Guzman's walk-off homer lifts E-Twins

By Allen LaMountain
ASST.SPORTS EDITOR
alamountain@starhq.com

   For Garret Guzman, Sunday night at Joe O'Brien Field was a blast. Guzman deposited a walk-off home run over the left-field fence in the last of the 10th frame to give the Elizabethton Twins a 3-2 win over the Danville Braves, and extend 'Betsy's win streak to seven games.
   "I was just trying to protect the plate with two strikes," said Guzman, whose teammates mobbed him at home plate after delivering in the clutch. "We didn't get a lot of hits tonight, but we got them at the right time."
   The Twins swept the top two teams in the Appalachian League's East Division in this latest home stand, taking three from Bluefield and four from the Braves (winning at Danville before the home stand).
   Along with Guzman's blast came solo jacks from Danny Matienzo and Scott Whitrock as 'Betsy got some fine defensive work and -- after the first frame -- very solid pitching.
   Nick Blackburn (1-3) took the mound in search of his second victory of the season, but Danville was looking to get off to a quick start after being blanked on Saturday, and got it. With two away, first-round signee Jeff Francoeur ripped one of his three doubles of the night -- this one a bullet down the left-field line.
   Yaron Peters walked and Peters and Francoeur then pulled off a successful double-steal before Matt Esquivel delivered them both with a sharp single to left, giving Danville a 2-0 lead.
   Lefty Dan Meyer started on the hill for the Braves and he retired the first 13 hitters he faced as it looked like the Twins weren't going to get much in the way of offense for the second straight contest. Meyer pitched eight innings, giving up two runs on two hits -- both long balls -- while striking out seven and exhibiting pinpoint accuracy.
   "Three solo home runs," sighed Danville manager Ralph Henrique. "My guys pitched well, we outhit them and instead of us winning two out of three, we get swept. That's how it goes. We have to regroup and go to Johnson City and try to get back on track."
   After the first frame Blackburn bounced back with six shutout innings, allowing just two more hits the rest of the way before being relieved by Justin Keeling to open the eighth. Blackburn struck out seven and walked just one in what was arguably his best outing of the season.
   "That always seems to happen to me," said Blackburn in explaining his first-inning lapse. "I got two outs and thought I would be okay, but I must have let down a little. My changeup wasn't working well, but I mixed it up and kept them off-balance."
   Matienzo ended Meyer's no-hit bid with one-out in the fifth as he put his third homer of the season over the left-field fence to cut Danville's lead in half at 2-1, but Meyer went right back to the work of stifling Twins batters. Meyer retired 10 more Elizabethton hitters in succession before Whitrock touched him for his fourth four-bagger of the season and tie the game at 2-2 in the eighth.
   Keeling pitched three shutout frames for 'Betsy and earned his third win of the season. Keeling though nearly was the loser in this one as Josh Burrus spanked a one-out single to left, and Francoeur ripped a double off the base of the wall in dead center field.
   Twins CF Trent Oeltjen got a good jump on the ball and delivered a good throw to cutoff man Sam Taylor, who gunned a strike to the plate to nail the speedy Burrus by a hair and end the inning. Keeling got through the ninth with a great stop at third by Edgardo LeBron and a nicely-turned 4-6-3 double play by Felix Molina and Sam Taylor, and blanked the Braves in the 10th.
   "We are coming together and it's starting to show," said Blackburn. "Everyone is coming through for us right now, with defense or clutch hits."
   In the extra frame Matienzo singled for his second hit of the night, and the only Twins' hit that stayed in the park, and Peter Martinez was sent in as a pinch runner. Martinez was thrown out at second on an attempted steal, but on a two-two pitch Guzman went deep, and the Twins had won in improbable fashion once again.
   Elizabethton begins a key three-game series tonight in Bristol. The White Sox fell out of first-place tie with 'Betsy Sunday night, dropping a 6-5 decision to Princeton.