Errol Simonitsch (right) pitched Wednesday night's win for Elizabethton, recording five strikeouts in 5.2 innings of work.

Twins strike back, extending Astros to deciding game

By Wes Holtsclaw
STAR STAFF
wholtsclaw@starhq.com

   MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- It was a do-or-die situation for the Elizabethton Twins Wednesday night at Hooker Field.
   Despite two home runs, Elizabethton rallied against a pitcher (Ronnie Martinez) who's given it trouble all season long, and used solid defense to push the Appalachian League championship series to a decisive third game with a 4-2 victory in Martinsville.
   "We had some pretty good pitching, and good pitching is going to beat good hitting," said Twins manager Ray Smith. "We knew it was going to be a battle. They sucked it up today and gave it a heck of an effort. We got a pretty good guy going on the mound tomorrow, so we might have a chance at this thing."
   Errol Simonitsch took the win for Elizabethton after a solid five innings of work with five strikeouts. It sets up All-Appy League pitcher Chris Schutt for Wednesday's start.
   "Going out there I felt relaxed and ready to go, and you know, we got them," Simonitsch said. "We got good hits and did a good job on the bases. It's a big win."
   It should serve as a momentum boost going into the final game for the Twins.
   "The game is a game of momentum and it can switch very quickly," Smith added. "I don't know how we'll sleep tonight, but we've got a little of it on our side.
   Neither team really got anything going early offensively. Mark Saccomanno delivered the first hit of the game for the Astros in the first inning, but a quick out sat down Martinsville's scoring opportunity.
   Elizabethton got its first single from Justin Arneson in the top of the third inning. Arneson made his way around the bases when a throwing error from a Denard Span liner allowed him to give the Twins a 1-0 lead.
   Martinsville began its next frame with a single from Max Hudgson. However, Ryan Spataro turned an amazing catch into a double play for the Twins.
   Astro pitcher Martinez walked Kyle Phillips at the top of the fourth, but a Dusty Gomon strikeout and Ron Perodin pop out closed the side.
   Simonitsch struck out Saul Torres to begin the next stanza, but Saccomanno evened things up with a huge shot over the right field wall to tie it up.
   After Ervin Alcantara walked, he was caught at second after a fielder's choice from Francisco Caraballo. Simonitsch walked Kevin Davidson and followed by striking out Kevin Vital.
   The Twins got another hit from Arneson in the top of the fifth, but he was thrown out at second to close that frame.
   With one down, Lance Koenig singled for the Astros to start the fifth. Winfield Garcia battled back with a hit of his own, putting Martinsville in scoring position.
   Torres struck out again for Saccomanno, who bopped it to Angelo Fermin. Peterson tossed it to Gomon, who dropped it after holding it for a second. However, first base umpire Wes Collins saved Elizabethton, keeping the out and closing the inning.
   The Twins used the gift when J.R. Taylor picked up their third single to begin the sixth. Fermin followed through with a grounder that was passed over by Astro shortstop Winfield Garcia.
   The error put Elizabethton in great position, but Phillips flew out to set up Gomon.
   It didn't look good for the 'Betsy Bombers when Gomon fell prey to two curve balls with an 0-2 count. But the Florida native rallied on the next curve, rifling it to centerfield and scoring two runs to put Elizabethton up 3-1.
   Defense prevailed again in the sixth inning for the Twins with two quick outs at the hand of Simonitsch. However, manager Ray Smith made a change on the mound by calling upon Kevin Culpepper, who helped record the out for Elizabethton.
   Brock Peterson had a hit and Ryan Spataro singled to open the seventh for the Twins. Spataro was thrown out after an Arneson grounder, but the Twins were in scoring position.
   Taylor sent a blooper to Vital, who dropped the ball, scoring Peterson for Elizabethton. Martinsville replaced Martinez on the mound with Juan Guttierez and closed out the inning.
   After a defensive stand of their own, the Astros got a run back in the bottom of the eighth when Torres drove across Martinsville's second homer of the night to close the gap at 4-2.
   Two strikeouts got the Martinsville fans on their feet as the balls were all close and inside. Caraballo turned the motivation into a single and forced Elizabethton to put Jimmy Speigner on the mound.
   Speigner struck out Kevin Davidson to keep things safe for the Twins.
   Elizabethton needed insurance runs in the ninth and were off to a good start after an errored shot from Peterson, who was thrown out after Spataro lined a fielder's choice play.
   Spataro was caught stealing before an Arneson double, that could've been fruitful for the Twins. However, Taylor flew out to Alcantara, giving the Astros one final chance to win the title Wednesday.
   Kevin Vital flew out to Fermin, Mario Garza grounded out to Gomon and Lance Koenig almost went yard twice, before flying out to Elizabethton.
   Arneson led Elizabethton with three of their six hits, while Gomon, Spataro and Taylor had a hit apiece. Saccomanno was the only Astro to hit in double digits.