piraes

BRISTOL, Va. – It took Jesus Valdez of the Bristol Pirates just one at-bat Sunday to extend his hitting streak to 12 games as he connected for a two-run homer in the first inning.

He didn’t stop there, however.

Valdez drove in five runs and scored three times in leading the BriBucs to a 14-5 Appalachian League victory over the Bluefield Blue Jays at DeVault Stadium.

The 21-year-old infielder from the Dominican Republic went deep on an offering from Blue Jays pitcher Naswell Paulino (1-1, 3.98 ERA) in the first inning on a night when things turned out not well for Bluefield’s hurlers.

Valdez added a RBI double in the third inning, a RBI groundout in the sixth and another RBI double in the eighth.

He has nine RBIs in his last two games to go along with that hitting streak.

“He’s heated up and he doesn’t want to stop,” said Bristol first baseman Ernny Ordonez. “We love it. He’s the sparkplug of this team.”

The stat line for Valdez in 2019 includes a .320 batting average, three homers, 25 RBIs and 10 doubles.

“I’ve been working hard and I feel great at the plate right now,” Valdez said as Ordonez interpreted. “Every time there’s a runner in scoring position, I am just trying to hit it into the gap.”

Valdez batted .230 last year in his first professional season with the Dominican Summer League Dodgers. He was acquired by the Pittsburgh organization in a trade last August and has fared well in his new surroundings.

“He’s just been locked in,” said Bristol manager Kieran Mattison. “He’s making adjustments from pitch-to-pitch and isn’t trying to do too much and it’s been fun to watch.”

Bristol’s hitters have all been locked in as Sunday’s beatdown of Bluefield came 24 hours after a 19-4 crushing of Kingsport.

Ordonez hammered out four of Bristol’s 17 hits on Sunday, while Yoyner Fajardo (3-for-4, four runs, two RBIs), Aaron Shackelford (2-for-5, three RBIs) and Jake Wright (2-for-5, RBIs) also got in on the act. Shackelford hit his sixth home run of the season in the eighth inning.

“It’s been in ‘em all year,” Mattison said. “They’ve just been grinding. They are going out there every day and putting in work and it’s paying off.”

Bluefield (25-26) pulled within 10-5 in the eighth inning and had the bases loaded with one out when Samson Abernathy got Leonardo Jimenez to ground into an inning-ending double play.

The Pirates (25-26) scored four times in the bottom of the eighth to seal the deal and gain ground in the Appy League’s West Division.

The BriBucs trail first-place Johnson City (27-24) by two games and second-place Elizabethton (26-25) by one game in the standings with 16 games remaining.

“This team feels good right now,” Ordonez said. “Our pitching staff trusts us and believes in us, our defense is doing good and our offense is clicking. We’re rolling.”

NOTES: Saul De La Cruz (1-0, 1.29 ERA) was the winning pitcher for Bristol after tossing 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief. … Justin Ammons (University of Tennessee) and Spencer Horwitz (Radford University) each had two hits for Bluefield. … The attendance was 302. … Bristol hosts Bluefield again today with first pitch scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

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thayes@bristolnews.com | Twitter:@Hayes_BHCSports | (276) 645-2570

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