River Riders take opener from Axmen
Published 2:54 pm Wednesday, June 7, 2023
The Appalachian League opened its 2023 season and the Elizabethton River Riders smacked three home runs, turned a pair of inning ending double plays and survived nine walks in a 9-7 victory over Kingsport at Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark.
Turner Swistak (1-0) pitched four strong innings striking out three and walking two, giving up a first-inning run and then shutting down the Axmen over the next three frames.
“The defense helped me out early and made some really clutch plays,” Swistak said. “In the second inning, I found my fastball command and started settling in. Once I found my fastball command it helped set up the slider and changeup and I was on a pitch count of 60 pitches and my last pitch in the fourth inning was my 60th.”
Kingsport (0-1) tallied a run in the top of the first when leadoff man Payton Allen singled and Mayes White drew a free pass. Mike Mangini dropped down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners up a base and Corbin Shaw’s sacrifice fly to right plated Allen but Swistak retired Seth Farni to end the inning with Kingsport ahead 1-0.
The Riders (1-0) quickly supported Swistak with four runs in the last of the first with Hayden Moore getting plunked by Kingsport starter Caden Anderson. Ethan Sitzman singled, putting runners on the corners and shortstop Ryan Weingartner singled to tie the score at 1-1.
Hunter Porter’s sacrifice fly made it a 2-1 contest and Knox Preston singled to once again put Rider runners at first and third and Kerry Herndon-Brown – who finished four-for-four – singled to rightfield to plate another run and gave Elizabethton a 3-1 advantage.
A wild pitch would bring home the fourth run of the inning with Matty Wright at the dish and he would ground out to end the inning.
The Riders scored single runs in the second and third to make it a 6-1 contest with Weingartner driving in a run in the second and Herndon-Brown scoring from third on a wild pitch in the third.
Gabriel Barrett came on in the fifth frame and he retired the Axmen in order but in the sixth ran into trouble as Shaw drew a one out walk and Deniel Ortiz doubled and Farni walked to load the bases.
Andrew Citron singled in a run and kept the bases stacked and Ryan McCarthy’s fly ball made it
a 7-3 contest. Preston hit a long solo home run in the fifth over the fence in left field and in the seventh Herndon-Brown homered over the rightfield fence and Moore followed suit in the eighth.
Kingsport tallied a pair of runs in the seventh as Andrew Jergens issued three of his five walks and Ortiz had a sac fly and a wild pitch brought home another run as the Axmen cut the Riders lead to 7-5.
“Jergens had so much movement on his pitches that he couldn’t find the zone,” commented River Riders Manager Jeremy Owens. “It’s nice to all of a sudden to get some run support in the first inning and I’m sure that helped Swistak to settle down and find his groove. He was able to settle in and put up a couple of zeroes. The walks made things interesting and staring those walks in the face, Kingsport is a good hitting team and they will score runs in bunches.”
Kingsport got a pair of runs in the top of the ninth against closer John Harrick on a home run from Ortiz but Harrick struck out the side to close out the win. Ortiz finished three-for-three with a walk and a sacrifice fly for his three RBI night. Weingartner and Herndon-Brown each had two runs batted in for the Riders.
River Riders 9-7
Kingsport 100 002 202 – 7 9 3
Elizabethton 411 010 11x – 9 11 1
W – Swistak L – Anderson
HR – Preston, Moore, Herndon-Brown, Ortiz.