Heavy-hitting Cards best Twins  

By Wes Holtsclaw
star staff

  The entrance sign to Joe O'Brien Field could've been replaced with an advertisement for the "Johnson City Cardinal Driving Range," because that's what it became Wednesday night.
  The visiting Redbirds got offensive with 13 hits, including four doubles and four home runs, in a 12-5 spanking of the Elizabethton Twins.
  Johnson City regains the West Division lead by a half of a game after losing it Tuesday night to E-Town.
  "They brought the heavy lumber today," said Elizabethton manager Ray Smith. "I thought things got off to a pretty good start today. We hit three doubles in those first couple of innings there."
  "Out of our first eight or nine guys, we had a couple of hard hit balls," he said. "Our pitching couldn't locate it today and it makes it tough. Sometimes you get big hits, sometimes you don't."
  Chad Gabriel, Das Jesson, Brandon Yarbrough and Michael Miller each had a homer in the game for the Cardinals.
  Gabriel and Jesson keyed a big five-run third inning with their two-run shots into Dave McQueen's front yard that put things out of reach early.
  "We just came out aggressive tonight and were swinging it, which was something we didn't do last night," said Gabriel, who also had a double and four RBIs.
  "Every day is a new day and we're fighting with these guys," added Jesson, who also had a double and three ribbies. "They are a great team, but we are just taking it to them every day."
  Elizabethton took the initial lead in the first when Landon Burt doubled and scored on a Deacon Burns two-bagger.
  The Cardinals bounced back in the second with RBI doubles from Jesson and Jose Delgado, and Miller's solo jack added to the three-homer third inning.
  Sandy Diaz had an RBI single in the fourth, while Yarbrough and Gabriel had a scoring single and double in the fifth. Yarbrough's solo shot wrapped up Johnson City's scoring in the seventh.
  Elizabethton's other scoring came in the sixth and eighth innings.
  In the sixth, catcher Tim Lahey connected on his first homer of the year, also scoring Johnny Woodard, who hit his first of two doubles and led the team with three hits.
  "I was able to get the good part of the bat on the ball and got one to go," added Lahey, who had another sacrifice fly RBI in the eighth. "I thought I saw the ball a little better tonight and I was able to get a couple of good hits."
  Second baseman Matt Tolbert scored David Winfree on a sacrificed fly along with Lahey's fly in that stanza.
  David Shinskie (2-1) grabbed his first loss of the year for the Twins after giving up six runs with 2.1 innings as a starter.
  After a solid five inning opener, Philip Anderson (2-0) grabbed his second win for the Cardinals.
  Elizabethton had solid relief pitching in the later innings from Javier Martinez and Jeff Mousser. Martinez struck out five and only allowed two hits in 3.2 innings before Mousser took the ninth.
  With every game at this point proving to be crucial, 'Betsy hopes to get back on track tonight.
  "It's a big series and they are big games, but all of the games are important," said Lahey. "We're trying to play consistent and I think we're doing a pretty good job of that, we were just in a lapse tonight."
  The Cardinals visit Riverside Stadium for tonight's Carter County Bank night, providing free admission, a hot dog and soda to each fan, at 7 p.m.
  Two of Elizabethton's promising left-handed throwers have been promoted to the Swing of the Quad Cities Single-A club in Davenport, Iowa.
  Minnesota's first round pick Glen Perkins and set-up tosser Jay Sawatski will make the climb.
  "We took some big hits today," Smith said. "We lost Perkins and Sawatski. (Sawatski) was a setup guy for us throwing that yacker -- that curve ball."
  Stillwater, Minnesota's Perkins had a 2.25 ERA in three appearances with a 1-0 record and 22 strikeouts in just 12 innings.
  Sawatski, out of Little Rock, Arkansas, only had nine strikeouts in his 7.2 innings, but had a win and a 2.35 ERA in four appearances.
  Another of Elizabethton's top up-and-coming throwers will be leaving the team after his next start to begin training with his national team for the Athens Olympics in August.
  Alexander Smit, the 18-year-old lefty from Eindhoven, Netherlands, leads the Appalachian League with 43 strikeouts. He has a 2.54 ERA with a 1-1 record.
  He will begin training with the Dutch Olympic team after Sunday's home appearance against the Bristol White Sox.
  "That's good for him, but it's going to kill us because he's been coming on," Smith said. "That's three lefties and two of our stallions gone. We'll see what kind of toll it's going take. Maybe one of these guys will be able to assume one of those roles."
  There is some good news as former Twin set-up man Kevin Culpepper will return after beginning the season with the Swing. Culpepper set up Jimmy Speigner and Julio DePaula in Iowa, much like he did with Elizabethton last season.
  The 22-year-old lefty leaves Quad Cities with a 2-4 record, consisting of a 5.53 ERA in 35 appearances with four saves, the second best on the team. He has allowed 64 hits with 34 earned runs.
  "Culpepper's here, we just didn't want to get him into the game tonight," the manager said. "We used him out of the pen (last year) and he was a good set up guy."