The long wait is over for the Johnson City Cardinals.
Johnson City wrapped up its first Appalachian League championship since 1976 with a 6-2 win over Elizabethton Saturday night at Cardinal Park. The Cardinals swept the best-of-three championship series after a 7-2 win at Elizabethton on Friday.
“The thing about Elizabethton is they’re always the class of the league, both on and off the field,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said about Johnson City’s overall seventh league title. “It’s just a real honor to be able to beat somebody of that caliber.”
Virgil Hill led the way for the Cardinals offense, going 2-for-4 with three RBIs. His totals included a two-run homer over right in the eighth inning.
“It was just a collective effort,” Hill said. “I had so much support from my family, my friends and my brothers on the team. Elizabethton is a great team. They’ve been sticking it to us all year long, but we wanted it more. All the hard work that we did finally paid off.” Elizabethton’s Jamaal Hawkins led off the game with a solo shot over left, but Johnson City starting pitcher Kevin Siegrist buckled down and didn’t give up any more runs and just two more hits in 6 2/3 innings of work. Trevor Rosenthal threw the next two innings, before closer Hector Corpas retired four straight batters, setting off a wild celebration as teammates charged the mound.
“I can’t say enough about our starting pitching this whole playoffs,” Shildt said. “In the first game, (Ryan) Copeland gave us five-plus innings. Cale (Johnson) threw six innings the second game and Boone Whiting was great last night for six-plus. Seigrest was outstanding tonight. He’s gotten better over the course of the season. He’s always had pretty good fastball control, but now his change-up is better and his breaking ball is the best it’s been all year.
“Corpas at the end, I can’t say enough about the guy. He doesn’t scare and he’s aggressive. He’s got a great fastball and an out-pitch, a splitty. It’s tough for opposing guys.”
The Cardinals’ offense responded in the bottom of the first as Phillip Cerreto provided a RBI single and Travis Tartamella came up with a two-run single for a 3-1 lead. The Cards added a fourth run in the sixth inning off Hill’s RBI double to score Cerreto.
The Twins’ Gunner Glad scored off an error to cut the margin to 4-2 in the top of the eighth. However, Johnson City answered with Hill’s two-run shot which also scored Kleininger Teran.
“We had such an awesome coaching staff who taught us the team concept,” Hill said. “All we had to do was come out here and execute. I was just trying to do anything possible to help my team out. The home run, it was just awesome. I can’t even describe it.”
Elizabethton was bidding for its sixth Appalachian League title in the past 11 years. The Twins had battled the Cardinals for the West Division title all season. It was fitting the nearby rivals with the league’s two best records met in the championship series.
“Congratulations to Johnson City, they were the class of the league all year,” Elizabethton manager Ray Smith said. “We beat them as many times as they beat us this year, but they beat us at the right time. Our guys gave it their best effort. They made every at-bat a tough at-bat, and every out a tough out. They battled to the wire.”
written by Jeff Birchfield
My take on this is that the Cardinals minor league system is crappy. All of our draftees never pan out. Well this team jelled and produced with players like pitcher Cale Johnson and Oscar Taveras that belted out 8HR, 43RBI, .322 BA AVG and 211 AB. Now thats not too shabby. Congrats Johnson City!!!