KINGSPORT, TN — Kingsport starter Murphy Gienger reared back and fired a fastball past Bristol’s Cort Maynard. Gienger pumped his fist into his glove and shouted, ‘let’s go.’
The right-hander understood the magnitude of the situation.
Maynard, one of the top hitters in the Appalachian League, golfed a 337-foot towering flyball down the left-field line foul two pitches prior.
Gienger tossed six innings of one-run baseball and closer Brock Browning sealed Kingsport’s sweep over Bristol, taking the nightcap of the doubleheader, 3-1, Saturday at Hunter Wright Stadium.
“I was fired up. It’s one of those moments you’re going to remember forever,” said Gienger, who earned his first Appalachian League win. “Don’t sleep on us. We are a bunch of hard-nosed players. We love to play the game of baseball. We needed a bit of time to get the team chemistry going and here we are.”
The Axmen (4-10) have won three consecutive games against the State Liners (22-22) after securing an 11-4 decision in the opening leg of the twin bill and a 13-12 victory Friday evening.
“They’re really gelling as a team. They are coming together through all the adversity,” Kingsport manager Mike Guinn said. “Pitching and defense wins you a lot of games. We got opportunistic hitting. We’re hitting in bunches and we’re playing very consistently.”
Gienger surrendered just three hits and struck out six. Browning entered with two runners on base and no outs in the seventh. Browning promptly set down the next three Bristol batters to lock down his second save in as many nights.
“He was masterful,” Guinn said of Gienger. “Murphy didn’t let them settle in. He kept them off balance and off tempo.”
In the first game, the Axmen jumped all over the State Liners. Kingsport hit around in the opening inning, plating five runs. Six straight men reached base, capped off by Marco Romero’s run-scoring single.
First baseman Cole Hales padded the cushion with an RBI groundout in the second before designated hitter Preston Steele pushed the lead to seven with a double in the third.
On the mound, Sam Loew held Bristol in check. Loew allowed one earned run on a trio of hits across six innings. He punched out a season-best nine, earning his first victory.
“Sam was changing speeds. His off-speed was amazing,” Guinn said. “He was really mixing it up and keeping them off balance. He made big pitch after big pitch.”
After breaking out the brooms against Bristol, Kingsport opens a two-game series at Elizabethton. The seven-inning contest begins 5:30 p.m. Sunday at Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark.