KINGSPORT, Tenn.-The Kingsport Mets rode the hot arm of Jordan Humphreys and the hot bat of Cecilio Aybar to a 4-2 win over the Princeton Rays in Game 1 of the series from Hunter Wright Stadium in what was the first of nine-straight home games to end the 2016 Appalachian season, Wednesday night.
With the win, Kingsport (21-39) snapped its three-game losing skid to Princeton (32-26) on the season as the squad was swept last week from August 18-20 in a series that featured two walk-off wins for the Rays. Princeton, who is currently on the outside looking into the playoff picture, wasted a chance to inch closer to the second-slot in the standings that feature the Bluefield Blue Jays in the East.
The contest moved rather quickly through the first four and a half innings as both starting pitchers were dialed in on the mound.
Kingsport's Jordan Humphreys (2-5) had surrendered only two hits through five innings on the mound, one of which being a leadoff third inning home run from Princeton's Robbie Tenerowicz, while also striking out eight batters in the process. The Rays' Peter Bayer was also impressive in the early going as the hurler had thrown four scoreless frames on the mound in a one-hit effort to the point.
Though a strong effort that point into the contest, Humphreys was in line for the loss as the club headed to the bottom of the fifth inning trailing by a score of 1-0. The offense finally pulled threw for their starter as Princeton pulled Bayer heading into the frame in favor of Orlando Romero (3-3) because of a high pitch count.
The K-Mets sent eight men to the plate in the frame en route to the four-run, three-hit inning as Romero issued walks to two of the first three batters the pitcher faced in the frame.
With Dionis Rodriguez and Scott Manea receiving the free pass in the inning, Raphael Ramirez singled them both over 90 feet into scoring position with a base hit to center field. Aybar then came to the plate with the bases loaded and delivered a three-run, bases-clearing double to left-center field.
With Aybar on second base, Reed Gamache followed suite with an RBI double of his own two batters later to bring the score to 4-1 in favor of Kingsport after five innings of play.
In the past three contests, Aybar has witnessed his batting average soar over the .300 mark while recording seven hits, a home run and five RBIs.
Princeton would answer back in the top of the eighth inning when Rene Pinto flew out to deep right field. The sacrifice fly brought in Rafelin Lorenzo who reached on a throwing error from Reed Gamache at third base to lead off the inning.
With the score still a two-run lead for Kingsport at 4-2 heading to the top of the ninth inning, Princeton made it interesting as two runners reached scoring position with two outs in the frame.
Bobby Melley, one of Princeton's three all-stars on the 2016 Appalachian League ballot, reached first base to lead off the inning on an error from Aybar at short stop. Adrian Rondon followed behind with a single to center field. Two batters and two outs later, both runners would advance to second and third base on a wild pitch from Colin Holderman who had entered the game seeking his third save of the season.
Following the wild pitch, Holderman settled down to induce a fly out to deep left field off the bat of Lorenzo to end the contest. The drive was deep and far out towards the warning track in left field, but Ramirez was able to utilize his speed to catch up with the hard-hit ball to end the game and preserve the 4-2 victory.
Aybar was the hero on the night for Kingsport as his three-run double in the fifth inning put the K-Mets on the scoreboard for the first time on the evening while also putting the club ahead by two runs with the drive. The short stop finished the contest going 2-for-3 at the plate with the three runs brought in as he was the only K-Met to record multiple hits on the night.
Eleardo Cabrera capped off the loss for Princeton with two hits on the night as Pinto and Tenerowicz drove in a run apiece.
Humphreys picked up the deserving win after finishing the contest with six innings of four-hit baseball, surrendering only the solo home run to Teneroxicz. The right-hander sat down nine batters on the night via strikeouts which was the second-highest total for the former 18th round draft pick on the season.
Trent Johnson and Holderman combined to pitch the final three innings for Kingsport as the duo surrendered only two hits and one unearned run.
Bayer's stellar start was for not as Romero's disastrous fifth inning spoiled four innings of one-hit baseball. The reliever was tagged for four runs off three hits in the frame but did rebound to strike out two batters in 2.2 innings of work. Austin Sweet tossed the final 1.1 innings of scoreless baseball on the night for the Rays.
Thursday will serve as Game 2 of the series with Jake Simon taking the hill for Kingsport. The southpaw will square off against another lefty in Resly Linares as the Rays and the K-Mets battle at 7:00 p.m. Coverage on the Kingsport Mets Baseball Network will begin at 6:45 p.m. with Eric Cain on the pregame show.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.