by Rodger M. Wood
While watching the three hard fought, close games and imbalance of talent on the two teams competing in the 2018 West Division, Rookie A Appalachin League Playoff Series between the Elizabethton Twins and the Kingsport Mets, I kept remembering a statement Mark Twain made many moons ago, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
2018 Mets #1 Draft Pick Jared Kelenic Started in CF for Kingsport
Before the series started, Kingsport looked like a lock to win. Possibly looking ahead to an Appy League Championship, the New York Mets had stacked their Rookie A affiliate with five prime prospects, 2018 #1 draft pick CF Jarred Kelenic, 17-year old #8 top prospect SS Ronny Maurico, #10 top prospect 3B and DH Mark Vientos, #16 top prospect 3B Shervyan Newton and 2018 #2 Draft Pick 17 year old Texan high schooler RHP Simeon Woods-Richardson, while the Minnesota Twins placed only #14 top prospect, 19 year old Dominican CF Gilberto Celestino, and 21st top prospect Dominican 2B Yunior Severino on the Elizabethton roster.
Twins 21st Top Minor League Prospect Yunior Severino played 2B for Elizabethton
In Game 1 played at Kingsport August 31st, four of the five Twins game heroes turned out to be a 2017 30th round draft pick, 3B Alex Robles who drove in three rbi with timely 2-out hits in the 2nd and 7th innings, 2017 Draft 6th Round pick, SS Ricky De La Torre, who also drove in two runners with two outs and 2018 #7 Round Draft pick out of Virginia Military Institute, RHP Josh Winder who pitched a 6 inning 4 – hitter, one earned run, 8 K to get the win. Twins top prospect, Gilberto Celestino knocked in two runs with a 7th inning homer to help the Twins win Game 1 7-3.
Elizabethton 3B Alex Robles Starred in Appy Series
Visiting team Kingsport came back slugging to win the second game in 10 innings 7-6, After scoring three runs in the first inning, Kingsport did not score again until the 10th inning. The Twins tied the game 3-3 with runs in the 2nd, 4th, and 7th innings. In the top of the 10th inning, Mets Mark Vientos hit a one-out, two run double and Ranfy Adon hit a 2 – run single to put Kingsport up 7-3.
Mets Mark Vientos’ Double Wins Game 2
Elizabethton did not give up in the bottom of the tenth inning. Gilberto Celestino cut the lead to 7-5 with a two run double, and scored on a single by Twins #4 2018 Draft pick 1B Chris Williams. On a passed ball, Williams then advanced to second, and Robles walked. Jarred Akins grounded out for the second out and both runners advanced to second and third bases. However, Kingsport closer Nelson Leon came in to put out the fire and Kingsport won a tight no give up game 7-6 to even the three game series 1-1.
All of the marbles were on the line in Game 3 at Elizabethton, the winner taking the West Division title and going on to face the Princeton Rays in the 2018 Appalachin League Championship Series. Both teams scored a run in the second inning, Kingsport on Domingo Martinez base hit to left field scoring 3B Shervyan Newton and Elizabethton on Yeltsin Encarnacion’s single to right to score LF Lean Marrero. CF Gilberto Celestino’s 2 – run home run in the fifth gave the Twins some breathing room 3-1, but Domingo Martinez’ double closed the gap driving in Shervyan Newton to cut the lead to 3-2. With his third hit of the day, 2B Yunior Severino doubled in a run in the seventh inning, driving in a run, and Chris Williams singled in a run in the eighth to make the score 5-2. Late 2018 draft picks pitched in the game for the Twins, starter Andrew Calazaz (18th round) threw 4.1 IP, 1 run, 1 hit, winning pitcher Brian Rapp, (26th Round) 3.2 IP, 4 hits, 1 ER, and Tanner Howell (35th Round) the 3-out save.
Twins Chris William Drove In 3 Critical RBI
Neither team gave up in this series, The first game was a 2-1 game until the top of the sixth when the Twins scored a run. In the second game, down 7- 3 in the tenth, Elizabethton fought back to score 3 runs in the bottom of the tenth and had runners on second and third when stopper Nelson Leon got the third out. In the championship game, the score was tied 1-1 until Elizabethan scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Twins prospects, Yunior Severino (14 AB, 4 RS, 6 H, 1 RBI) and Gilberto Celestino (13 AB, 4 RS, 5 H, 5 RBI, 2 HR) starred at the plate in this series but so did lesser prospects Chris Williams (9 AB, 3 RS, 3 H, 3 RBI, 4 BB), Alex Robles (12 AB, 1 RS, 4 H, 4 RBI), Ricky DeLaTorre (10 AB, 1 RS, 4 Hits, and 2 RBI), and RHP Josh Winder with a 4 -hitter, 1 run in Game 1. They were the game winners, the spark that got Elizabethton the tough wins.
Top Twin Prospect Gilberto Celestino Homered Twice
With the exception of DH and 3B Mark Vientos (12 AB, 3 RS, 4 H, 1 HR, 4 RBI, Kingsports stars did not get many timely hits.
You cannot measure heart or desire in a baseball player, but sitting next to the Elizabethan Twins’ dugout this series, I could feel the adrenalin flowing, see the desire, and the determination on the Elizabethton players’ faces, and hear the encouragement the manager, coaches, and players gave each other. The chatter never ceased, It got me pumped up and enthusiastic about their chances to overcome the odds to win.
The Elizabethton players did more of the little things necessary to win games. They hit in the clutch, they ran the bases with abandon, they stayed down low on hard hit ground balls, and their pitchers consistently threw strikes when it counted. You could tell Elizabethton players wanted to win by the way they played. The other team had more premium players, but the low budgeted Twins had the edge in heart. Old Mark Twain was never more right than when he predicted that the size of the fight in the dog would determine the winner of the game..
With lots of heart the Elizabethan Twins went onto beat Princeton in the League Championship series 2 games to none.