Elizabethton Wins Apply League West

The Elizabethton Twins won the Appalachian League Western Division title on Friday, despite dropping a 10-2 decision to the Danville Braves. The Twins, who won the league title in 2005, will look to repeat as champions, and seemingly have all the right pieces in place.

The Elizabethton Twins won the Appalachian League Western title on Friday, despite dropping a 10-2 decision to Danville. The Twins have won 39 of their 64 games this season, due to the strength of a solid lineup, and clutch pitching. Armed with the best closer in the Apply League, the Twins will try to vie for their second consecutive Appalachian League Title.

It has been a season of highs for the E-Town Twins, as Manager Ray Smith celebrated his 500th win earlier in the season. The team recently had two of its players, Danny Valencia and Danny Hernandez, named to the Appalachian League post-season All-Star team, and they have pretty much been in the driver's seat in their division all season long. The team will finish up their series with Danville on Sunday, and then will end the season with a three-game set with Princeton next week.

Offensively, the Twins are led by mostly 2006 draft choices, aside from Danny Santiesteban. Valencia leads the way, with a team-high seven home runs, and a .322 batting average that ranks him seventh in the league. He also is fourth in the league in slugging percentage, posting a .514 clip. Santiesteban leads the team in numerous categories, including hits (59), doubles (13), and he is tied with Brian Dinkelman for the team lead in runs batted in (29).

Dinkelman had done more than drive in runs for the Twins, posting a .295 batting average to go along with 21 runs. Garrett Olson, another 2006 draft choice, is batting .317 this season, which is the third best mark on the squad. The highest batting average goes to Steven Singleton, who is batting .338 on the season. Singleton also has smacked five triples this season, tying him for the league lead.

The pitching staff is led by super-closer Hernandez, who not only leads the league with 17 saves, but also leads the league with 26 appearances. In his short time with the Twins, Hernandez has already moved to the top of the organizational list with his 17 saves. The ace of the staff has varied from week to week, but it has been a three-man race between Jose Castillo, Jose Lugo, and Sean Land.

Castillo's name is all over the league's leaderboard, as he has posted a 3.31 earned run average to go along with his four wins this season. He is currently fourth in the league in innings pitched, and his earned run average is tenth best. Lugo is currently tied for the league lead with seven wins, and his 3.66 earned run average is also respectable.

Land is the guy who was hot early for the Twins, as the 2006 draft choice has been one of the better left-handed starting pitching prospects in the league. Land has made 11 starts for the Twins, and has posted a 4.37 earned run average. Another key starter has been Alex Burnett, who is currently second in the league in both strikeouts (71), and innings pitched (71.1).

Overall, the Twins are 39-25 this season, and their .260 team batting average is good enough for fourth in the league. Most of these players will make their full-season debuts next year, but for now the focus is winning another championship for famed Manager Ray Smith. They have the right guys in place to make it happen, and odds are, they should notch their second consecutive Appalachian League title sometime in September.

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