It was another very successful season for the Elizabethton Twins. In the regular season, they had a league-best 43-22 record. The second best record came from the East Division and was the 41-25 record of the Burlington Royals. The two teams rightfully met in the Appalachian League championship series. Burlington won a one-run, extra-inning Game 1. Elizabethton won Game 2 in one-run, extra inning style as well. So, it all came down to Game 3 in Elizabethton. To find out who won this a remarkable game, a thriller … you’ll have to keep reading… Seriously, you will want to. What a dramatic game!!
These two teams were clearly the top two teams in the league all year. Elizabethton led the league with 6.17 runs per game. Third on that list was Burlington at 5.1 runs per game. The E-Twins gave up a league-fewest 3.75 runs per game. Burlington was second in that category at 4.14 runs allowed per game.
Let's start in the bottom of the ninth. The E-Twins made things interesting in the bottom of the 9th
inning, but they could not come up with the big hit.
Wait!! Yes, they did!!
Down 6-1 heading into the bottom of the 9th
, Royals closer John Walter came in. He walked Jhonatan Arias and Romy Jimenez to start the inning, but he got the next two batters out. On a full count, he walked Max Kepler to load the bases. He hit DJ Hicks with the first pitch he threw to him to cut the lead to 6-2. Appy League Home Run Champ Adam Walker came to the plate as the potential tying run. A wild pitch cut the lead to 6-3 and moved the other runners to second and third. On the very next pitch, Walker connected on a long home run to tie the game at six. Walter’s night was over and Freddy Rodriguez came in to get the final out of the inning. The damage had been done.
However, the score was now tied at 6-6 and for the third time in this three game series, extra innings were necessary.
Let's go back to the beginning.
Max Kepler started the scoring in the first inning. Following a Niko Goodrum double, Kepler singled him in to give the E-Twins a 1-0 lead. However, the Royals would score the next six runs.
Jose (JO) Berrios started for the E-Twins. He began with three scoreless innings. Unfortunately in the fourth frame, he gave up four unearned runs on a hit and three walks. He also threw two wild pitches. (Berrios struck out seven in his four innings.) Josh Burris came in and threw two scoreless innings. Chris Mazza pitched a quick 7th
inning. However, he gave up two solo home runs in the 8th
inning. Travis Huber pitched a scoreless ninth inning which set up the unlikely E-Twins comeback in the bottom of the 9th
That brings us to extra innings. Did I mention that it is for the third straight game in this three-game series?
Ricardo Arevalo came on for the top of the 10th
inning. He gave up a single to lead off the inning. A sacrifice bunt advanced the runner to second. The next batter was intentionally walked for one purpose. Thankfully, the next batter obliged, grounding back to Arevalo who started a 1-6-3, inning-ending double play.
In the bottom of the 11th
, the E-Twins had a chance. With one out, catcher Jhonathan Arias, who had been 0-21 in the playoffs, singled. Romy Jimenez singled over the second baseman’s head to advance Arias to second base with one out. Jorge Polanco came in to pinch run for Arias, but Candido Pimentel struckout and Niko Goodrum flew out to deep center field to end the threat.
Arevalo started the 12th
, but he got just one out and had runners on 1st
. Lefty Brett Lee came on and got a ground out and a strikeout to end the inning.
In the bottom of the 12th
, Bo Altobelli grounded out. Romy Jimenez walked. Candido Pimentel struckout for the fourth time in the game. Niko Goodrum worked a walk. Then after a wild pitch, Max Kepler was walked to load the bases. That brought up DJ Hicks. With two outs and a full count, Hicks drilled an opposite field home run, a walk-off grand slam to win the game, to win the Appalachian League Championship.
It was the E-Twins 10th
title since the Twins moved to Elizabethton in 1974. It is their fifth title in the last ten years, but it is their first since 2009.
Congratulations to long-time E-Town manager and former Twins catcher Ray Smith and his coaching staff on the title and another tremendous season. Congratulations to the whole roster for the E-Twins.
What a game!! E-Twins 7, Burlington 6. (Note - since Hicks never got to round the bases, the final score is officially 7-6, not 10-6, not sure anyone really cares.)