A pair of three-run innings set the tone early and the Twins hung on to top the Pulaski Yankees 8-7 Friday night to sweep the best-of-three Appy League championship series.
It’s Ray Smith’s eighth league championship in his 24 years as the Twins’ manager. Elizabethton has won 13 championships, 11 as the Twins and two as the Red Sox in 1939 and ’41.
The championship was the Twins’ first since 2012.
Elizabethton reliever Jovani Moran saved the game in every sense of the word, working 2 1/3 perfect innings after his teammates allowed a four-run seventh to make it close.
Mark Contreras’ three-run home run in the third inning broke the game open early for the Twins. His second homer in two nights put the Twins up 6-1. Contreras went 4 for 9 with six RBIs during the finals.
The Yankees scored first in the first inning when Jesus Bastidas and Eric Wagaman hit back-to-back doubles.
Elizabethton’s Carson Crites then tied it up with an RBI double in the second inning and T.J. Dixon followed with a single that scored Crites for a 2-1 Twins lead. Akil Baddoo then drove in Dixon with a triple to make it 3-1.
The Twins added to the lead in the fourth thanks to an error by Pulaski pitcher Deivi Garcia. Two runs scored on the play as Garcia missed a throw while covering first on a potential double play ground ball. That left Elizabethton up 8-1.
Pulaski’s Evan Alexander belted a two-run home run in the bottom of the fourth, and Bastidas and Wagaman each added a solo homer in the seventh.
Bastidas and Wagaman’s homers keyed a four-run seventh inning as Pulaski climbed to within a run.
After relievers Jose Martinez and Jared Finkle couldn’t hold the Yankees, Moran was called upon to end the threat. Moran, who had an ERA of 0.36 in 11 regular-season appearances, got a strikeout to end the seventh.
Counting the postseason, Moran allowed one earned run in 28 2/3 innings all season. He struck out four.
Moises Gomez was the winning pitcher after working five innings, allowing four hits and three runs while striking out six.
The Twins were coming off a 12-1 victory in which they banged out 16 hits. They wound up averaging 8.4 runs a game throughout the playoffs.
Elizabethton made the finals by winning the West Division and topping Greeneville in the divisional series. It was the Astros’ final action in the Appy League as the major-league club announced Friday that it was discontinuing its relationship with Greeneville.
Smith, who has been in Elizabethton for 31 years overall as a manager and coach, recently celebrated his 1,000th career victory.