KINGSPORT — A three-game sweep of the Johnson City Cardinals got the Elizabethton Twins back in familiar territory: first place in the Appalachian League’s West Division.
On Sunday night, the Twins gained some additional breathing room on the fourth-place Kingsport Mets.
Manuel Soliman put together his finest outing of the season and some timely hits propelled Elizabethton to a 6-2 victory as the K-Mets opened a 10-game, 11-night stretch at Hunter Wright Stadium.
Kingsport (18-21) just got home from a six-night road trip to Princeton and Pulaski. The change of scenery didn’t help the K-Mets, who lost for the fourth time in five games and fell 7½ games behind the Twins (26-14).
“Early we looked a little flat,” K-Mets manager Mike DiFelice said. “It shouldn’t be too hard to muster up against a division leader. But they got out to a four- run lead after three (innings).”
Indeed, Elizabethton touched K-Mets starter Michael Hebert (2-4) for one run in the first before Kingsport came to bat. The Twins pushed across three more in the third inning.
Elizabethton widened the gap to 6-0 in a wild sixth. Zachary Von Tersch came on to replace Hebert and retired the first man he faced before taking a screaming line drive off his shin that Brian Burke legged out for a single.
DiFelice took out Von Tersch for Richard Peña, who promptly gave up a towering two-run home run to right field.
Tony Feliz and T.J. Chism combined to work three scoreless innings, and Kingsport did manufacture a few chances.
The K-Mets broke up the shutout and chased Soliman in the seventh but scored just once while leaving the bases loaded. Kingsport stranded two in the eighth and had a runner at third when the game ended, after a very wild throw by Jean Mijares went for a three-base error and scored the K-Mets’ final run.
Soliman (5-2) was the star for Elizabethton. Tagged by these same K-Mets for five runs on four hits in three innings in his 2010 debut, Soliman was a different pitcher Sunday. He faced just one batter more than the minimum through six innings before loading the bases on two singles and a bean ball in the seventh.
“He’s only been pitching for two years,” Twins manager Ray Smith noted. “Every time he goes out there he gets a little bit better. He runs the ball up there at about 93 (mph) sometimes and he’s got two different shapes to his breaking balls — a pretty hard slider and a curveball he’s working with. He kind of slows his arm down sometimes, but he’s improving. That’s what you want to see out of your players.”
The Twins’ Oswaldo Arcia continued his season-long tear with two singles, two RBIs and a pair of stolen bases. The 19-year-old Venezuelan is on pace for the Appy League triple crown, leading all hitters in average (.392), home runs (12) and RBIs (37) while also boasting an impressive 1.189 OPS.
Andy Leer and Burke also had two RBIs apiece for Elizabethton.
Kingsport’s Aderlin Rodriguez and Albert Cordero each singled twice.