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River Riders return from COVID break with a bang

For the first time since July 28, the Elizabethton River Riders (24-20) were able to play baseball. They opened up their last week of regular-season play by hosting the blazing hot Kingsport Axmen (4-11), who entered play Sunday on a three-game winning streak.

The Axmen looked to strike early, as they earned a pair of two-out walks in the top of the first. However, River Rider starter Brian Williams (Texas Southern) was able to induce a flyout to center field to end the threat.

E-Town took full advantage of the momentum gained in the top of the first. The River Riders sent seven hitters to the plate in the bottom half of the inning.

Center fielder Logan Sanders began the night with a walk and advanced on a long flyout to right by All-Star Marcus Brown. He would then move to third on a single by second baseman Jonathan “Pepe” Soto, and score on an RBI double by first baseman Eli Young.

After a strikeout, both Soto and Young crossed home plate thanks to a single off the bat of catcher Deric Graham (King). That made the game 3-0, Elizabethton.

Williams would keep rolling on as he had a 1-2-3 second inning on just five pitches. After that, it would be all River Riders, as E-Town sent all nine batters to hit in the second.

Four of them would score: designated hitter Augustus Fraley (Milligan) on a balk, Sanders and Brown on another Young double, and Young on a single from Reagan Guthrie.

After the dust settled, the scoreboard read 7-0, in favor of the River Riders heading into the third.

The Axmen threatened again in the fourth. Second baseman Darien Farley and designated hitter Logan Harbin reached on one-out walks. They moved to second and third, respectively, after a groundout by catcher Ben Berenda.

However, Grady Cash (King) would record a huge strikeout of shortstop Landon Slemp to keep Kingsport scoreless.

Elizabethton would add on three more in the bottom of the fifth. The bottom third of the River Rider order would all reach with one out, loading the bases.

Right fielder Chancery Hall (Milligan) would score on an error by Preston Steele, Fraley on a sacrifice fly to center field by Brown, and left fielder Logan Estep (Milligan) on a single by Soto. The game entered the sixth 10-0, E-Town.

River Rider pitchers Ben Scott (Roane State) and Chase Lorg would each throw a scoreless inning in the last two frames, preserving a 10-0 shutout victory in the return from COVID for Elizabethton.

These two squads will finish their two-game series Monday night at Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark. The River Riders will need to continue their winning ways the rest of the way out to give themselves any chance at the Appalachian League West title.

The first pitch is set for 7 p.m.

River Riders 10-0

Kingsport 0 6 2

Elizabethton 10 9 0

W: Brian Williams (1-0)

L: Luke Hale (0-1)