By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The Princeton Rays wrapped up their 2013 home season, dropping a 6-4 decision to the Elizabethton Twins, Tuesday night at Hunnicutt Field before 995 fans.
Princeton manager Danny Sheaffer summed up the season as the Rays head into their final series of the season, tonight in Bristol.
“It’s been two different seasons for us, that’s for sure, but last impression is usually the lasting impression,” Sheaffer noted. “We need to play three good games to make up for how we’ve played the last two nights. We’ve got an opportunity to do that in Bristol and we’ll see how they respond.”
The Rays struck first, scoring three times in the first off Twins starter Andre Martinez. Bralin Jackson drew a leadoff walk. Jackson stole second and Yoel Araujo picked up an infield single to put runners on the corners. David Lockwood singled up the middle to bring home Jackson.
A wild pitch moved the runners to second and third and Coty Blanchard walked to load the bases. Both David Garcia and Leo Correa were hit by pitches with the bases loaded, bringing home two more runs to give Princeton an early 3-0 lead.
After retiring the side in order in the first, German Marquez gave up his first hit in the second, a single to Bryan Santy, who was stranded. He then proceeded to sit the Twins down in order in the third.
Control problems led to back-to-back walks to Elizabethton’s Engelb Vielma and Bryan Haar to start the fourth. Mitch Garver’s double off the wall in center scored Vielma and Santy’s sac fly to center brought home Haar to make it a one run game.
In the fifth Marquez again walked the first two batters of the inning and RBI singles by Vielma and Haar put the Twins on top. The visitors added to their lead on a two-run double off the wall in left by Garver, the first batter faced by reliever Edgar Gomez.
Sheaffer said, “Marquez pitched pretty solid all year. He was solid for three innings, hit a bump in the road, lost the strike zone for a little bit, but he didn’t lose his composure. They got a big double off Gomez when he came in but after that Gannon and Gil were fine. The bullpen did a pretty good job overall.”
For Elizabethton, starter Martinez lasted only the first inning before giving way to Josh Burris. Burris came on to start the second and pitched four scoreless innings. The only baserunner he allowed was the first batter he faced, Jackson, who singled to right but was picked off first. He struck out six and did not walk a batter.
The bullpens for each team took control from the sixth on as Nolan Gannon pitched two 1-2-3 innings for the Rays, the sixth and seventh. Charles Irby did not allow a hit for Elizabethton in the sixth or seven, though Wilmer Dominguez did reach on a strikeout wild pitch.
The Twins threatened in the eighth when Romy Jimenez singled with two down and Kelvin Ortiz walked. The fire was extinguished when Isaac Gil struck out Javier Pimentel to end the inning.
The Rays donned their rally caps in the eighth. Spencer Edwards led off with a bloop single to center and Araujo had another infield single to third. A throwing error by Elizabethton third baseman Pimentel allowed Edwards to score and left runners on the corners. A force out and a double play, however, ended the Princeton threat.
With a potential victory still in sight Gil got all three Elizabethton batters in the ninth to fly out to Jackson in center and Princeton came to the plate hoping for a ninth inning rally.
Correa got a one-out single to center, but that would prove to be all the Rays could muster as two ground ball outs ended the game.
Araujo had two hits for the Rays, who managed only six hits in the contest.
Elizabethton also had six hits with Garver getting two of them with three RBIs.
Burris picked up the win in relief, while Marquez suffered the defeat.
The Twins, who are still in contention for a playoff spot in the Appalachian League West Division, wrap up their season hosting Pulaski for three games. Princeton ends the campaign with a three-game set in Bristol.
Twins manager Ray Smith talked about his team’s playoff run and how important winning the series against the Rays was for the Twins
“It’s big. It’s crunch time. We’ll see what we are made of with the end of the season on the horizon,” Smith said. “We talked to these guys about championship-level intensity. It doesn’t matter where the other team is in the standings, or where we are, you go about your business in a professional manner. We’re all concerned about the process of coming out here and playing the game.
“These guys have been playing since early March and if a club is not in the hunt I could see where guys could look forward to the season ending. We have to battle that. We have to know what the possibilities are for us getting into the playoffs. We told them early on we’ve got to play hard every day, stay within the process and when the dust settles just see where we are at.
“Princeton has had one of the best records in the league the last month and they always have the best young talent. They’ll have as many big leaguers as anybody down the road, so we know they can play. We can’t afford to take anybody lightly.”
Prior to the game it was announced that third baseman David Garcia was voted “Most Popular Player” by Princeton Rays fans in balloting ongoing throughout the season. Garcia was recognized by Rays General Manager Jim Holland prior to the first pitch.
At Hunnicutt Field
Elizabethton (35-30)..000 240 000 — 6 6 1
Princeton (23-42)…300 000 010 — 4 6 0
Andre Martinez, Josh Burris (2), Charles Irby (6), Aaron Slegers (8) and Mitch Garver; German Marquez, Edgar Gomez (5), Nolan Gannon (6), Isaac Gil (8) and Wilmer Dominguez. W-Burris (4-2), L-Marquez (2-5), S-Slegers (3). Att: 995