Twins win rain-soaked contest
By Allen LaMountain

   One thing your mother always told you as a child was to come in out of the rain. For the Elizabethton Twins, that's all they seem to be doing of late. Rain washed away Monday's contest with the Bluefield Orioles, setting up what was supposed to be a double-header on Tuesday.
   The rain held off long enough however, for the Twins (17-16) to complete a 10-3 victory over the Birds at Joe O'Brien Field, but another downpour between games forced the second game over to today.
   Nick Blackburn had started for Betsy on Monday, but with the rains came change as Erik Lohse was selected to take the hill when the contest resumed, and Lohse stole the show.
   Mixing a lively high fastball with a slider that showed enough to keep the hot-hitting Birds (21-11) off stride, Lohse had his best outing of the season. Lohse pitched five and two-third frames surrendering one run on three hits in what was a pitchers duel until the Twins broke through against the Oriole bullpen in the seventh and eighth.
   Lohse (2-2, 5.35) struck out two and issued two free passes but the combination of his solid hurling and a couple of infield gems by Felix Molina and Edgardo LeBron was too much for the Baby Birds.
   "It was a good confidence booster for him," said Twins pitching coach Jim Shellenback. "He wanted to go longer, and tried to talk me into it, but he had done his job for the night."
   Doug Deeds gave 'Betsy a 2-0 lead on Monday with a two-run shot over the wall in right field, and in the top of the second the rains came in torrents with lightning strikes in all directions and the game was suspended at that point, with a Bluefield runner on second base and one out.
   Carlos Rijo's single brought home a run for Bluefield, and in the third it was Erik Smallwood delivering an RBI hit for the Orioles to make it a 2-2 contest.
   "I got off to a slow start, got a couple of pitches up and got hit around a little bit," said Lohse. "After I settled down though it was all right. It definitely was a confidence booster after a rough first half (season). I'm looking to do a lot better in the second half."
   Mike Machen resumed the pitching duties from Bluefield's Monday starter Chris Britton, and Machen and Lohse then locked horns and proceeded to put zeroes on the scoreboard, until the seventh frame.
   Machen worked three scoreless innings, giving the Twins just two hits and recording one strike out and a pair of free passes. Larry Spillers (1-1, 8.18) relieved Machen in the fifth and managed to hold the Twins scoreless despite hits by Felix Molina and Dusty Gomon as he struck out slumping Garret Guzman to end the threat.
   'Betsy broke through against Spillers in the seventh as Sandy Hiraldo legged out a double to center and went to third when Trent Oeltjen displayed a fine piece of hitting by slapping a single past the Birds drawn in infield. Molina delivered Hiraldo with a single off Birds reliever Mike Patitucci, putting Oeltjen on third and Deeds then drew a walk to load the sacks for Appalachian League home run leader Gomon.
   Patitucci struck out Gomon, but the ball eluded catcher Tommy Arko as both Oeltjen and Molina hustled in to score before Arko could retrieve the ball.
   "The key was the catcher not blocking the ball," said Orioles manager Bien Figueroa. "It's a whole different inning if he does that, because the pitcher did his job in getting the strikeout. It put the pitcher in a bad situation, because instead of bases loaded and one out, it's now two runs in and the Twins have momentum now."
   Arko was charged with a passed ball and the Twins had put up a three spot in the seventh as Betsy now went with fireballing right-hander Jesse Crain who joined the ballclub in Danville this past weekend to hold the fort.
   Crain did that, hurling two innings and giving up just one run on two hits while striking out three and earned his first save.
   "He was our second round pick this year and we just signed him," said Shellenback. "He pitched well in Danville and can get his fastball up around 94-95 (mph). I think tonight he averaged around 92 on the fastball. He was a shortstop at the University of Houston, but he signed as a pitcher and I'm glad he did."
   'Betsy jumped on Oriole reliever Al Jones in the eighth for five runs, but some shaky defense also let Jones down in the frame.
   After a walk to Justin Sims, LeBron stroked a base knock and Hiraldo reached on an error by first baseman Luis Jimenez to load the bases once again for Elizabethton. Two wild pitches by Jones plated two Twins runs and a two-run single by Deeds completed his four RBI night and gave the Twins a 9-3 lead.
   Marino Sala relieved Jones and uncorked a wild pitch of his own which plated Molina with the final run of the night.
   "The rain can be really frustrating at times," said Twins manager Ray Smith. "We get all our afternoon workouts in and get cranked up and ready to play and then it rains. But we were able to get this one in, and hopefully the sun will shine tomorrow."
   E-Twins notes: Deeds has been red-hot with the bat from the DH spot, with a homer and four ribbies and he raised his average to .326 on the season. LeBron had two hits on the night and made a nice stop in the fifth on a shot off the bat of Bluefield's Mike Done. Molina two hits and an RBI, and made a superb over-the-shoulder running catch in short right field against Geraldo Alvarez in the second inning to strand a potential Oriole run. Tonight, the Twins will again attempt to play two seven-inning contests against Bluefield to avoid losing a contest that can't be made up. Game time is 6 p.m.