Tyler, Smith team up to blank Braves

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

   With the Twins hosting "Christmas in July," it was only fitting that someone play Santa Claus. That someone turned out to be the Danville Braves, whose only miscue of the contest led to the only run of the contest as Elizabethton blanked the Braves 1-0 on Saturday night at Joe O'Brien Field.
   With 'Betsy's Scott Tyler (5-1) hooking up with the Appalachian League's earned run average leader in Danville's Anthony Lerew (5-1, 1.23), the 1,203 in attendance knew there would be little margin for error, and indeed there was not.
   Tyler, who got himself into trouble almost as often as he pitched his way out of it, went five innings striking out eight, but walking four as he admitted: "I felt horrible out there. I can't explain it. I guess it was one of those nights where you just try to battle with whatever you have going for you. Luckily, it was good enough."
   'Betsy was held to one lonely hit, a second inning single by Scott Whitrock, but it led to the only run to cross the plate on the night.
   Dusty Gomon reached on an error by Braves shortstop Jonathan Schuerholz and Garret Guzman sacrificed Gomon to second. Whitrock then sent a rocket back at Lerew for a base hit, with Gomon holding at third.
   Edgardo LeBron then tapped one to first as Yeron Peters went to second base with the throw to erase Whitrock, who slid hard into Schuerholz preventing the relay back to first, and Gomon scored on the play.
   "That's the way this game is played," said Twins manager Ray Smith. "It was an aggressive play, but a clean play, and he broke up the potential double play. Plays like that are what win you ball games."
   Peters would be involved in two plays that would turn out to be decisive as he stood at the dish in the third frame with two-outs and the bases loaded and Tyler struggling to throw strikes.
   Peters worked a full count from Tyler, but was frozen when Tyler threw a perfect slider for a called third strike that stranded three Braves baserunners.
   In the fifth Peters came up again with a chance to drive in a run for Danville, with the speedy Schuerholz at second base. This time Peters hits a one-hop smash down the third base line that sees the ball carom off the bag, bounce 10 feet into the air.
   LeBron barehanded the carom and gunned Peters out at first by an eyelash as once again steady -- if not spectacular -- defense aided Betsy again.
   "(LeBron) has done a great job in the field making barehanded plays," said Smith. "He really kept his head on that play, located his target and made a super throw."
   For Danville -- who are trailing the slumping Bluefield Orioles by one-half game -- the disappointment was evident, but skipper Ralph Henrique chalked it up as one of those things that happen in baseball saying, "It was a great pitchers' duel. Both sides really pitched well, but for us, our four, five and six hitters struck out nine times combined. Tonight showed that the saying a game of inches is appropriate."
   Ryan Smith came on in relief in the sixth and he was nothing short of spectacular, surrendering no hits in three innings of work while striking out five and walking none.
   "There wasn't any margin for error at all tonight," said a tired Smith, who pitched his longest relief stint of the season. "I had my good curveball going tonight, I felt good, felt confident and was able to get it over for strikes. I just felt like we had to get after them and hope for the best."
   For Twins pitching coach Jim Shellenback, Smith's outing showed that he is learning his craft well.
   "Smith really locks hitters up with that curve," Shellenback said. "It breaks real well. We didn't expect him to go three innings, I was going to put Keeling in, but we knew Danville didn't have any lefty hitters so we went with Smith and he came up big."