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Barons blank Smokies on record-setting night

(Tennessee Smokies)  RHP Tyler Skulina allowed just two hits and one earned run over 6.2 innings, but it was not enough. Birmingham scored once in the first and twice in the seventh, as the Barons shutout the Tennessee Smokies, 3-0, on Monday night in front of 3,370 fans at Smokies Stadium.

Needing just 941 fans to set the organization’s single-season attendance record, the Smokies drew 3,000-plus to set a new mark of 285,468 with two more scheduled home games remaining. Monday’s record surpasses the previous mark of 283,038 fans welcome through the gates in Sevierville during the 2014 campaign.

With tonight’s loss, the Smokies drops to 27-35 in the second half and 55-77 overall. Birmingham’s victory improves their mark in the season’s second leg to 20-43 and 49-84 in total.

The Barons wasted no time in taking the lead, jumping in front just two batters into the game. Ahead in the count 3-1, SSMarcus Lemon (1-3, R, HR, RBI) crushed a towering fly ball to right that landed in the Pioneer Comfort Porch for a solo home run. The dinger – the veteran’s first of the season – put Birmingham ahead, 1-0.

It was a pitcher’s duel from that point on. Skulina (6.2 IP, 2 H, 3 R, ER, 3 BB, 5 SO) – despite suffering his 12th loss of the year – would not surrender another hit until LF Courtney Hawkins (1-2, 2 BB, SO) single in the seventh, retiring 11 straight hitters from one out in the third to the end of the sixth.

RHP Spencer Adams (7.0 IP, 4 H, 5 SO) was equally stellar for the Barons. The 20-year-old right-hander allowed just four singles over seven innings, earning the second Double-A win of his career.

Birmingham was able to stretch their lead up to three with a pair of runs in that seventh inning. With one on and one out, DHChris O’Dowd (0-3, R, BB, SO) drew a walk, signaling the end of Skulina’s night. RHP Starling Peralta (1.1 IP, 2 BB) emerged from the bullpen and got 2B Ryan Leonards (0-4, SO) to hit a grounder to short. However, the throw to first was wide – allowing 1B Keon Barnum (0-4, R) to score from second – and extend the Barons’ edge to 2-0.

With men now at first and third, CF Hunter Jones (0-3) swung and missed at a pitch, but the ball skipped away. O’Dowd crossed the plate on the passed ball, giving Birmingham a 3-0 lead.

RHP Matt Cooper (2.0 IP, H, 2 SO) was called upon in the eighth and shut the door for the Barons. The right-hander yielded just a two-out single in the ninth – tossing two spotless innings – to earn his first career save at the Double-A level.

By the game’s send, Birmingham had scored just three runs on two hits, but it was enough for the victory. 1B Ben Carhart(2-3) led the way for the Smokies’ offense, collecting a game-high two hits.

The Smokies looks even the series tomorrow night, as RHP Michael Wagner (2-1, 3.35 ERA) is scheduled to take the ball for the Smokies. Birmingham is projected to go with RHP James Dykstra (4-9, 5.34 ERA), as they look for a series win.

About Jim Harris

Jim Harris has been WYSH's News & Sports Director since 2000. In addition to reporting local news, he is the play-by-play voice for Clinton High School football, boys' and girls' basketball and baseball. Catch Jim live weekdays beginning at 6:20 am for live local news, sports, weather and traffic plus the Community Bulletin Board, shenanigans with Ron Meredith and more on the Country Club Morning Show on WYSH & WQLA. Jim lives in Clinton with his wife Kelly and daughter Carolina, his mother-in-law and cats Lucius and Oliver.

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