Johnson City took the Appalachian League Championship on Sunday for the second consecutive year. Afterwards, they went to Applebee’s.
The short version of the 2011 season is that the JC Cardinals were simply the best team in the league. They led the league in OPS and were a very close second to Elizabethton in K:BB ratio (3.12 compared to 3.18) featuring a staff with the lowest # of walks in the league. If you hit better than your competition and pitch better than your competition, good things can happen.
In the opening round of playoffs against Danville, JC’s season long starter, Tyrell Jenkins, was thwarted as he tired in the 6th inning of his start. The Braves affiliate rallied in the 6th and 7th innings after JC had led for most of the game.
Game two saw the Cardinals turn to 22-year-old Kyle Hald, a 2011 draftee out of Old Dominion, to even the series. Hald pitched well but was buoyed by the offensive outburst in the 4th where Johnson City scored 5 including a Matt Williams single to the wall scoring two. Johnson City would be outhit in that game 10-6 but capitalized on 5 walks and some power output to outscore Danville 7-4.
The rubber matched watched Latin prospect Eduardo Hiraldo, 22, twirl a gem into the 8th inning allowing just 1 run and 6 baserunners. Johnson City had 6 hitters with a multi-hit night led by Breyvic Valera, a 19-year-old out of Venezuela, who went 3-for-5 with a double. Danville’s defense recorded 4 errors as the JC Cards pounded their opposition to a comfortable 10-1 victory to advance.
In the championship, the Cardinals squared off against Blue Jays affliate Bluefield. Jose Pasen turned in a 5 inning start where he walked 4 but limited the damage to 3 runs. Chris Constantio would pitch 3 shutout innings before turning the ball over to Michael Santana to finish off the game for the win, 4-3. Bluefield had led for the first 7 innings before Tyler Rahmatulla and Gary Apelian both doubled in a run. Breyvic Valera would lead off the 9th inning with a triple scoring on a sac fly and JC would earn the walk off win as Rahmatulla scored from second on a Neal Pritchard single to center.
On Sunday, lefty Nick Gillung and right-hander Logan Billbrough combined on a 1 run, 1 hit affair. The duo struck out 10 over the 9 inning game and saw just three baserunners. A pair of doubles from Neal Pritchard and a 3-for-4 day from catcher Jonathan Keener led the offense to a 4-1 victory.
Congratulations to the Johnson City Cardinals on their 2011 Appalachian League Championship!