Twins, Pirates surge into West lead

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The Elizabethton Twins are riding a four-game win streak that has them in first place in the West Division of the Appalachian League along with the Bristol Pirates.

The Bristol Pirates, you ask? Yes, that very team that started the season 1-6 is now 11-8 and have won eight of their last ten games.

On June 25 the Pirates fell 6-5 to the Twins but from there they have been red hot going 10-2 over the last 12 games including taking two of three from the Twins at Northeast Community Credit Union ballpark.

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Bristol has two hot hitters going for them in second baseman Francisco Acuna (.341, 1 HR, 11 RBI) and shortstop Aaron Shackelford (.340, 2 HR, 5 RBI) and the Bucs team pitching has risen from last to fifth with a 4.15 earned run average.

“They have some big boppers over there,” commented Twins manager Ray Smith after Bristol’s 6-2 victory over the Twins on June 27. “They have a lot of free swingers and we helped them a lot tonight.

“(Tyler) Benninghoff tried hard and next time out he might shut down whoever we play. Bristol came ready to play and got some big hits in that big six-run first inning.”

Leading the charge is righthander Tahnaj Thomas who improved to 2-0 and has posted a 1.86 ERA over his last two starts.

On Sunday Thomas led the Bucs to their fifth straight win – a 9-3 victory over Pulaski.

Pulaski (10-8) righthander Yoendrys Gomez leads the league with a 3-1 record and a minuscule 0.86 ERA.

In 21.0 innings Gomez has surrendered just two earned runs while walking eight and striking out 20.

Burlington (9-10) paces the league with a 3.38 team ERA followed by Elizabethton’s 3.61 mark.

The Twins are led by Ben Gross (2-0, 2.81) who has struck out 11 and walked just three over 16.0 innings of mound work.

Prelander Berroa (1-1) has pitched well for the Twins as well with a 3.38 ERA over 18.2 innings.

He has given up seven earned runs while striking out 22 and walking nine.

Danville (9-10) lefty Mitch Stallings (3-0, 1.25) continues to impress with just three earned runs over 21.2 innings with 24 strikeouts and only six free passes.

Bluefield first baseman Spencer Horwitz leads the league with a .369 batting mark and has 20 runs batted in which is also tops in the league. Braves first baseman Bryce Ball leads the league with five home runs and swings the stick at a .357 average and has driven in 18 runs.

Twins first baseman Albee Weiss has four round-trippers this season and has driven in nine runs.

The team leader in that category, however, is shortstop Spencer Steer who has 13 ribbies from his leadoff spot. Steer also is raking at a .322 clip while playing solid defense.

This will be a short week in the league as everyone gets Tuesday off for the MLB All-Star Game.

On tap this week Elizabethton visits Johnson City for one game and comes back home on Wednesday to start a three-game set with Burlington and continuing with four games against the Cardinals.

In other action, Bristol is at Pulaski for the last game of their three-game series before taking on Johnson City for three games.

Greeneville faces Kingsport and then goes on the road to Danville July 10-12. The Mets host Princeton over the same three days while Bluefield visits Pulaski.