Judging by the final score, one wouldn't have guessed the game at Hunnicutt Field on June 30 in Princeton a spectacle of pitching.
However, the 1,004 fans attending the contest between the Greeneville Astros and Princeton Rays witnessed 27 total strikeouts in the midst of a 6-3 Rays win on Tuesday. Sparked only by consecutive explosions of three runs in each of the first two innings, Princeton was able to coast to victory despite having their offense run dry in the remainder of the game.
Omar Bencomo picked up his first victory of the season for the Rays, allowing two earned runs in 5 2/3 innings of work. Bencomo racked up seven strikeouts on the way to lowering his season ERA to 3.86. The right-hander mixed a fastball that touched the 90 mph mark with a devastating curveball in the 70s to stifle the Astros offense through the first five innings. He was pulled by manager Jared Sandberg with two on in the sixth in accordance with his strict pitch count. Bencomo was aided by solid defense, including multiple spectacular plays in deep center field by Brian Bryles.
Bryles' outfield mate Ty Morrison, a 2008 fourth-round draft pick of the Rays, provided some instant offense to help Princeton jump to an early 6-0 lead. With two runners on base in the second inning, Morrison blasted his first home run of the season off of Greeneville starter Jose Cisnero. With family from Oregon watching from the stands, the Rays' left fielder rocked a Cisnero mistake to deep right-center field.
Morrison's homer capped the early scoring for Princeton, which had benefitted by a shaky Astros battery. In the first to innings alone, the Rays were hit by three pitches and advanced on two wild pitches.
After that point, the Astros pitching began to turn. Indicative of the performance was the fact that, on top of the 14 strikeouts for the Rays, they managed to score six runs and win the game while recording just four hits. Following the multiple tallies in the first and second innings, a Greeneville pitching compilation of Jelier Castillo, Scott Migl, Tio McLean, and Nathan Pettus did not allow a hit until Ramon Novas' double down the left field line in the eighth inning.
Greeneville managed to eke out a run in the fourth and two in the sixth. However, the newly-arrived Alex Koronis ended a night of peculiarly stellar pitching by striking out the side in the ninth to earn his first save.
The same clubs meet Wednesday, July 1 in the rubber match of the series. Greeneville lefty Gabriel Garcia faces right-hander Trevor Shull of the Rays in Princeton's only weekday noon contest of the season.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.