Winning their opening debut… River Riders open 2021 campaign with victory over Flyboys

Published 1:32 pm Friday, June 4, 2021

For those wondering what baseball would be like in the new Appalachian League format if Thursday was an early indicator then baseball fans in Elizabethton and the surrounding communities are in for a fun summer.

The Elizabethton River Riders turned a 2-0 deficit after five and a half innings into a 5-2 victory over the visiting Greeneville Flyboys before a very receptive crowd at Northeast Community Credit Union Ball Park.

After three innings of scoreless baseball, the visiting Flyboys scored the first run of the contest in the top of the fourth inning.

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Second baseman Derek Tenney (Hartford) opened the frame with a single off of River Rider pitcher Luis Gonzalez (St. Thomas). It looked like Elizabethton could get out of the frame after getting the next to Flyboys to pop out but that wasn’t the case.

Grant Lashure (Ivy Tech) laced a single to left field to score Tenney who had taken second on a wild pitch to make it a 1-0 Greeneville lead.

The Flyboys added a second run in the top of the sixth inning once again with two outs.

Lashure was back in the mix once again for Greeneville as he greeted River Rider relief pitcher Phillip Berger (William Peace) with a two-out single. Berger crossed the plate when catcher Eddie Micheletti (George Washington) doubled to the left-field wall allowing Lashure to race home for a 2-0 Flyboy lead.

After allowing the visitors to score the first couple of runs, the River Riders knew it was time to get the offense going as the game progressed into the later innings.

The River Riders got the shot in the arm they needed in the bottom of the sixth with two men out.

Robin Fernandez (St. Thomas) stoked a double to right field to get things going for Elizabethton. An Eli Young (Gateway) single chased Fernandez home to slice the lead in half at 2-1.

After a Flyboy pitching change that brought Cal Lambert (GCU) to the hill, Trey Hinton (Tusculum) worked the reliever for a walk putting River Riders at first and second.

Robert Bavon (Oklahoma State) wasn’t about to leave his two teammates on base as he ripped a triple to right field to drive both runners home and give the home team their first lead of the new season, 3-2.

The River Riders added a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh to gain some separation from their opponent.

Local product Logan Estep, a graduate of Elizabethton High School and a sophomore on the Milligan University Buffs baseball team, was pegged by relief pitcher Braden Nett (St. Thomas) to put him on first base.

An error by first baseman Christian Ficca (Georgetown) of Greeneville allowed John Montes (UCF) to reach safely as Estep hustled his way to third base. Garrison Berkley (TCU) drew a walk to load the bags full of River Riders.

With Fernandez batting, Nett uncorked a wild pitch allowing Estep to cross the dish to make it a 4-2 game. Fernandez loaded the bags once again on another Nett walk.

Nett remained unsettled as the reliever hit Young to chase home Montes to give the game its final score, 5-2.

Berger (1-0) picked up the win on the mound for the River Riders while Chase Lorg was credited with a save for Elizabethton.

Lambert (0-1) absorbed his first loss of the season for the Flyboys.

Greeneville banged out seven hits in the game while Elizabethton made the most of three hits and four Flyboy errors. The River Riders only had one error in the contest.

The two teams are set to meet again Friday night at Northeast Community Credit Union Ball Park.