Martinsville turns back Elizabethton

By Wes Holtsclaw

   Joe O'Brien Field was like the "Twilight Zone" Monday night.
   In a battle between the two division leaders of the Appalachian League, the Martinsville Astros broke apart Angel Garcia's pitching and squeezed through errors late to drop the Elizabethton Twins, 4-2.
   Elizabethton had several chances to score throughout the contest, falling short on base-running mistakes and clutch opportunities.
   "We didn't pitch well early, and getting behind early puts the damper on what you can do offensively," Twins skipper Ray Smith said. "We had a few hard hits, but we weren't getting many solid swings. They got a few soft hits and found some spots, while we didn't take advantage of opportunities."
   Winfield Garcia got things rolling for the Astros in the first inning with a rip into right field. Mark Saccomanno and Saul Torres followed with hits for Martinsville, loading the bases before the first out.
   Garcia walked Kevin Vital before Kevin Davidson flew out with a sacrificed RBI popper and the Twins shut things down.
   Elizabethton had a chance to get runs across the board in the first inning after Denard Span advanced on an error. A bad steal attempt got Span tossed before Angelo Fermin and Kyle Phillips battled through back-to-back singles.
   The Twins got caught up on the bases again when Dusty Goman flew out and Fermin was caught in a double-play at third.
   Things weren't much better in the second inning for Elizabethton, as Garcia gave up three straight hits before Torres drove in Lance Koenig to take a 3-0 lead.
   The Astros battled through solid relief pitching from Ryan Hader with a clutch RBI double from Torres, scoring a walking Garcia to keep their momentum intact.
   Elizabethton had its first scoring opportunity in the fourth inning after a Brock Peterson single and stolen base. Justin Arneson stepped up with a line-drive effort, but Peterson was tagged out at home after a controversial call from home plate umpire Shea Abbott.
   The Twins finally got on board in the seventh inning after two walks and a fielder's choice gave way to a Denard Span bunt, which was misplayed by Astro first baseman Kevin Vital, scoring Ryan Spataro.
   Spataro came through again for Elizabethton in the ninth inning with a double, when two consecutive errors on the Martinsville second baseman, Koenig, brought across the Twins' second run.
   Koenig didn't mess up on the following play, turning a double-play to close the game.
   The Elizabethton bullpen cleaned up the early mess and held Martinsville to three hits in the final seven innings despite the loss.
   "We got good pitching from our bullpen that kept us in the game until the end," Smith said. "We made a couple bonehead base-running plays, but we had our chances. We kept battling and had a potential winner on base late."
   "We played a good game," said Astros manager Jorge Orta. "We were lucky to score two runs early. We had good pitching and that helped us keep the lead until the end."
   Martinsville battled last week to the top spot in their division, coming out with a big win last night to stretch its lead.
   "This past week, we've come along," Orta said. "We've been able to combine pitching, good hitting and better defense. We made some fielding mistakes tonight, but we've played well the last six or seven days."
   Saccomanno and Torres led Martinsville with three hits apiece.