Elizabethton turns away Kingsport

By Allen LaMountain

   Like Kasey Kassem's American Top 40, the hits just kept coming on Sunday at Joe O'Brien Field as the Elizabethton Twins held off the hard-charging Kingsport Mets 7-5.
   The Mets and Twins combined for 25 hits on the night.
   Kingsport stranded 12 men on base in the losing effort, and manager Joey Cora said: "That's part of the game. That's just the way it goes sometimes, you get hits, but not when you need them."
   'Betsy starter Julio DePaula was hit hard, giving up 13 hits in four and two-thirds innings of work, and left in the top of the fifth having surrendered four runs and the Mets threatening with runners on second and third.
   "(DePaula) wasn't taking enough off his pitches to give them a different look," said Twins manager Ray Smith. "Everything came at them at the same speed. Ideally, you want to miss low, but he was up a little bit. I'll tell you though, that team has got some boppers. They have a better team than their record."
   Mets starter Matthew Lindstrom (0-4, 3.79) lasted just four frames in which he gave up five runs (four earned) on five hits, while striking out five and walking two.
   'Betsy struck for a run in the second as Garret Guzman reached on a Kingsport error and came around on a single by Daniel Marin, but the Mets answered in the top of the third on an RBI knock by Roberto Solano.
   In the fourth the Twins played four runs to stake DePaula to a 5-1 advantage as Justin Sims led off with a single to left. Marin then ripped a two-bagger off the scoreboard and Sims scored on a passed ball by Mets catcher Zack Clements.
   After Sam Taylor was hit by a pitch Trent Oeltjen hit a sacrifice fly and Peter Martinez capped the uprising with a two-run blast to right.
   Once again Kingsport answered, scoring three in the fifth and sending DePaula to the showers as Aaron Baldiris, Tyler Beuerlein and Solano each singled consecutively to cut the Twins lead to 5-2.
   DePaula retired the next two Mets hitters before Jesus Linares doubled in a pair of runs to make it a 5-4 contest.
   Baldiris has gotten red-hot once again, going three-for-four at the plate after a four-for-five night against Bristol on Saturday to raise his average to .380.
   "It was good to see Aaron hitting again," said Cora. "He has a good chance to win the batting title."
   Lefty reliever Nick Niedbalski (2-2) came on and retired Justin Wendt on a fly ball to center field to put down the Kingsport threat. Niedbalski earned his second win of the season with two and one-third frames of mound work, giving up a run on one hit before turning the outcome over to stellar closer Pat Neshek.
   "It feels good to come in, in that type of situation and get the job done," Niedbalski said. "I just tried to mix it up and locate my fastball as well as I could."
   Neshek pitched the last two frames striking out four and without surrendering a hit for his 11th save of the season.
   Elizabethton scored single runs in the fifth and sixth frames, with Marin collecting his second RBI of his three-for-four night at the dish, and Dusty Gomon singled in Doug Deeds in the sixth after Deeds had doubled.
   "Niedbalski did a good job of damage control," commented Smith. "He put a little sink on the ball and really shut them down."
   E-Twins notes: Deeds had a two-for-four night -- including his 12th double of the season -- to raise his batting average to .333, and Marin's three-for-four was his best hitting night of the season. Neshek's 11 saves place him just one behind Bluefield's Jeff Montani and Danville's Fernando Tadefa for the Appalachian League lead in that category. Neshek's two scoreless frames of work lowered his ERA to a minuscule 0.45 for the season as he has allowed just one earned run in 20.2 innings of work.