The Pulaski Yankees became the first Appalachian League team this season to punch their ticket to the post season by sweeping the double header against the Johnson City Cardinals on Sunday night at Calfee Park.
Right hander Randy Vasquez got the start in game one for Pulaski and got the first two outs of the inning before Cardinals outfielder Jhon Torres hit a solo home run to left field on a 1-0 pitch to give Johnson City the early lead. The Yankees looked poised to tie the game in the bottom of the second inning with a lead off double by Chad Bell. However, Bell was stranded at second after the next three batters went down in order. Johnson City tacked on another run in the top of the third inning to take a 2-0 lead.
The Yankees got a lead off walk in the bottom of the third inning before back-to-back groundouts advanced the runner to third base. Another walk gave the Yankees runners on the corners when Ryder Green hit a single to score the runner and cut the lead to one run and put the tying run on third base. Green stole second and came around to score on a single by Bell that gave the Yanks the 3-2 lead after three innings.
Johnson City regained the lead by scoring three runs in the top of the fourth inning as Vasquez had trouble locating his pitches and walked the first three batters of the inning to load the bases.
Pulaski scored one run in the bottom of the fifth to cut the lead to 5-4 after the Yankees loaded the bases with three straight singles. Bell just missed a pitch and flied out to the warning track in dead center field to score Madison Santos from third. Johnson City held the 5-4 advantage into the bottom of the seventh inning until Jake Pries came up to pinch-hit. He jumped on the first pitch he saw and hit his sixth home run of the year off the batter’s eye in center field to tie the game. It is the second time this season that Pries hit a game-tying home run to send the game to extra innings.
Johnson City scored a run in the top of the eighth inning with two outs on a throwing error by the Yankees shortstop. Roberto Chirinos dropped a perfect bunt to move Bell to third base and with nobody covering first the Yanks had the winning run on first base with nobody out. A wild pitch moved Chirinos into scoring position and the Cardinals intentionally walked the next batter to load the bases to have a force out at all bases. The plan backfired as the Yankees drew another walk to tie the game and still had the bases loaded with no outs. Luis Santos delivered the walk-off win for Pulaski in game one with a single to the outfield.
In game two the Yankees kept the momentum rolling early as Chirinos hit a lead off home run to put the Yanks up 1-0 in the bottom of the first. Johnson City tied the game in the top of the second inning with a pair of doubles. The game wasn’t toed for long though as Pulaski scored two runs in the bottom of the second inning on a pair of errors to go up 3-1.
Yankees catcher Gustavo Campero extended his hit streak to nine games with a bunt single in the bottom of the fourth inning and came around to score a few batters later after Johnson City issued another bases loaded walk. Ryder Green hit a no doubt two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth to put the Yanks up 6-1. It was Green’s first home run at Calfee Park since July 1st and his first home run since July 23rd.
Pulaski got a gem of a game from Jhonatan Munoz on the mound as he held the Cardinals to just two hits in six innings while racking up 10 strikeouts to set a career high and tied the single game high for strikeouts this season with Reid Anderson. Pulaski added two more runs in the bottom of the sixth when Madison Santos hit a two-run home run over the wall in right field to put the Yankees up 8-1.
Evan Voliva came in to pitch the seventh and final inning in game two and threw an ‘immaculate inning’ as he retired the side with three strikeouts in just nine pitches and sent the players spilling onto the field to celebrate the team clinching their spot in the post season. The Yankees will return to the post season after missing the playoffs last season.
The series will continue tonight with the Yankees hosting their second Bark In The Park Night of the year. Gates will open at 4:00 p.m. and first pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.