Bluefield bounced back from the season-opening setback with a 6-0 victory over the Twins in an Appalachian League baseball game Wednesday night at Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark.
“It was like two different teams,” said Twins’ manager Ray Smith of Bluefield. “They squared some balls up good. And they had some power arms, too. But that’s typical in this league.”
The teams will meet Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the deciding contest of the three-game series. Smith said he expects power-hitting outfielder Matt Wallner, a sandwich pick between the first and second round in this year’s MLB draft, to make his Twins’ debut.
Wallner, a Minnesota native, was picked out of high school in the 32nd round of the 2016 draft by the Twins. He opted to attend Southern Mississippi, and moved his stock up almost 31 rounds. He also has secondary potential as a pitcher who can hit 97 mph.
With Spencer Horowitz on third base after a double and a wild pitch in the second inning, PK Morris hit a two-out infield single to plate the game’s first run. Elizabethton shortstop Anthony Prato made a nice stop in the hole on Morris’ hard grounder, but couldn’t get a throw off to first base.
The Blue Jays got serious in the sixth inning. With the score still 1-0, Leonardo Jimenez rapped an RBI single to center field.
Horowitz made things worse for the Twins with a single to right field that drove in another run, and a second player crossed the plate on an outfield error, giving Bluefield a 4-0 lead.
In the seventh inning, Morris hit an inside-the-park homer. He took advantage of a tough effort by Willie Joe Garry Jr., who came up just short of a great catch in right-center field. Garry crashed into the wall, and Morris was able to circle the bases.
Bluefield got impressive performances from Horowitz (3 for 4 with two RBIs) and Jimenez (2 for 4 with two runs). Horowitz was selected out of Radford University in the 24th round of this year’s MLB draft.
On the mound, Lazaro Estrada shut the Twins down for five innings. He allowed four hits, struck out four, and didn’t walk a batter to earn the win.
Naswell Paulino was equally tough in relief. He tossed four innings, allowing only three baserunners with a hit and two walks. He struck out four and earned the save.
Smith said he was impressed with reliever Owen Griffith, a 21-year-old right-hander out of Clemson.
“I don’t know exactly what his background is, but he had a live arm and a nice late-breaking slider,” said Smith. “He might be all right. He’s like an end-of-the-game-type guy, I think.”
Griffith worked a scoreless inning, allowing a hit and striking out one.