BURLINGTON, N.C.- The Burlington Royals punched their ticket to the Appalachian League Championship Series with a dramatic, come-from-behind 4-3 win over the Princeton Rays on Monday night at Burlington Athletic Stadium.
SS Nicky Lopez singled home DH Jonathan McCray in the bottom of the ninth to account for the game's winning run. McCray led off the inning with a double hit sharply down the left field line, and Lopez followed with a line drive single to left to bring him home.
The Royals will play either the Johnson City Cardinals or Elizabethton Twins in the Appalachian League Championship Series, which begins on Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. at Burlington Athletic Stadium. Game two and the if-necessary game three will be played on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, at 7:00 p.m. at the Western Division ballpark.
Princeton opened the scoring in the second. DH Joshua Lowe reached on a one-out bunt single, and 3B Deion Tansel hit a two-run home run.
The Royals pulled even with a pair of runs in the fourth. LF Boo Vazquez led off with a triple, and scored on an RBI single by CF Vance Vizcaino. Vizcaino was caught in a rundown, but the ball was dropped at first base, and the error allowed him to take second. After two outs, Lopez stepped up and singled him home from second base.
Royals LHP Cristian Castillo, the game's starting pitcher, lasted six innings, allowing five hits along with the two earned runs while walking one and striking out nine.
Princeton took the lead back in the seventh inning. CF Emilio Gustave led off with a single, and Tansel followed with a single of his own. RF Eleardo Cabrera hit an RBI single, scoring Gustave. Royals RHP Alex Massey was able to wiggle out of further trouble, thanks in part to a tremendous catch from Vizcaino in center field.
Burlington tied the game on a series of Princeton miscues in the eighth inning. RF Kort Peterson was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, and 1B Chris DeVito hit a ball to first that resulted in a fielder's choice to retire Peterson at second. However, the relay throw got away, and DeVito took second. 3B Emmanuel Rivera reached on another error at shortstop, and LF Boo Vazquez walked to load the bases. Vizcaino lifted a sacrifice fly to left, a ball that was caught deep down the line, allowing pinch runner Tyler Straub, running for DeVito, to score.
RHP Walker Sheller retired the side in the ninth to set up the walk-off in the bottom of the ninth.
- The win was the Royals' first walk-off of the year in their 44th overall win, and 20th at home.
- Vizcaino had two hits and a sacrifice fly in the game, while Lopez also notched a multi-hit game.
- Burlington forced Princeton to strand five runners in scoring position en route to the win.
The Royals will open the Appalachian League Championship Series on Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. For tickets, call (336) 222-0223.
Fans can also listen to the game live and for free at www.burlingtonroyals.com. Matt Krause will have the call, with coverage beginning at 6:45 p.m.
Burlington 4, Princeton 3
WP: Walker Sheller (1-0)
LP: Dalton Moats (0-1)
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.