Otterbots slug their way past River Riders

Published 11:55 pm Monday, August 9, 2021

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The Elizabethton River Riders (26-21) opened up their last home series of the season with a 12-6 loss to the hands of the Danville Otterbots (28-24) on Friday night.

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The game had the makings of a pitchers’ duel early on. Elizabethton was able to get on the board first in the first inning. With runners on first and third and one out, first baseman Augustus Fraley hit a sacrifice fly to center field to score second baseman Jonathan “Pepe” Soto from third, sending the game to the second with a 1-0 score.

And that would hold for a while, as Otterbots starter Carter Holjes and River Riders starter Brian Williams matched zeros in the run column from the second through the fourth inning. During the stretch, the two pitchers allowed a combined three hits, one walk, and struck out a combined seven hitters.

However, the Otterbots were finally able to break through in the top of the fifth. It began with one out, as third baseman Daniel Hicks hit a solo home run, tying things at one. It was Hicks’s first homer and RBI on the season.

The action would not slow down for Danville, either. The next two hitters would reach base, as shortstop Jevin Relaford drew a walk, and designated hitter Ryan Carr hit a single.

After inducing a first-pitch flyout to left after the single, Williams would give up a big blow in the form of a three-run blast by first baseman Chenar Brown.

The homer was Brown’s fourth, and the 28th, 29th, and 30th runs batted in on the campaign, respectively.

The score read 5-1 at the game’s halfway point, in favor of the visiting Otterbots.

E-Town’s bats started to find life again in the bottom of the sixth. Right fielder Dalton McClain sparked the offense with a one-out triple. After a walk to designated hitter Chance Hall, shortstop Michael Robinson hit a sacrifice fly to left to cut the River Rider deficit to 5-2.

The Otterbots responded in a major fashion in the top of the seventh. The first three Danville hitters would reach, as Carr and catcher Carter Sanford singled, and Brown would reach on an error.

The error allowed Carr to score, and Sanford to reach third, extending the lead to 6-2, in favor of the Otterbots.

After a strikeout, Sanford scored on a fielder’s choice and an error by Soto, and the error also allowed the batter, center fielder Dylan Wanat, to make it to second base.

Wanat scored a few pitches later thanks to a double by second baseman Talmadge Lecroy, giving Danville a 7-2 lead when the dust settled.

The bottom of the seventh saw many River Riders reach, however, Otterbots reliever Jack Crawford tightroped out of trouble, allowing zero runs in the inning.

He helped himself end the frame by catching a lineout by McClain, which started a double play to catch third baseman Reagan Guthrie off of first base to record the third out.

Danville’s offense picked up right where it left off in the eighth. Relaford worked a full-count walk to lead off the frame and scored on a long home run off the bat of Carr to extend the lead to 9-2.

Carr’s two-run shot was his first on the season.

Sanford would double four pitches later, continuing the struggles for AJ Gonzalez. However, he buckled down to retire the next three hitters he faced, including one strikeout, to limit the damage to two runs in the frame.

The River Riders continued their comeback efforts in their half of the eighth, and three of the first four hitters would reach, all on walks. With the bases loaded and one out, Soto came through with a two-run double, cutting the game to 9-4.

The next batter, catcher Deric Graham, battled his way to a full count and then hit a fly ball to left that allowed the last of the three walks, center fielder Logan Sanders, to score from third, inching the River Riders within a grand slam, as the game was now 9-5 Otterbots.

However, the Otterbots put it away for good in the ninth.

The bottom third of their order (Lecroy, left fielder Josh Wooten, and Hicks) would all reach and score to extend the lead to 12-5. The River Riders were able to muster one more run in the bottom half, as a sacrifice fly from Robinson scored McClain to reach the 12-6 final.

The River Riders hosted Danville again Saturday night in the season finale for the Appalachian League.

Otterbots 12-6

Danville 12 12 2

Elizabethton 6 6 3

W: Carter Holjes (3-2)

L: Grady Cash (1-1)