Danville Braves

From left, Danville's Brett Langhorne, Dilmer Mejia and Nick Vizcaino stand with members of a local little league baseball team during the National Anthem prior to a game.

The Danville Braves had won three straight games heading into Saturday, taking the first two of the three-game set with the Elizabethton Twins. The sweep just wasn't meant to be, however, as the Twins picked up the 3-2 win.

Danville's bats, after scoring 11 runs two games ago, went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position in the loss. In Friday’s game, the key to success was jumping on the first fastball. On Saturday, that was the message Manager Barrett Kleinknecht sent after the game.

“The guys know that we’ve got to hit the fastball. That’s the biggest thing When guys are on base, can’t take that fastball because the old saying, you get a strike, the pitcher gets a strike, the umpire gets a strike,” Kleinknecht said. “We’re going to strikeout, but strikeout being aggressive. Don’t be timid. Be ready to hit with those guys on base.”

Danville jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the second inning. Henry Quintero got things started with a leadoff single. After an error on the infield moved Quintero the third, Zack Soria hit a sacrifice fly to bring home the game’s first run.

The Twins came back in the top of the fourth inning, taking a 2-1 lead. Alex Robles hit an RBI single to leftfield to tie the game at 1-1 and then Ricky De La Torre hit another sac fly to take the 2-1 lead.

The only other run for the Twins came by way of a solo home run by Chris Williams in the top of the sixth inning. That came after the Braves tied the game back at 2-2 in the bottom of the fourth. Greg Cullen doubled, moved to third on a groundout by Greyson Jenista and scored on a sacrifice fly by Quintero.

All three runs were allowed by Dilmer Mejia, who began play Saturday fourth in the Appalachian League in ERA. He worked the first 5 2/3 innings, allowing the three runs on five hits, no walks and he struck out three.

Zach Seipel and Connor Simmons worked the final 3 1/3 innings out of the bullpen and the only baserunners came by way of two walks by Seipel, but he worked out of the jam, helping keep Danville in range for a potential comeback in the late innings.

“That’s it. That’s the thing about this team. Not just pitching, but defense and offensively as well. We’ve got guys that just battle and those are the guys you want to go into battle with, those are the guys you want in there with the game on the line or you want in there with the bases load, no outs, up to bat or the other way around, bases loaded, no outs and you want that guy on the mound,” Kleinknecht said. “There’s a lot of those guys here and it’s nice to have that luxury because a lot of times you don’t have that.”

The Braves collected just five hits offensively on the night. Cullen had three of them, his first professional three-hit game, and Quintero and Soria had the others. Kleinknecht shook up his lineup a little bit in an attempt to get guys that hadn’t played in a few games a chance to see the field. That’s something he’s been working to do early on this season and is something he’s already begun mapping out weeks in advance.

“It’s going to be a little different. I’ve put a lot of work in trying to flip the lineup a little bit for the next couple of weeks. It took me a little while, but I got it to where guys are going to get a little more consistent. There’s not going to be a guy going three days without playing again. That’s the nature of the beast when you have this many guys and this much talent,” he said. “The guys have been good though. I’ve been straight up with them. I’ve told them what the plan is and just to stay the course… If there are any moves now guys can fall into their places. Whether it be a guy getting moved tomorrow or a guy getting moved next week, now those guys are staying ready and staying positive and they know what their role is.”

The Braves (5-6) will be back home Sunday afternoon for an early 4 p.m. start against the Bristol Pirates in the first of a three-game series. It will be the first time the Braves play a game before 7 p.m.

“I said show and go,” Kleinknecht said. “I said there’s no BP on the field. It’s an optional cage. They’re going to have to get used to it because this is how it is full season and it’s my job to take care of them… If they’re not going to hit in the cage they’ve got to be ready to stretch at 3:30 and play a game at 4.”​

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Chris Doherty is a sports writer for the Martinsville Bulletin. He can be reached a chris.doherty@martinsvillebulletin.com

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