Facing elimination for the fourth time in six days, Johnson City stayed alive again — this time to reach the Appalachian League championship series.
Chandler Redmond drove in four runs and Johnson City came from behind to beat the Bristol Pirates 7-5 in the Appy League semifinals at TVA Credit Union Ballpark. The victory gave the Cardinals a 2-1 series win and moved them to the finals to face the Burlington Royals.
The Royals ousted Pulaski with a 5-4, 17-inning victory Sunday night in Game 3 of their series.
The best-of-three Appy League finals begin Monday night in Johnson City after being moved up a day to avoid any ramifications from Hurricane Dorian in case Burlington was involved. After Monday’s game, the Cardinals go on the road for the final two games of the championship series.
The Cardinals had to win the final two games of the regular season to win the West Division. After losing the playoff opener to Bristol, they had to win two in a row to advance to the finals.
“That’s what these guys are capable of doing,” Johnson City manager Roberto Espinoza said. “They have been ready for it and they accepted the challenge.”
Redmond had already produced a two-run single to open the scoring in the fourth inning. When he stepped to the plate in the sixth, Bristol was leading 4-3. Aaron Antonini was on second base after hitting a double.
“That’s what you dream of as a kid, getting a chance to play minor league baseball and getting up with runners in scoring position, you can’t dream of it any better,” Redmond said.
Redmond got hold of a fastball and crushed it over the right-center field wall. He took a split second to admire the ball’s flight before rounding the bases.
“It felt good,” he said. “I knew it was gone as soon as I hit it. One of the best feelings in the world.”
Redmond’s shot put Johnson City up 5-4, but the Cards still had some rallying to do. When center fielder Trejyn Fletcher’s ill-advised throw to third flew over the head of the cutoff man and third baseman and wound up out of play, it allowed Bristol to forge a 5-5 tie.
It wasn’t until Malcom Nunez’s two-run double in the seventh that the Cards had the lead for good.
It still wasn’t easy. Walker Robbins was called upon to close it out and after getting the first batter, he issued a walk and hit a batter.
Tyler Peck came on and sealed the deal with one pitch when Jesus Valdez hit a grounder to third. Nunez stepped on the bag and threw to first for a game-ending double play.
Dylan Pearce was the winning pitcher after holding Bristol to one run in three innings of relief.
Redmond, Nunez, Antonini and Mateo Gill each had two of the Cardinals’ nine hits.
Matt Morrow had three hits and Aaron Shackelford added a two-run home run for Bristol, which was making its first postseason appearance since 2002.
CHASING A CHAMPIONSHIP
The Cards are going for their fifth Appy League championship since 2010. They last won it in 2016.
Monday’s championship series opener is set for 6:30 p.m. at TVA Credit Union Ballpark.