The Johnson City Cardinals lifted the lid on its 2016 season last Thursday on the road against the defending Appalachian League Champions, Greeneville Astros. Johnson City, with 11 players making their professional debuts in Greeneville, broke out the bats in a big way in its opening series, scoring 23 runs in the three games (7.67 runs per game). The two teams split the first two contests before the Cardinals won the rubber match of series by a 5-3 final tally Saturday evening.
Thursday June 23: Johnson City Cardinals 10 at Greeneville Astros 6
Despite trailing 2-0 after three innings, the Cardinals rallied in a big way, scoring 10 runs on 13 hits to win their season opener, 10-6. Johnson City, which was aided by three errors by Greeneville, was led offensively by five multi-hit performances, including a 3-for-4 night from 2015 second round pick Bryce Denton. Another top offensive performer was catcher Joshua Lopez, who went 2-for-4 with a triple and four RBI.
Four different pitchers saw action in the four-run victory Thursday. Ian Oxnevad got the starting nod and struck out six Greeneville hitters in his 5 2/3 innings of work, while allowing five runs on six hits. Yeison Medina was credited with the win after striking out a pair in 1 1/3 innings of relief.
Friday June 24: Johnson City Cardinals 8 at Greeneville Astros 9
Unlike the season-opener on Thursday, it was the Cardinals that struck first in the second game of the series. Johnson City scored five runs in the first two frames but Greeneville chipped away to tie the game at five apiece in the bottom of the fourth. The Astros eventually pulled ahead thanks to a four-run eighth inning to hand the Cardinals their first defeat of the season, 9-8.
NC State product and 2016 seventh round draft pick Andrew Knizner was the Cardinals’ top offensive player, going 3-for-5, including a solo home run. On the mound, starter David Oca was roughed up allowing five runs on 10 hits in six innings. Reliever Julio Mateo was tagged with the loss after allowing four runs on a pair of home runs to fuel Greeneville’s eighth inning rally.
Saturday June 25: Johnson City Cardinals 5 at Greeneville Astros 3
After allowing 15 runs on 22 hits in the first two games of the series, the Cardinals adopted more of a staff approach in the series finale Saturday evening - and it worked. They used five different pitchers to hold the hot-hitting Astros to three runs on six hits en route to a 5-3 win.
Johnson City scored an unearned run in the opening inning but did not score again until a four-run eighth fueled mainly by a three-run home run by Joshua Lopez which put the team on top for good.
2016 draftee Austin Sexton made the start in his professional debut and tossed three shutout innings, striking out three. Estarlin Arias notched the win after throwing two perfect innings with three strikeouts, while Yeison Medina closed it out to pick up the team’s first save of 2016.
Joshua Lopez. Lopez has not only been the top hitter for the Cardinals so far, but is the Appalachian League’s top hitter as well. The 20-year old catching prospect is leading the league at .571 with a home run and seven RBI in three games.
Andrew Knizner. Knizner, who is one of only three players to play in every game, has made a splash in his start as a professional, hitting .400 in 10 at-bats. Knizner is currently tied for the team-lead with four runs scored and is showing patience at the plate, ranking second on the squad with a pair of walks.
Matt Fiedler. Fiedler has gotten off to a slow start at the plate in his first few games as a professional as he is still in search for his first hit after 14 at-bats. Fiedler, the ninth-round selection by the Cardinals from the University of Minnesota earlier this month, is the reigning Big 10 Player of the Year after hitting .366 with eight home runs and 39 RBI in the spring.
David Oca. Oca did not have a good start in his Appalachian League debut on Friday as he gave up 10 hits and five runs in six innings of work. The lefty hopes to get back to his previous success in future starts as the 20-year old owns a 15-8 record and a 2.35 ERA in his professional career.
By The Numbers
.287 – Through three games, the Cardinals lead the league with a .287 team batting average. Individually, the team has three hitters in the top 10 in batting average in Joshua Lopez (1st, .571), Andrew Brodbeck (T6th, .444) and Bryce Denton (T6th, .444).
1.15 – The strength of the Cardinals’ pitching staff through the early going has been its ability to get strikeouts. Johnson City’s pitchers are averaging 1.15 strikeouts per inning (30 strikeouts in 26 innings), which is second only to Kingsport’s mark of 1.65 (44 strikeouts in 26 2/3 innings).
.429 – The Cardinals’ catchers have been a major cog of the team’s offense so far as they are hitting a collective .429 with and on-base percentage of .615. Additionally, the catchers have either scored or driven in eight of the team’s 23 runs so far in 2016.
There were no transactions last week.
There were no injuries last week.
Appalachian League Western Division Standings
Johnson City will play seven of its next 10 games at home beginning Sunday when it starts a three-game series against league-leading Elizabethton. Following their three-game set with the Twins, the Cardinals will head to Danville for three against the Braves before closing out the week at home against Princeton.
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