BRISTOL, Va. – The Bristol Pirates are hoping to coast into the Appalachian League playoffs and a kid from Coastal Carolina University is helping the cause.
Jake Wright scored two runs and stole a base as the BriBucs posted a 6-4 triumph over the Bluefield Blue Jays on Monday night at DeVault Stadium.
Bristol (26-26) has won three in a row and six of its last eight by pounding the baseball. The BriBucs have scored 39 runs on 43 hits during the winning streak and are in serious contention with 15 games remaining.
The Pirates are just a game back of co-leaders Johnson City (27-25) and Elizabethton (27-25) in the Appy League’s West Division. The top two teams in the division qualify for the playoffs and Bristol might be playing as well as anybody else in the Appalachian League at the moment.
The BriBucs scored four times in the bottom of the second inning to take the lead for good on Monday and finished with 11 hits. Chase Murray and Yoyner Fajardo led the way with three hits apiece.
“These past few games we’ve came out and put a good amount of runs up early in the game,” Wright said. “I think that’s just a testament to us being aggressive with pitches that we can handle.”
Wright knows how to handle a bat as he was the 2019 Sun Belt Conference newcomer of the year after hitting .355 with 11 home runs and 49 RBIs for the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. His .516 on-base percentage led all Sun Belt sluggers.
After spending his first two collegiate seasons at the University of South Carolina and Seminole State College of Florida, Wright found the right fit at the college in Conway, South Carolina.
The Pittsburgh Pirates selected him in the 32nd round of June’s Major League Baseball Amateur Draft.
“[Head] Coach [Gary] Gilmore and his assistants have built an incredible program,” Wright said. “They one-hundred percent prepared me [for the pro level]. Everything I needed to be prepared for, I’ve been ready for.”
He’s hitting .250 with 12 RBIs in 21 games for the BriBucs and admits that he’s not tiring from a grind that began on Feb. 15 when he started at designated hitter in Coastal’s 10-8 season-opening victory over Virginia Commonwealth.
“I couldn’t see myself doing anything other than playing baseball every day,” Wright said. “I love it.”
Bristol pitcher Ryan Troutman also attended a college in South Carolina – NCAA Division II Lander University – and he was feeling pretty good on Monday after tossing two scoreless innings of relief to pick up his first pro win.
Troutman (1-2, 5.82 ERA) had been hit around in his two previous outings.
“You just have to get out there and keep going,” Troutman said. “I try to attack hitters and stay with the plan.”
Bluefield (25-27) loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the ninth inning on Monday, but Alex Roth struck out pinch-hitter Ryan Sloniger looking to end the game.
“We have a ton of confidence,” Troutman said. “We’re blasting the ball all over the ballpark and guys are playing well.”
NOTES: Jesus Valdez went 0-for-4 for Bristol in seeing his 12-game hitting streak come to an end. … Bluefield’s Justin Ammons (University of Tennessee) is hitting .429 after going 2-for-5 on Monday. … Former Virginia High baseball standout Chandler Davis was among the 235 folks in attendance. He played with Bluefield first baseman Spencer Horwitz at Radford University. Horwitz had three hits on Monday. … P.K. Morris hit a second-inning homer for the Blue Jays. … Bristol hosts Bluefield today at 6:30 p.m. It will be the last home game for the Pirates until Aug. 21.