunes a batter later while committing a two-base fielding error to put runners at second and third base with nobody out in the inning.
Kingsport's hurler then settled down by tallying three-consecutive strikeouts to end the inning and escape the threat.
Anderson then came out in the bottom of the second inning and surrendered a leadoff single yet again, however, much like the first, a 4-6-3 double play worked in favor of the high draft pick and though the right-hander allowed two batters to reach in the inning via a single and a walk, Anderson escaped unscathed heading to the top of the third inning.
The duo then settled down in the remainder of their outings, compiling the strikeouts and generating routine outs on the mound.
Both on a strict pitch count, Anderson concluded his start after four innings-yielding four hits and no runs with four strikeouts on the night. Huertas called it quits after five innings of hitless baseball with no runs and eight strikeouts, however, the left-handed hurler did walk five batters in the outing that contributed to the high pitch count through only five innings.
Still scoreless heading to the top of the sixth inning, the game was then in the hands of the relievers as Connor Buchmann (0-1) was called upon first out of the bullpen to relieve Huertas. The right-hander, who ended up taking the loss on the night, surrendered the two runs on the night for the Braves off four hits in two innings.
Christian Pache was the first to tally a hit in the column for Danville as the center fielder led off the top of the sixth inning with a single. Two walks later, Elias Arias brought in the first run of the contest for either squad with an RBI single to left field.
The Braves tacked on another run in the inning that followed in the top of the seventh after a wild pitch by Buchmann allowed Bradley Keller to score the second run of the game.
The 2-0 score would hold true until the 27th out of the contest was made by Danville's Brandon White who struck out Dionis Rodriguez to end the contest.
Kingsport had its chances to make something happen during the shutout loss as the club had their leadoff man reach base five times on the night. Barring was the only K-Met to make it all the way to third base on the night as he, Rasquin and Rodriguez were all left stranded in scoring position.
Adam McCreery (2-0) was given the win on the night after being the first to relieve Anderson out of the bullpen for innings five and six on the mound. He, along with Brady Feigl, Connor Gilmore and White combined to pitch the final five innings of scoreless baseball to preserve Anderson's shutout bid.
Buchmann was handed the loss after yielding the two runs in the sixth and seventh innings. Gregorix Esteves also pitched on the night while tossing two scoreless innings with four strikeouts.
Danville, who only recorded four hits in the win, saw Keller, Arias, Pache and Marcus Mooney tally the base knocks with Arias contributing the lone RBI. Rodriguez tallied a multi-hit day for Kingsport in the loss.
Game 2 of the series will be played on Sunday for a matinee contest beginning at 4:00 p.m. Coverage on the Kingsport Mets Baseball Network begins at 3:45 p.m. with Eric Cain bringing you all the action from behind the mic.