Twins continue Appy excellence

By Matt Wilson
STAR CORRESPONDENT

   JOHNSON CITY -- Baseball players in general are counted among the world's most superstitious characters. Twin pitcher and former Georgia Southern standout Kevin Culpepper has noticed that the Elizabethton hot streak has coincided with his having to borrow a hat from a teammate.
   Culpepper borrowed a camouflage hat to wear during his pitch charting duties in the stands when not pitching. Lucky camo hat or not, whatever the E-Twins are doing, they need to keep doing it.
   The Twins continued to roll in Appalachian League play Friday night at Howard Johnson Field, running their record to 9-1 with their second win, 10-7, over the Johnson City Cardinals in as many days.
   Thursday night the Twins found a way to win in a low-scoring 3-2 affair. Friday the Twins proved they could pull out a victory in a slugfest as well.
   The game appeared to be headed towards a pitchers' duel as the Twins' Chris Marini matched Johnson City's Jordan Pals through three scoreless innings.
   Marini was backed by a stellar defensive play -- worthy of ESPN's Baseball Tonight program -- from Ryan Spataro, who slid to cut off a ball headed for the right field corner, then popped up to gun down Card designated hitter Cody Haerther at second.
   The Cards drew first blood in the fourth, though, when catcher Daric Barton drew a walk, then scored on a ball crushed to deep center field by first baseman Andrew Davie. Davie was thrown out at third by a nice relay from shortstop J.R. Taylor as Davie tried to stretch his hit into a triple, but Barton had already plated the game's first run.
   The boys from 'Betsy answered their opponent's score, as all good teams do, in the fifth when left fielder Ron Perodin got things started with his second single of the night. Perodin stole second and scored after a double by third baseman Felix Molina.
   Molina then scored the go-ahead run on an error by the Cardinal shortstop.
   In the sixth frame, the Twins erupted for six runs. 'Betsy loaded the bases on two walks and another error on the shortstop from Johnson City.
   The top of the Twins' order then did the damage, with back-to-back triples off the bats of Denard Span and Molina. A sacrifice fly from catcher Kyle Phillips scored Molina to give the Twins the 8-1 lead.
   Staked to a big lead, the starter Marini then gave way to the bullpen and the Cards came back with three runs of their own in the action-packed sixth inning.
   The Cards managed three runs on zero hits, thanks to three Twin fielding miscues sandwiched around two walks. The score was 8-4 in favor of the Twins as both teams headed into the seventh-inning stretch, and both stretched the scoreboard once more.
   The Twins manufactured a run with the old delayed steal play with runners on first and third. Second baseman Angelo Fermin intentionally got picked off so Spataro could score from third during the rundown.
   In the bottom of the frame Cardinal leadoff man Al Hayes walked, moved up to second on an error, then scored a single off the bat of Haerther.
   The Twins plated their tenth and final run of the evening in the eighth as Molina tripled yet again and scored off a single roped to center field by the DH Kyle Geiger.
   The Twins headed into the ninth with a comfortable 10-5 lead, but things got uncomfortable in a hurry.
   Relief pitcher Levale Speigner got in trouble when Haerther doubled to start a late Card rally. Haerther scored on a single by Barton, who was in turn singled home by right fielder Sal Frisella.
   Another single by Davie scored the Cards' seventh run and brought the tying run to the plate.
   With the score at 10-7 and two Cardinal runners on base with two down and one more out needed for the win, the sizable Twin fan showing could only hold its collective breath.
   The right-hander Speigner then struck out Card second bagger Luis Colina to send the Twins back to Elizabethton victorious with their win streak intact.