Errors key tight-fisted Elizabethton triumph

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR STAFF
mbirchfield@starhq.com

   It took the Elizabethton Twins an extra inning to dispose of Johnson City on Thursday night, as the Twins capitalized off of two Cardinal mistakes to capture a 3-2 Appalachian League victory at Joe O'Brien Field.
   The Twins rallied in the bottom of the ninth on a solo homer from Justin Sims to tie the contest, and then two throwing errors by Cardinal infielders enabled Elizabethton to seal the win.
   "I was just setting back waiting on a fast ball, and you've got to be ready to pinch hit whenever called upon to do so," said Sims. "I've been working hard with Jeff Reed after coming back from my injury, and I noticed the fast ball coming off the first pitch."
   Johnson City was on the verge of grabbing an early score in the top of the second frame, when a couple of walks loaded the bases for the Cardinals.
   A groundout to the pitcher Kevin Culpepper and throw to first base helped the Twins escape the early score.
   It wasn't until the fourth frame that the game saw its first hit, when Denard Span knocked a grounder to right field.
   The Twins capitalized with the runner, who advanced to second on a sacrifice fly, as Dusty Goman smacked a hit to left field to bring home Span.
   Culpepper led the Twins at the mound through the first half of the game, as he allowed no hits through five innings of play.
   Paul Mutch was handed the pitching duty in the top of the sixth, as the Cardinals attempted to make a comeback by acquiring their first hit on the evening.
   A shot up the middle from Shane Reddy made him the first player for Johnson City to reach base off of a hit, but the bats continued as Mutch struggled in containing the Cardinal hitters.
   The contest became tied when Cody Haerther hit a ground single to right field, driving in Reddy for the score.
   With bases loaded, a groundout by Sal Frisella enabled Haerther to make his way home, giving the Cardinals a slim 2-1 advantage.
   Josh Gray was called in to relieve Mutch before the frame was over, and his performance on the mound proved to be a difference, with Johnson City capturing just one hit for the remainder of the game.
   The Twins were unable to capitalize off of four hits in the bottom of the sixth, as leadoff hitter J.R. Taylor was caught trying to steal second.
   "We didn't really hit the ball that well through the first five innings or so," said Twins manager Ray Smith. "We left some runners on base, which has been the history of our season so far."
   There were plenty of hits for Elizabethton on the night, as they collected 11 total for the game, but it just seemed that they couldn't quite get them driven in like needed.
   "The column that counts the most is the one on the west coast," said Smith.
   Trailing by one run with two outs left in the contest, the Twins were looking for someone to come through with the bat in the last inning to avoid their second consecutive loss this week.
   Justin Sims was called to deliver the offensive spark as he had remained dormant in the dugout all night long.
   "They came in with the right hander and he was throwing pretty hard, so I was just setting on a fast ball the whole time," said Sims.
   Up with his first attempt at bat, Sims crushed a home run over the right center-field wall to bring life back to the Twins ball club and send the game into an extra inning.
   "I was just thinking of making a hit and getting on base to give us a chance, but I had a good swing on the ball and it jumped out of the park, so that's all I can ask for," said Sims.
   Elizabethton almost squeezed out the victory during the ninth, when a hit up the middle from Ryan Sparto and error from the shortstop allowed runners on first and third bases.
   A hit ground ball that was fielded by Andy Shutzenhafer produced the final out for the Cardinals, as they looked to somehow close within a game of the frontrunning Twins.
   After going three and out in the top of the tenth, it was Johnson City's turn to force the game into another inning, but its defense seemed to still be reeling from the previous frame.
   Another error on the shortstop with the throw to first base enabled Felix Molina to make his way around to second base.
   On what appeared to be a routine play off a hit from Kyle Phillips, a bad throw from the second baseman to first gave Molina the opportunity to come home for the win.
   "It was a funny thing because we had all of those hits and stuff, but what won the game was them committing those two errors," said Smith.