BRISTOL, Va. – The Bristol Pirates might have endured a June swoon, but they have been flying high in July.
The red-hot BriBucs ran their winning streak to five games with a 9-3 pounding of the Pulaski Yankees on Sunday night at DeVault Stadium.
Bristol (11-8) is tied with Elizabethton (11-8) for first place in the Appalachian League’s West Division and those teams are also knotted up with Bluefield (11-8) when it comes to boasting the rookie-league circuit’s best record.
Keep in mind that the Pirates were just 1-6 after a loss at Elizabethton on June 25, but have won 10 of their last 12 in going from worst to a share of first.
“Obviously, [being 1-6] was tough,” said Bristol second baseman Josh Bissonette. “It’s not how you want to start out. But we all put our hard hats on and went to work. All the pitchers did extra work, the hitters did extra work. We’ve worked hard to get to where we are and obviously, we have a long season ahead, but just to see how we are doing right now is definitely a confidence booster.”
Bissonette hit a two-run single during a four-run second-inning that put Bristol ahead for good and added a two-run double in the seventh inning. A four-year starter at Baylor University, Bissonette was one of seven hitters in Bristol’s lineup on Sunday that played college baseball.
Sluggers who once starred at Minnesota, Kansas, Coastal Carolina, Central Arizona, Georgia Tech and Wright State also took their hacks for the home team.
“Going to a four-year, junior college, NAIA or whatever, you kind of get acclimated to the pressure and the environment of fans and the loud noise,” Bissonette said. “When it comes down to it these guys know how to play and when we need to be clutch, we’re clutch. It’s really cool to be a part of that.”
Pulaski (10-8) drew within 4-2 after six innings, but the BriBucs scored twice in the seventh inning and three more times in the eighth to seal the deal. Jesus Valdez and Samuel Inoa added two hits apiece, while Chase Murray drove in two runs.
“A lot of these guys are still babies in pro ball,” said Bristol manager Kieran Mattison. “They have all been open to adjusting and not just sticking to what worked in the past. They trust themselves, but are also students of the game.”
The guys on the mound were pretty good too.
Bristol has allowed just seven runs over its last three games and the pitching performed well once again on Sunday. Tahnaj Thomas struck out seven and yielded two runs in 4 2/3 innings in his second consecutive strong start.
Yordi Rosario (2-0, 3.97 ERA), Enrique Santana, Alex Roth and Ryan Troutman held it down out of the bullpen.
“We have very talented arms here and they show that out on the field,” said Bristol pitching coach Eric Minshall. “We’re getting a lot of strikeouts and a lot of quality pitches being made and we’re not letting [tough] situations snowball.”
If Bristol continues performing at this pace, it could be an eventful summer at DeVault Stadium.
The city’s Appalachian League franchise hasn’t produced a winning season since 2008 and hasn’t made the playoffs since 2002.
“I saw one of our scouts in Kingsport and I gave him a fist bump,” Mattison said. “I said, ‘Man, you guys got it right.’ They drafted some really good guys and I’ve been impressed with them as players and people.”
NOTES: Jake Wright started in left field and went 1-for-3 with a run scored for Bristol. He made his pro debut for the Pirates the night before in Greeneville. He was a 32nd-round draft choice out of Coastal Carolina. … Knoxville, Tennessee, native Ryder Green went 2-for-4 for Pulaski. He is a second-year pro and a former standout at Karns High School … A crowd of 916 took in the game, a bump in the usual attendance for a Sunday game at DeVault Stadium. … Bristol hosts Pulaski again today with first pitch scheduled for 6:30 p.m.