'Betsy loses third in a row

By Allen LaMountain
ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR
alamountain@starhq.com

   One advantage to playing the division leader is that you can close ground quickly on them if you win. However, the bad thing is, if you lose, you lose ground that much quicker as well.
   On Monday night, which was also opening night at Joe O'Brien Field, the Elizabethton Twins continued to put on a clinic on how to beat yourself as they dropped a heartbreaking 4-3 contest to West Division leading Pulaski.
   One bad inning, and not enough in the clutch, did in the Twins as 'Betsy fell to 2-5 on the young season, and is now three games in back of the Rangers, who stand at 5-2.
   "In a short season it's good to get off to a fast start," said Pulaski manager Pedro Lopez. "That last out almost gave me a heart attack, but that aside, I think we played well tonight. We have a lot of young guys here, and getting a good start will build our confidence, and I hope we keep doing things the way we have been."
   That last out that Lopez referred to was a blast off the bat of Twins pinch hitter Garrett Guzman that almost won it for 'Betsy in the ninth. Guzman's shot stayed in the park, though, and was caught by Pulaski rightfielder Julian Charles to end the contest.
   'Betsy got another solid start from Scott Tyler who hurled five innings of two-hit ball, but an error and a two-run homer by Rangers' third baseman Greg Buscher did in reliever T.J. Prunty, who was the hard-luck loser in this one.
   Tyler struck out seven, but also walked four in his mound stint, and sure enough it was one of the guys who walked that eventually came around to score on him.
   "Walks will always come back to haunt you," said Tyler, who in 10 innings pitched has struck out 15 batters. "It doesn't matter what inning you give them up in, they will hurt you. One thing I am working hard on is keeping the walks down. My walks-to-strikeout ratio has always been better than (it was) in my first two games here."
   Pulaski started lefty Craig Fryendall, and Fryendall also showed well for his club, going four innings and surrendering one run on three hits while striking out four. Fryendall walked none.
   'Betsy got on the board first on singles by Edgardo LeBron and Felix Molina to open the third frame. Sam Taylor then bounced into a 6-6-3 twin-killing that put LeBron at third with two-outs. Scott Whitrock then singled into the hole at short and LeBron scored on the hit to stake Tyler to a 1-0 advantage.
   In the fifth, Buscher walked to open the frame and Jose-Luis Gonzalez's groundout pushed Buscher to second with two away to bring up second baseman Craig Ringe. Ringe then spanked a double into right-center field to plate Buscher with the tying run.
   Prunty opened the sixth on the hill for 'Betsy and gave up a leadoff single to Nate Gold. Charles then hit a chopper that LeBron charged at third base. LeBron fielded the ball cleanly, but his throw was in the dirt, and put Pulaski runners on first and second with no one out.
   Chris Hamblen then dropped a sacrifice bunt to move the runners up 90 feet, and a sacrifice fly by Julio Volquez gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead, but Prunty wasn't out of the woods just yet. Buscher then stepped up and hit a line drive the other way, over the fence in right, to stake Pulaski to a 4-1 lead.
   "We are getting some clutch hitting so far this season," claimed Lopez. "We have played good defense, and that helps the pitcher. Rowe gave us a good inning, made one mistake, but he bounced back, and Loe is a starter that I sent in to get some innings."
   Cory Agar followed Trent Oeltjen's leadoff single in the last of the sixth with his first homer of the season to cut the Rangers' advantage to 4-3. However, missed opportunities were the order of the day the rest of the way for 'Betsy.
   "It feels good to get that first one," said Agar, who has hit the ball hard so far this season, batting .308 coming into the contest. "My goal is to keep my strikeouts down. It's important that I keep my discipline at the plate, and for the most part I'm feeling pretty comfortable up there. I normally don't hit those sidearmers very well, but he started me off with a slider and I thought he would try it again."
   In the seventh, LeBron -- who finished three-for-four on the night -- dropped a bunt that he beat out for a hit to open the stanza. Molina moved him over to second with a ground out and Taylor laced a single to left to put Twins runners on the corners.
   "I felt good tonight," said LeBron. "They tried to throw me off-speed all night, and I just wanted to stay back and hit everything back up the middle. We have a good team, with lots of talent, and I think we can play better. If we keep playing hard, we'll be all right."
   Whitrock, who came into the contest with a .438 batting mark, struck out and Oeltjen bounced to first as 'Betsy let Pulaski reliever Kameron Loe off the hook. It wasn't the only time in the game that the Twins failed to deliver in the clutch as they also missed a golden opportunity in the fifth against Ranger hurler Steven Rowe.
   LeBron led off with a two-bagger down the first base line and Molina moved him to third with a sacrifice bunt. Both Taylor and Whitrock then struck out consecutively to end the threat. Guzman's drive to the wall ended the Twins' last threat, and the game.
   "We had some snafu's here and there but that comes with the territory," said Twins manager Ray Smith. "I thought it was a well-played game. Tyler seemed over-matched at first, but he deflated and got better in the third and fourth innings. We would like to be 6-0 right now, and I don't like to make predictions, but when the dust settles I don't think we will be pulling up the rear. We have too much talent here for that to happen."