Twins let opener slip away

By Allen LaMountain
ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR
alamountain@starhq.com

   JOHNSON CITY -- The Johnson City Cardinals rallied from a five-run early deficit to record a 7-6, 10-inning win over the Elizabethton Twins on Tuesday night at Cardinal Park to spoil 'Betsy skipper Ray Smith's return to the helm.
   Johnson City pecked away at the 'Betsy advantage against four Twins hurlers to knot things up at 6-6 after eight frames and won going away as Justin Keeling couldn't slam the door on the Cards.
   "We stared out hitting some rockets out there," said Twins manager Ray Smith. "We had some other chances to score, but we ran ourselves into some trouble. I like that we are aggressive on the bases, and we want to be aggressive, but also smart."
   'Betsy opened strong with a run in the first, along with a pair of runs in both the second and third innings to open a five-to-nothing lead, but what initially looked like a cakewalk would turn into a classic nail-biter by the eighth.
   Twins starter Erik Lohse went five innings, giving up four runs on five hits before giving way to lefty reliever Jared Hemus in the sixth.
   "Lohse gave us five good innings, we'll take that. He got a couple of balls up in the zone and they hit it." Smith said.
   Trent Oeltjen opened things with a double and scored on a single by Peter Martinez. Martinez was thrown out at second base trying to leg out a two-bagger for himself, and that would prove costly as Garrett Guzman then doubled into left field.
   Cory Agar's single to right followed Guzman's hit, but Cards right fielder Terry Evans came up firing and nailed a stunned Guzman at the plate as the Twins saw two base runners erased that would have scored in the frame.
   "We did some good things in the field to help ourselves," said Cardinal manager Brian Rupp. "I don't really know a lot about these guys yet, but I like that we battled back against the pressure of being behind."
   In the second a two-run bunt single by Oeltjen may have caught the Cards napping on defense as both Dan Marin, and Scott Whitlock scored from second and third on the play.
   Marin beat out a one-out infield hit and Whitlock followed with a single to right, before Sam Taylor's fly ball to right moved them up a base. Oeltjen then dropped a perfect drag bunt down the first base line where Cards first baseman Zach Cates fielded the ball, but Oeltjen beat Cards pitcher Chris Narveson to the bag, as both Marin and Whitlock kept running.
   Narveson's relay to the plate was late to get Whitlock and Betsy had a three-run lead after two innings. A two-run blast off the bat of Twins first baseman Dusty Gomon, with Guzman aboard with a single staked Lohse to a five-to-nothing lead after the top of the third.
   Johnson City got to Lohse for a run in the last of the third on a solo blast by Matt Lemanczyk to cut the Twins lead to 5-1. In the fourth Andrew Davie crushed one over the right field fence as the Cards continued their uphill climb back into the contest.
   The game's biggest turn came in the fifth as Oeltjen stumbled in center field on a ball hit by Cates that turned into two-run triple and brought the Cards to within 5-4.
   With Lemanczyk on board with a walk, Evans drilled a single to center to set the stage for Cates who's sinking liner would have almost surely been caught by Oeltjen who got a good jump on the ball, but then slipped and saw the ball scoot by him to the fence.
   "That was a tough play," said Smith. "It was in the twilight which makes it tough to see anyway, but he just slipped and they jumped on all our mistakes tonight."
   A Martinez double in the seventh enabled the Twins to grab an insurance run, but that policy never paid off for Betsy on this night, but gave the Twins a 6-4 lead. Once again in the frame the Twins saw a runner gunned down at the plate after a single by Guzman plated Martinez.
   The Cards scored in the seventh against 'Betsy reliever Jared Hemus on a passed ball by Marin, and once again in the eighth to tie the game at 6-6. In the eighth Janewrys Simon opened the frame, but recorded just two outs before giving way to Keeling.
   Keeling finished out the eighth and ninth recording four strikeouts, before running into trouble in the 10th with Jose Nolasco's drive plating Mike McCoy with the winning run.