BRISTOL, Va. – Two sets of concrete structures that serve as bleachers at DeVault Stadium have been deemed unsuitable and unsafe for spectators to sit in and are now closed.
The baseball team that calls the place home suddenly finds themselves on shaky ground as well.
The Bristol Pirates fell to third place in the Appalachian League’s West Division with a 6-3 loss to the Johnson City Cardinals on Wednesday night.
Bristol (11-10) trails leader Johnson City (12-8) by 1 ½ games and the Elizabethton Twins (12-9) sit in second place, a game ahead of the Pirates.
The BriBucs lost consecutive games for the first time since June 25 and have managed just three runs on 10 hits in those back-to-back defeats.
"That’s just baseball," said Bristol third baseman Aaron Shackelford. "It’s eventually going to catch up with you. We’re excited for the game [Thursday]. That’s the beauty of it is we get another shot against them and we’re still confident as a team. We’re fine."
Monday’s 5-0 loss to the Pulaski Yankees and Wednesday’s setback to the Cardinals were similar with Bristol’s bats not getting going and the bullpen faltering.
Johnson City starting pitcher Dalton Roach (1-0, 5.64 ERA) allowed just three hits in spinning six scoreless innings. He struck out four and did not issue a walk.
Roach previously played for the River City Rascals of the independent Frontier League and was a teammate of former David Crockett High School and East Tennessee State University star Clint Freeman’s last season.
The St. Louis Cardinals organization signed Roach on June 17 and it was his first triumph in a Johnson City uniform.
"He was a really frustrating pitcher to hit," Shackelford said. "Everything looked hittable and then he just spotted up really well. We never really got a great pitch to hit. It was a frustrating first six innings for us as a team just because he was nickel and diming us."
Johnson City scored all six of its runs against Bristol relief pitcher Yoelvis Reyes (1-1, 6.62 ERA) as he surrendered three runs in the fifth inning and three more in the seventh. Reyes walked two and gave up seven hits.
Enrique Santana walked three of the five batters he faced in the seventh inning, only compounding the problem for the Pirates.
It was the first game at DeVault Stadium since the Pirates announced that the concrete bleachers located beyond the reserved seating section directly behind home plate would not be available for fans.
The concrete stands behind the first-base dugout were closed on June 28 due to damage.
Whatever was left of the announced crowd of 347 for Wednesday’s matchup and wherever they were sitting saw Shackelford slam a two-run homer in the ninth inning off Johnson City relief pitcher John Witkowski, a former Boston College standout.
It was the third homer of the season for Shackelford, whose previous blasts had come in road contests against the Kingsport Mets and Greeneville Reds.
"It was good to get that monkey off my back and get a home run here," Shackelford said.
NOTES: Outfielder Fernando Villegas has been promoted to the BriBucs from the Gulf Coast League. He was 0-for-9 with six strikeouts in four games in the GCL. … Johnson City leadoff man Terry Fuller had a two-run homer among his two hits. Todd Lott and Liam Sabino also had two hits for the Cardinals. … Brendt Citta went 1-for-4 for the West Virginia Black Bears of the short-season advanced New York-Penn League on Wednesday in a loss to the Aberdeen IronBirds. It was Citta’s first game with the team since being promoted from the BriBucs. … Kristen Quon and Casey Goetz of WCYB TV-5 each threw out a ceremonial first pitch. … Bristol hosts Johnson City again today at 6:30 p.m.
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