Twins ride good pitching, win 3-2

By Wes Holtsclaw

   Coming off a dominant three-game sweep at Martinsville, the Elizabethton Twins returned to their home diamond Thursday night for a one-night stand against the Johnson City Cardinals.
   In a quick outing, the Twins continued their poise from the mound with a team-combined 12 strikeouts en route to a 3-2 victory over the Redbirds.
   It's an eighth straight win for Elizabethton (8-1), which is looking like an early team to beat in the Appalachian League's West Division.
   "It's no big mystery about a team when you win," said Twins manager Ray Smith. "We're getting good pitching and we've got a good streak going. Every team has a time when a rally emerges -- we want to ride it as long as we can."
   "This was a well-played game at this part of the season," he said. "We had to do things to win, but it was a well-played game from both teams. It was like a game in mid to late August, when everybody's peaking. It was fun to be a part of."
   The Twins got solid hitting from league-leader Kyle Phillips, who continued his roll with a three of four performance.
   Chris Schutt started the 'Betsy Bombers on the mound, but Ryan Hader picked up the win for Elizabethton while Julio DePaula garnered a save after a solid inning from John Lynch.
   The Cardinals (5-6) teased scoring in the first inning after a double from Cody Haerther. Andrew Davie sent a roaring single into right field, where Twin Ryan Spataro fielded the ball as Haerther rounded third.
   The 20-year old Canadian rifled the ball towards catcher Jesse Collins, who got the final out at the plate.
   The Twins opened with a lightning bolt single from Denard Span to open their initial offensive try. Span stole a base to set up Phillips, who delivered his first of three singles, tallying the first run for Elizabethton.
   The Twins loaded the bases for Spataro, who drove in Phillips. But Kyle Geiger and Brock Peterson walked and got caught in a double play to end the inning for Elizabethton.
   Neither team blew up offensively until the top of the fourth, when Johnson City opened with a single from Tanner Wootan. Wootan advanced on two wild pitches, with a walking Daric Barton setting up a huge two-run double from Jason Motte to tie the game.
   Elizabethton bounced back in the sixth with a single from Spataro. J.R. Taylor walked with a fielder's choice to Jason Pospishill to set up an errored shot from Span to bring the eventual winning run across the plate.
   The Twins' pitching staff finished out the game with solid defense in the field to take the streak to Johnson City for a two-game stand Friday and Saturday.
   "The first few games we were kind of shaky," Smith said. "The last six to seven games, the guys have risen to what (pitching coach Jim Shellenback) has been saying to them about using all of their pitches."
   "There's plenty of pressure on the mound, but these guys are doing it with success. It's like a two-edged sword. If they get rocked it can be deflating, but so much of the game is mental and they're handling it well."
   "We're all pitching outstanding," said the Missouri native Hader, who picked up his first victory on the season. "We're a team loaded with pitchers and it's hard to find innings."
   A good opening can sometimes get to a team's head in the wrong way, but not this Elizabethton team.
   "We've really not thought about it," he said. "We play well together and enjoy getting our knocks. Everybody's doing a good job at this point."
   The Twins got a combined seven hits during the game, two belonging to Spataro.
   "We played well tonight," Spatero said. "We've got a good streak going and we're all eying the same thing. Our contributing pitching and hitters are all playing some good baseball right now."
   The Twins will visit Kingsport Sunday for a two-night stretch after the Johnson City pair this weekend.
   Their next home game will be Tuesday against Kingsport for Boys & Girls Club night, where each coach and member will earn free admission.