E-Twins, K-Mets split pair

By Michelle Prater
STAR STAFF
mprater@starhq.com

   The Ringling Brothers had competition Friday night at "The Greatest Show on Dirt," with dancing clowns and fun all around as Elizabethton played a doubleheader against the Kingsport Mets.
   With clowns tending the field, invading the pressbox and skybox, and children and the young at heart getting their faces painted and playing games, the night turned out to be a success.
   "I think it was positive," Twins general manager Mike Mains said. "We had a lot of children here tonight." Mains also pointed out that the activities were beneficial to adults as well. "They bring the kids, and they could watch the game while the kids played out back."
   Along with the clowns and face painting were snow cones, cotton candy, a variety of games to play with prizes for the winners, and a large blow-up obstacle course. Attendance was over 900.
   The Twins didn't seem to be distracted by the shenanigans of the clowns as they slugged their way to a 6-1 win against the Mets. The first inning flew by, with the first three batters for both sides going out.
   Kingsport's first three batters went down without gaining a base against Jon Uhl's pitching and the quick reflexes of the fielders. The Twins were a little more successful, when shortstop J.R. Taylor made a safe dash for first, but their luck ran out when Taylor got caught trying to steal second as Kyle Phillips stepped up to the plate.
   After Uhl struck out Travis Garcia to get the third out in the first inning, he kept the heat on, striking out an amazing six consecutive batters, and allowing the Twins a chance to score some runs.
   "I wasn't trying to strike out that many," Uhl said. "I was just trying to get ahead of the hitters. I've never struck out that many in a row. I just felt really comfortable with myself, got in a rhythm, stayed focused and struck out several in a row."
   After battling through an early season injury, the Friday night game was Uhl's first professional win.
   The second inning proved to be fruitful for Elizabethton. Catcher Jesse Collins was walked to first, and took advantage of a wild pitch from Kingsport's Jose Gomez to safely steal second. Brock Peterson followed up with a fair ball along the third base foul line, giving him a two-base run and sending Collins home for the Twins' first run.
   Peterson kept up the base stealing for the Twins by stealing third while Ryan Spataro was at bat. Ron Perodin was up next, getting a base hit, and sending Peterson home for score number two.
   Perodin followed his teammates' lead, stealing second as Justin Arneson manned the plate. Gomez walked Arneson, putting the Perodin dangerously close to scoring another run as Denard Span came to bat. Span hit a grounder straight to Gomez, who threw it to catcher Danilo Reynoso to tag Perodin out at home plate.
   Uhl's pitching continued to keep Kingsport at bay during the third inning, and the Twins had an opportunity to wreak havoc upon the scoreboard once again. After striking out his first at-bat, Dusty Goman redeemed himself by hitting a home run to steadily bring Elizabethton's score up to three.
   As the strikeout succession finally ended, Kingsport's Corey Coles got a hit in the top of the fourth, but was tagged out at first by a quick toss from shortstop J. R. Taylor to Dusty Goman.
   Dante Brinkley followed with another hit, but also served as the second out, when the ball popped straight into second baseman Justin Arneson's glove. Travis Garcia mirrored Coles' play, with a hit and the final out at first with another Taylor-Goman throw.
   The Mets finally got some playing action in the fifth inning when right fielder Jamar Hill had a two-base hit. Hill stole third on a pass ball, and Johan Camacho sent him home with a right field hit, sacrificing himself as the second out at first base. Reynoso got another base hit along the third-base foul line, and Marcos Cabral followed suit, but was tagged out at first with a fielder's choice.
   Not to be outdone, Elizabethton retaliated in the bottom of the fifth. Mets pitcher Adam Elliot walked Gomon and Collins, and third-baseman Brock Peterson confidently smashed a home run, gaining three RBIs and bringing 'Betsytown's score up to six against Kingsport's one.
   Peterson, batting 2 for 3, and whose father and grandparents were visiting from Washington state to watch him play, said the added pressure of wanting to play well for them prompted his determination.
   "My first at-bat, I was swinging too hard, but after I got that hit and got on second, it finally cleared away. I could loosen up and finally play my game," Peterson said.
   The remainder of the game passed with no bases gained by either team.
   "We had good pitching," said Elizabethton manager Ray Smith. "It's no secret that good pitching makes for a good game. It gave the offense a chance to crank out some runs."
   He explained that the team works hard for its wins. "In pro ball, you don't just show up at seven and play. These guys are out there at two or three playing for a seven o'clock game, and they have been since March."
   "I thought we played ok," said Kingsport manager Mookie Wilson. "We didn't swing the bat particularly well."
   Due to rainy weather, the Mets had been unable to have batting practice for three days.
   "They get on the field, get grounders, fly balls, and swing the bat. If the fields are wet, we can't get on it to do these things and it has hurt us," Wilson said.
   The second game of the doubleheader was played without much excitement save for a broken bat in the hands of Brock Peterson after a hit to third base.
   No bases were gained by either side until the third inning. The first and only three of Kingsport's batters, Kevin Rios, Miguel Garcia, and Cory Wells, each gained a base, but were caught in a frantic dance to make the next base, and the side soon turned to Elizabethton.
   After having three strikeouts in the first two innings, Mets pitcher Yusmerio Petit walked Justin Arneson, and after a fielder's choice got Jason Pospishil out at first, Denard Span hit a base hit and gained an RBI as Arneson made it safely home.
   The game remained uneventful, and looked as if the Twins would win both games until the seventh inning. Mets center fielder Roberto Solano belted out a two-base hit, followed by another base hit by Travis Garcia. First baseman Tyler Davidson muscled out a deep hit, sending Solano and Garcia across the plate, and landing himself on third base.
   "In the seventh inning, one run is big," said Wilson. "You have to enjoy what you can get -- we got a lucky break." The two late game runs proved to be the break that turned the tide against Elizabethton, and Kingsport won 2-1.
   Smith wasn't slowed down by the loss.
   "You're going to win some and you're going to lose some," he said. "You just have to hope you're on the receiving end. You play as hard as you can and hope you learn something. You just bust your tail and see what happens."