Twin pitching  shuts down Martinsville

By Wes Holtsclaw
STAR CORRESPONDENT

   The Elizabethton Twins cut to the chase Friday night at Joe O'Brien Field.
   Backed behind stellar pitching from Nick Blackburn, who recorded 10 strikeouts in seven innings, with Ryan Smith and Pat Neshek, the Twins defeated the Martinsville Astros 3-2.
   "There's no mystery," said Twins manager Ray Smith. "We won because of quality pitching. (Nick) Blackburn forced the issue in seven innings; he had good bite and got ahead. (Ryan) Smith got ahead, and Pat Neshek came in and it was lights out.
   "If we can get the ball to the pen late in the game, then we can chalk up the win. Good pitching can shut down good hitting. We didn't hit very many hard, and our pitchers decided the game."
   Nick Blackburn and the Twin defense opened up early on Martinsville, with Blackburn striking out two batters in the first frame.
   Elizabethton followed that up with a good section of offense. Doug Deeds and Dusty Gomon walked early, setting up a Danny Matienzo two-run double, making for a quick 2-0 lead.
   After another pitching conquest in the second inning, Elizabethton prevailed as Edgardo LeBron smacked down a ball into deep right field, clearing the way for a 3-0 lead for Elizabethton.
   Martinsville came back with a strong offensive showing in the third inning with a single from Ariel Batista, setting up a Valentin Mendez single. However, an error on the throw to first allowed Batista to score for the Astros.
   Martinsville and Elizabethton both went through an inning of pure defense in the fourth as the Astros forced a double play on the 'Betsy bombers, while pitching remained the key for the Twins.
   German Melendez was in the right place for the Astros in the fifth, when Valentin Mendez stepped up with a bunt single to score Melendez, cutting the game at a 3-2 margin.
   Neither team had a hit from that point until the bottom of the seventh inning as the Twins' Scott Whitrock plowed a shot into shallow left field. Whitrock was caught stealing, as Elizabethton's closest insurance chance ended.
   The seventh inning was a pitching highlight reel, with Blackburn striking out the side, collecting the team high for a game this season.
   Ryan Smith took the mound for Elizabethton in the eighth, prevailing with a successful hold of Martinsville.
   Sam Taylor took a single in the ninth to open another Twin series, but an awesome catch and throw from Ariel Batista plugged a double play for the Astros.
   Pat Neshek closed with a save for Elizabethton, ending the game at 3-2.
   "I'm still surprised," said Blackburn. "It felt great. I wasn't sure how I was going to feel before the game. I got it in and stuff. If you can keep any team off balance, that's going to be great for the team."
   Sam Taylor led the Twins with two hits in the contest, while Valentin Mendez provided two hits and an RBI for Martinsville.
   Elizabethton finished the series with Martinsville on Saturday night at Joe O'Brien Field.