After knocking off rival Elizabethton in three games in the first round of the Appalachian League playoffs, the Johnson City Cardinals swept the Burlington Royals to win their fourth Appalachian League Championship in the past seven years. The title is the sixth for Johnson City during the time it has been affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Sunday September 4, 2016: Elizabethton Twins 8 at Johnson City Cardinals 7
After winning game one, the Cardinals were locked in a see-saw battle when the two teams returned to Johnson City for game two. Somewhat uncharacteristically, Johnson City blasted three home runs. However, the power surge by the Cardinals proved to not be enough as the Twins evened the series at a game a piece with an 8-7 victory.
Matt Fiedler had productive 2-for-4 showing with a three-run home run. Fiedler put the Cardinals up 4-1 after three innings but the lead was not held. Fellow outfielder Shane Billings also had a stellar day offensively going 3-for-4 with three runs scored and a stolen base.
Frederis Parra, who won the Appalachian League’s ERA title during the regular season, did not have his best stuff on Sunday as he lasted just 3 2/3 innings and allowed five runs (four earned) on eight hits. However, the loss did not go to Parra as Yeison Medina was tagged with the defeat after allowing two runs (one earned) in 1 2/3 innings.
Monday September 5, 2016: Elizabethton Twins 6 at Johnson City Cardinals 8
With a berth in the Appalachian League Championship on the line, the Cardinals and Twins did not disappoint as they put on a classic contest. The two teams, who combined for 14 runs and 34 hits in the contest, exchanged the lead a total of five times Monday until a three-run seventh inning by Johnson City proved to be the difference as the Cardinals beat Elizabethton, 8-6.
Everyone in the Cardinals’ lineup on Monday helped to seal the win in some fashion. Each starter had at least one hit or at least one RBI. DeAndre Asbury-Heath tied the game in the seventh with a sacrifice fly before Shane Billings lined a double to centerfield to score Hunter Newman to tally the game-winning run.
Johnson City used a total of five different pitchers to pick up the series-deciding win. No pitcher deserved the victory more than reliever Keaton Siomkin as he got out of a seventh-inning jam that had runners on first and third with one out with just one run allowed. After escaping, Siomkin tossed a scoreless eighth inning and then Estarlin Arias did the same in the ninth to pick up the save.
Tuesday September 6, 2016: Johnson City Cardinals 6 at Burlington Royals 2
In their final road game of the 2016 season, the Cardinals scored six runs in the game’s first four innings to help propel them to a 6-2 victory over Burlington in the opening game of the Appalachian League Championship series.
Catcher Andrew Knizner went 2-for-5 with two RBI and a double to pace Johnson City’s offense, while DeAndre Asbury-Heath also had a two-hit outing.
Starting pitcher Ramon Santos was outstanding on Tuesday. After allowing a pair of runs in the first inning, Santos settled down and tossed six scoreless innings after that to pick up the victory.
Wednesday September 7, 2016: Burlington Royals 6 at Johnson City Cardinals 11
Like they did in game one, the Royals pounced on Johnson City for two runs in the opening frame. The Cardinals pulled ahead with a three-run third before exploding for a five-run seventh to put them ahead for good as they went on to win the Appalachian League Championship, 11-6.
Bryce Denton had a huge game, going 2-for-4 with a double, home run and a career-high five RBI. Denton was not alone, however, as the Cardinals’ No. 3 and 4 hitters Matt Fiedler and Andrew Knizner both went 3-for-5. J.R. Davis also had a 3-for-5 day out of the leadoff spot.
Lefthander David Oca made the start but only lasted three innings before he had to leave the game due to an injury. Reliever Yeison Medina came up in a huge way in relief of Oca tossing four innings while allowing just one run. The four inning outing was the longest of Medina’s professional career. For his efforts, Medina was credited with the win.
Bryce Denton – If I would award a playoff MVP for the Cardinals, I think I would go with Denton. The second round selection by St. Louis in 2015 saved his best for last as he hit .450 in the postseason with a home run and seven RBI. Denton’s home run came in the series clinching-game against Burlington, while he also went 7-for12 in the first round series against Elizabethton.
J.R. Davis – Another player with outstanding postseason was the Appalachian League All-Star at second base, J.R. Davis. Davis had at least one hit in every playoff game, including a pair of three-hit performances. The former Oklahoma State standout drove in at least one run in each game as well.
Ramon Santos – In arguably his most important outing as a professional, Ramon Santos stepped up in a big way for Johnson City. Santos, who started game one of the championship series against Burlington, tossed seven innings while allowing just two runs against one of the deepest lineups in the Appalachian League. The stellar outing was not only critical for Johnson City in capturing its fourth Appy League title in the past seven years but it was also important for Santos as he struggled in the conversion from a reliever to a starter. In 15 1/3 innings as a reliever, Santos was outstanding with a 1-1 record and a 1.17 ERA. However, in eight starts, Santos had a 6.03 ERA in 34 1/3 innings.
Starting on Monday, September 12 will be The Cardinal Nation’s annual series with in-depth recaps of every minor league team in the organization, followed by our Players, Starting Pitchers and Relievers of the Year by each level, plus system-wide awards, too. That includes four Johnson City-specific articles.
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