E-Twins cage Orioles in two-hit shutout

By Ivan Sanders
STAR STAFF
isanders@starhq.com

   The Elizabethton Twins have been hanging by a thread in the first three games of the season, managing to pull the last two games out for a win on two game-winning hits from Dusty Gomon.
   On Saturday, Twin manager Ray Smith was hoping to see his starting pitcher shut the door on the visiting Bluefield Orioles early in the game and give the E-Twins an opportunity to get ahead for a change.
   Shut the door they did as Chris Schutt worked five innings of one-hit baseball while recording three walks and seven strikeouts to notch his first professional win, a 9-0 'Betsy shellacking of the Bluefield Orioles at the Carmen Dugger Sports Complex.
   "We were happy to see Mr. Schutt come in and shut the door early tonight," said Smith from the E-Twins locker room. "After digging a big hole and having to dig out like we have had to in our first three games, it was nice to be on the other end of the thing putting the pressure on the other team."
   The opening frame for both clubs was highlighted by sparkling defensive play by the Twins and equally impressive pitching from Oriole hurler Trevor Caughey. It didn't take long for all the little leaguers in attendance for Twins little league night to discover the game was turning into a pitching duel between Caughey and the Twins Schutt, who played collegiate ball at Cornell.
   Tim Thurman of the Orioles was the only base runner to reach in the second after being hit by a Schutt offering. Meanwhile, Caughey set the Twins down with three straight strikeouts to run his strikeout count to five in two innings.
   After a three up and three down third for the Orioles, the Twins finally broke through for the first run of the contest in the bottom of the third. Ron Perodin ripped a double with two outs to get the ball rolling for Elizabethton.
   Perodin took third on a Caughey wild pitch to set the stage for Denard Span. Span didn't let the E-Twin fans down as he delivered a perfectly placed single to left field just inside the line to score Perodin. After three complete, the Twins led 1-0.
   Schutt found himself in trouble on his own account as the hard throwing, right-hander issued consecutive walks to Arturo Rivas and Kyle George to begin the fourth. Schutt proved why the Twins were high on the Ivy Leaguer, as he came back with consecutive strikeouts to Tim Thurman and Tim Gilhooley.
   Schutt worked himself out of the jam by teasing Corey Shafer into a routine fly ball that was handled by E-Twin right fielder Ryan Spataro for the third out of the inning.
   "I felt really good out there tonight, especially the way my defense was backing me up early on while I got past my nervousness," said Schutt. "My fastball was working good and we were able to get the outs when we needed to."
   Elizabethton picked up two more runs in its portion of the frame as Dusty Gomon walked and advanced to second on an error by the Bluefield shortstop on a ground ball hit by Brock Peterson. Spataro singled to load the base path for the E-Twins and was followed up with a two-run single by Justin Arneson. At the end of four, the Twins were holding tight to a 3-0 edge.
   After holding the Orioles to nil in the top of the fifth, the Twins were making more noise in its at-bat. J.R. Taylor started the rally as the speedy infielder reached on a walk and swiped second base.
   Consecutive walks to Jesse Collins and Gomon loaded the bases for Kyle Geiger. Geiger deposited relief pitcher Rick McKernan's fastball offering to the wall in left center for a RBI double that plated Taylor and Collins for a 5-0 E-Twin advantage.
   Bluefield called on southpaw Darius Brown, who came in with a Christmas spirit issuing two straight wild pitches that allowed Gomon and Geiger to cross the plate for a 7-0 E-Twin lead after five complete.
   Innings six through eight were quite offensively for both sides. Three Twin pitchers- Schutt, Josh Gray, and Eric Brandon combined to hold Bluefield to a lone hit through seven and one half innings of baseball in the best outing by the E-Twins pitching staff to date.
   Not that the Twins would need the insurance on this night, but the opportunity to expand its lead was just to inviting, as Elizabethton added two more runs to their ledger in their last at-bat in the eighth.
   Arneson walked, as did Perodin to begin the inning. Span laid down a perfect bunt that he beat out the relay throw from third for a base hit to load the bags.
   The trio all took an extra base on another Oriole wild pitch to make the score 8-0 in favor of the E-Twins as Arneson crossed the dish. Collins grounded into a double play that gave Perodin the chance to scurry home in adding the ninth and final Twin run of the game.
   George opened the Oriole ninth with a single for only the second hit of the game for the visitors from Bluefield. Brandon retired the next two Oriole batters before Shafer walked to keep a slim hope alive for the birds.
   Brandon brought the game to a conclusion on a big swinging strikeout of Jorge Hadad to give the E-Twins the win and a 3-1 record early in the Appy League season.
   "We really didn't hit but four or five balls hard tonight because we had a hard time adjusting to Bluefield's big lefty early on," quipped Smith. "Baseball is a game of adjustments and I thought we made the key ones at the right time tonight."
   The Twins will be looking for a sweep tonight against Bluefield when they send Chris Marini to the mound against a pitcher to be announced for the Orioles. It will be church bulletin night with everyone presenting his or her church bulletin getting into the game free of charge.