M’s squander scoring opportunities in 5th, 8th innings
By Cheyne Reiter
The Pulaski Mariners welcomed the red-hot Elizabethton Twins to Calfee Park Thursday night and could not cool them off, falling 6-3.
Elizabethton entered Thursday’s affair on a three-game winning streak and had won nine of their last ten. The Twins – the 2012 Appalachian League Champions – had been on a roll in the past few weeks and continued to surge up the standings in the Appy West division with their 6-3 triumph over the Mariners.
The Twins jumped in front in the second inning against Mariners’ starter Ramire Cleto. Outfielder Zach Larson drilled a 3-1 fastball from Cleto over the fence in left – his first home run of the season – giving Elizabethton a very brief 1-0 lead.
Pulaski came right back with one run in the bottom half of the second. Jesus Ugueto drew a leadoff walk and stole second base moments later. Toby DeMello – inserted as a replacement for starting catcher Daniel Torres who left with a left hand injury – lined an RBI single to left scoring Ugueto to knot the game at one.
The M’s took their first and only lead of the night in the third. Isaiah Yates doubled with one out and then stole third base. Tyler Smith followed with a soft groundout to third, scoring Yates to put Pulaski in front 2-1.
Elizabethton battled back and regained the lead with three runs in the fourth, all off of Cleto. Rory Rhodes drew a one-out walk and advanced to third on Bryan Santy’s single to right. M’s outfielder Wilton Martinez attempted to throw out Rhodes at third, but the ball skipped past Dan Kemp allowing Santy to advance to second. Larson walked to load the bases, and Romy Jimenez hit a sharp grounder off the glove of Kristian Brito for an infield single to tie the game at two. Logan Wade then grounded another hard-hit ball to Brito who gloved cleanly and fired to second for the force out. Tyler Smith attempted to turn the 3-6-1 double play but fired low and past Cleto covering at the bag, allowing two runs to score.
The Mariners loaded the bases in the fifth with one out, but Martinez flew into a 9-2 double play as Kemp was thrown out at the plate trying to tag.
Pulaski was able to scratch one run across in the seventh. Gabe Franca singled with two outs and raced around to score on another Yates double.
The Twins extended their lead with two runs in the eighth against Dylan De Meyer and hung on for the 6-3 victory. Pulaski threatened with runners at second and third and two out in the home half, but DeMello flew out to the warning track in right-center to end the inning.
Cleto (4-3, 3.31) took the loss while Luke Bard (1-0, 1.42) got the win in relief for the Twins. Aaron Slegers threw two scoreless innings to close out the M’s for his second save.
Yates (3-for-5, 2 2B, R, RBI), Franca (2-for-4, BB, R), and Luke Guarnaccia (2-for-4, 2B) collected seven of the Mariners’ ten total hits.
Pulaski was just 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and eight men on base.
The Mariners (37-23) remain 2.5 games back of Bluefield in the Appy East with eight regular season games remaining. The Blue Jays were blanked by Kingsport, 7-0.
The M’s and Twins will meet again tomorrow night at Calfee Park with first pitch set for 7:00 p.m. ET. Right-hander Jose Flores (6-0, 2.70) will take the mound for Pulaski against Twins’ right-hander Felix Jorge (2-2, 3.17).
Be sure to like the Pulaski Mariners on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @PulaskiMariners.