P-Rays rally, head to Appy League Finals

Princeton topples Bluefield late, will meet Elizabethton for crown

Osmy Gregorio collected two hits and drove in two runs in the clinching game for Princeton. (Brian McLeod/MiLB.com)

By Vincent Lara-Cinisomo / MiLB.com | September 2, 2018 10:43 PM

Princeton overcame a stellar performance by Toronto's eighth-ranked prospect Jordan Groshans to reach the Appalachian League Championship Series.

The Rays rallied in the eighth inning to defeat the Bluefield, 6-5, at Hunnicutt Field on Sunday. Princeton will meet Elizabethton in the Finals.

Box score

"I don't think it's any different at any level," said Rays manager Danny Schaeffer, who also managed at Triple-A with Round Rock and Memphis. "They all want to pop champagne and celebrate. Maybe there's a whole lot more to deal with at this level, with maturity and high and lows. But at the end of the day, the game's still the same game."

Princeton overcame a rough start by Shane McClanahan, the 31st overall pick in the June Draft. The left-hander allowed four runs on five hits in three innings, giving up homers to Groshans and Alejandro Kirk that put the P-Rays in a 4-0 hole.

"These kids have never played for a championship, not at a professional level," Shaeffer said. "The day before, they just wanted to get through the day and get to Game 3, and they made that evident. But down 4-0 early, they didn't quit and came back strong."

The Rays began their comeback in the third when Carlos Vargas doubled and moved to third on a single by Beau Brundage. Vargas scored on a balk by Nathanael Perez, and Osmy Gregorio singled in Brundage to make it 4-2. Princeton got a run closer in the fifth as Gregorio walked, moved to third on a single by Connor Hollis and scored on a grounder by fourth-ranked Rays prospect Wander Franco .

Vargas homered in the sixth to tie the game, but Bluefield retook the lead against reliever Michael Costanzo in the seventh. Kirk, who homered in the third, belted an RBI single.

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Grant Witherspoon walked to start the eighth and moved to second on a bunt by Roberto Alvarez. With one out, Wilson threw away Brundage's grounder, enabling Witherspoon to tie the game. Gregorio came through again with a single that plated Brundage, although he was thrown out trying to stretch the knock into a double.

The ninth brought the last bit of drama. With one out, Kirk fell a foot short of his second homer on a drive to center that Witherspoon caught at the wall. Groshans, who had three hits in Game 1, fanned to end the contest.

Francisco German (1-0) retired all four batters he faced for the win while Wilson (0-1) took the loss.

In other Appalachian League playoff action:

Elizabethton 5, Kingsport 2

Minnesota's No. 21 prospect Yunior Severino singled three times, scored a run and drove in another and No. 14 Gilbert Celestino singled twice and drove home two to lift the Twins into the Championship Series. Andrew Cabezas, Brian Rapp and Tanner Howell combined to hold the Mets to five hits. Gameday box score

Vince Lara-Cinisomo is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @vincelara. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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