For the first time since 2002, the Bristol Pirates are heading to the Appalachian League playoffs after a 4-2 victory over the Danville Braves in the season finale.
The Pirates finish with a 34-33 record for their first winning season since 2008, as they end the year in second place in the Appalachian League West Division.
A solo home run in the top of the second inning by third baseman Cody Birdsong put the Braves ahead 1-0, but the Pirates quickly responded in the bottom half of the inning when an RBI single by right fielder Daniel Rivero would tie the game. Second baseman Josh Bissonette would give the Pirates the lead on an RBI fielder's choice before third baseman Jesus Valdez lined a two-run double to left to make it a 4-1 game.
The score would remain unchanged over the next six innings until a throwing error with two outs in the top of the ninth inning would allow a run to score and cut the Pirates' lead to two. With runners at first and third, Samson Abernathy induced a ground ball that Bissonette scooped up and made the throw to first for the final out to send the Pirates to the playoffs for the first time in 17 years.
Tahnaj Thomas earned his second career win in the season finale, allowing one run on four hits over five innings with five strikeouts. Thomas finishes the regular season with 59 strikeouts - the most since Todd Kibby and Jake Cose finished with 69 and 64 strikeouts respectively in 2012. He also ends the year with an 11.0 K/9, making him just the second Bristol starting pitcher since 1969 to reach that mark while making at least 10 starts in a season. The last Bristol pitcher to do so was Juan Figueroa, who set the team record with an 11.5 K/9 over 13 starts in 1998.
Yoelvis Reyes and Yordi Rosario combined to throw three scoreless innings for the Pirates, allowing just one hit and two walks while striking out three. Rosario earned his Appalachian League-leading seventh hold of the year, as he became the first Bristol pitcher to reach that mark in more than 14 years and the first Appalachian League pitcher with seven holds in a season since 2011.
Samson Abernathy allowed one unearned run on one hit and one walk while striking out two over one inning of work to earn his eighth save of the season. Abernathy finishes the year tied for the league lead in saves, as he is now one of 11 Bristol pitchers since 1969 to record eight or more saves in a season, and the first to do so since Kevin Moran had nine saves in 2010.
Valdez led the Pirates at the plate in the win, finishing 1-for-2 with a double, two walks and two RBI. Bissonette was 0-for-3 with two walks, a stolen base, one RBI and a run scored, while Rivero went 1-for-3 with a walk, one RBI and a run scored. Left fielder Jake Snider was the only Pirate with multiple hits against Danville, as he finished 2-for-4 with a double - the first of his career.
The Pirates will have Thursday off before opening the Appalachian League playoffs on Friday night. Bristol will host Game 1 against Johnson City, with first pitch scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Jose Maldonado is scheduled to start for the Pirates, as he looks for a rematch with the Cardinals after suffering the loss to them despite allowing only two runs over six innings with five strikeouts in his last start in Johnson City.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.