By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
David Rollins just keeps rolling along. So does Art Charles.
Rollins worked five innings of three-hit baseball and Charles continued his torrid pace with the bat, leading the Bluefield Blue Jays to a 9-3 Appalachian League victory over Johnson City in front of 829 spectators on a muggy Thursday night at Bowen Field.
Bluefield (9-8), which won in 11 innings on Wednesday on a two-run walkoff home run by Daniel Arcila, made it two in a row against the Cardinals (12-5), which entered with the league’s best record and held a four-game lead in the West Division.
The Blue Jays will now travel to Danville for a three-game series tonight, and won’t return to Bluefield until next Friday against Kingsport.
“Every series matters, we are trying to win all the games that we can,” Bluefield third baseman Andy Fermin said. “We just want to get into the playoffs and that is our goal right now.”
The Blue Jays, who are 2-8 in one-run games, but 7-0 in all other games, were able to avoid that fate again, scoring three runs in the fourth — with Charles bringing home one run with a bloop single — and then added two in the fifth when Charles blasted his eighth home run of the season.
“Give them a lot of credit, they have been enjoying playing, they have been competing and we talk about trying to play with energy every night,” Bluefield manager Dennis Holmberg said. “When you put all the pieces to the puzzle together and you get good pitching and good defense and you get timely hitting, it makes a big difference in the results.”
Second in the league with an ERA of 1.08 entering the game, Rollins did little to damage those numbers, working five innings and allowing one run while improving to 3-0 on the season. He struck out three, and didn’t walk a batter.
“I have been working hard all my life to get where I am at and I don’t want to blow something off and not work as hard and forget where I have come from,” Rollins said. “This is part of my dream and I am trying to get to the big show and hopefully I will be there.
“I will just keeping working hard every day, just do what I am supposed to do and keep trying to be successful. I am starting batters off with a first pitch strike and I have bee doing that a lot in my last four outings and I have had a lot of success.”
Meanwhile, Charles — the reigning league Player of the Week — is tied for the league lead with eight home runs, and is tops in the circuit with 24 runs batted in. He had a home run, single, three runs batted in and two runs scored, but he wasn’t all on this night.
Fermin had a home run, double, drove in two and scored three times, while Gustavo Pierre homered, singled and scored three times. Carlos Ramirez added three hits, including a double.
“I played good tonight. Thank God, first of all, and then the coaches that are working hard with us in the cages and in the field,” said Fermin, who’s father, Felix Fermin, played for four teams and 10 seasons in the major leagues. “We just have to the best we can.
“When they give me the opportunity I just try to do the best I can to help the team win.”
With the score tied 1-1, Bluefield scored three in the fourth. Pierre, who had homered in the first to give the Jays the lead, reached on an error and Fermin followed with a double down the right field line.
Charles then blooped a single to center, and Chris Schaeffer _ who is now batting .394 _ singled to right for a 3-1 lead. A passed ball pushed the Jays up by three runs.
Two more runs crossed in the fifth, with Fermin reaching on a two-out walk and Charles blasting a two-run shot well over the right field fence.
Drew Elliott and Toronto native Les Williams followed Rollins out of the bullpen, with the trio combining to allow seven hits, three runs, striking out six and walking none.
Holmberg was especially pleased with Rollins, a 24th round draft choice in June from San Jacinto Junior College in Texas.
“He has pitched extremely well and I don’t think he has missed a beat in all of his starts,” Holmberg said. “He has competed, he throws strikes, pitches ahead in the count, and I think he is pitching with a lot of confidence right now.
“He’s been a very good guy in the rotation for us.”
Gary Apelian led Johnson City with two doubles, and he scored the Cardinals’ second run in the seventh on a double play ball. Their final run crossed in the eighth when Steve Ramos singled and scored on a double by Tyler Rahmatulla, who also doubled in Ramos for their first run in the third.
Jose Pasan (1-1) took the loss for Johnson City, which used three pitchers, a trio that struck out 10 and walked just one.
Bluefield added a run in the sixth on singles by Chris Hawkins and Ramirez, and two more in the seventh when Fermin followed a single from Pierre with a two-run home run over the right field fence.
The Blue Jays out-hit the Cardinals 11-7, and both teams had one error apiece, as Bluefield prepared for a six-game road trip by winning two of three from Johnson City, the defending league champions.
“Any win feels good, but when we beat a team the caliber that they have got, it feels real well to come out with a win and get two wins out of it,” Rollins said. “Our hitting came through tonight and our pitching did real well and we made some pretty good defensive plays. It was just a good win tonight.”
Bluefield will be looking for revenge in Danville, after dropping three one-run games to the Braves at Bowen Field early in the season.
“I am proud of the guys, we go on the road now for three days,” said Holmberg, who’s Jays will be in Bristol for three games after the series with the Braves. “We have been at home for a little while, less the games we played in Princeton, but now we go down to Danville.
“They came here and beat us three straight, all in one-run ball games and ball games we felt we could have won. Hopefully we can get those games back that we lost.”
Bird seed: Bluefield first baseman Yudelmis Hernandez was reassigned to Toronto’s Gulf Coast League team in Dunedin, Fla. on Thursday. He was batting .250 in nine games for the Blue Jays...Johnson City infielder David Bergin, who had a single in three at-bats, played at Tennessee Wesleyan, which is part of the Appalachian Athletic Conference that Bluefield College plays in.
— Contact Brian Woodson
at Bowen Field
Johnson City.............001 000 110 — 3 7 1
Bluefield...................100 321 20x — 9 11 1
Jose Pasan, Tyler Mills (6), Roberto Canache (9) and Jonathan Keener. David Rollins, Drew Elliott (6) Les Williams (8) and Chris Schaeffer. W-Rollins (3-0); L-Pasen (1-1). Gustavo Pierre (4) 1st, 0 on; Art Charles (8) 5th, 1 on; Andy Fermin (1) 7th, 1 on. Att- 829.