The Twins ambushed Johnson City for a six-run first inning and went on to earn a 13-7 Appalachian League win Saturday night at Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark.
Twins’ manager Ray Smith said he liked the way his team kept its edge throughout the game.
“You try to emphasize every at-bat being a tough at-bat, and play all nine innings,” said Smith. “That’s what the good players do. They learn from their at-bats and keep battling until the dust settles at the end of the game.”
It was an important victory for the Twins, who moved within one game of the Cardinals (27-23) for first place in the West Division. Elizabethton (26-24) is also trying to continue its current 30-year streak without a losing season. The Twins have 17 games remaining as one originally scheduled contest has been canceled.
The Cardinals lost despite Mateo Gil and Aaron Antonini combining to 6 for 7 with four homers and six RBIs.
Elizabethton’s Matt Wallner got things started with a hard-hit two-out single, and Parker Phillips followed with an opposite field blast over the right field fence. That was followed by a pair of singles surrounding a walk to load the bases.
The Cardinals might have gotten out of the frame without further damage, but pitcher Luis Ortiz was unable to cleanly handle Will Holland’s softly hit high chopper halfway between the pitcher’s mound and third base. A run scored and bases remained loaded. Kidany Silva followed with a walk to make it 4-0.
Ortiz was bitten again on the next batter as a hard-hit grounder by Willie Joe Garry Jr. right at the first baseman took a bad hop and raced into right field. The hit plated two runs to make the score 6-0.
Along with the tough luck, Ortiz had a nightmare pitching line. He gave up nine hits, five walks and 10 earned runs in 3 1/3 innings.
Johnson City made a bid to get back in the game in the top of the second inning. Antonini crushed a high fly ball over the scoreboard in right-center field with two runners on base, cutting the Twins’ lead in half.
The Cards later fell back to a 10-3 deficit, but made another comeback with single runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings to make it 11-6.
NICE NIGHTS AT THE DISH
Seth Gray owned it like a boss with five successful trips to the plate. He finished 3 for 3 with a walk and a hit by pitch.
Phillips was 2 for 3 with two RBIs and scored four times. Garry, Wallner and Trevor Jensen each added two hits.
For the Cardinals, Gil and Antonini were impressive. They each hit a pair of homers and had three hits apiece. Antonini finished with four RBIs.
Johnson City moves back to TVA Credit Union Ballpark on Sunday with a 5 p.m. start scheduled against Princeton.
Elizabethton will remain at home and take on Pulaski at 5 p.m.