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Smokies rally behind Happ homer

(Tennessee Smokies)  Down 3-2 with two on and two out in the bottom of the eighth inning, 2B Ian Happ hammered a go-ahead, three-run home run to left field, putting the Smokies ahead for good, as Tennessee defeated the Birmingham Barons, 5-3, on Tuesday night in front of 4,239 fans at Smokies Stadium.

With the win, Tennessee improves to 28-35 in the season’s second half and 56-77 overall. Birmingham’s loss drops them 20-44 in the second leg of the campaign and 49-85 in total.

Trailing by a run, the Smokies sparked a rally against the Barons’ bullpen in the eighth. RHP Colin Kleven (0.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, SO) entered and surrendered a leadoff single to LF Chesny Young (2-4, R), who would move to second on a wild pitch. After RF Kelly Dugan (1-2, R, RBI, BB) was plunked by a pitch with one out, DH David Freitas (1-4, R, SO) slapped a single through a hole and into left field. However, LF Courtney Hawkins threw Young out at the plate to keep the Barons in front.

That was it for Kleven, as LHP Andre Wheeler (0.1 IP, H, R, ER, SO) was called upon to face Happ (2-3, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI, BB, SO). The 22-year-old thwacked the first pitch he saw into deep left-center field and into the seats at the Calhoun’s at the Yard Pavilion for a three-run homer. The blast – Happ’s sixth as a Smokie – put Tennessee in front, 5-3.

RHP David Berg (1.0 IP, 2 H, SO) then came on to try and shut the door on the victory. CF Hunter Jones (3-4, R, HR, RBI, SO) and RF Keenyn Walker (2-5, 2 SO) reached on back-to-back one-out singles to put the tying runs on base, but the sidearmer buckled down. Berg forced C Alfredo Gonzalez (1-5, SO) to ground into a game-ending double play, sealing his fourth Double-A save of the year.

The Smokies jumped out to an early lead, scoring single runs in the first and second inning. Young led off with a single to left in the first, moving to second on a ground out and then third on a stolen base. With the infield in, Dugan roped a hard-hit grounder into right-center field for a knock. The 23-year-old scored from third to put Tennessee ahead, 1-0.

In the second, Happ ignited the inning with a walk, while 3B Jason Vosler (2-4, SO) and 1B Gioskar Amaya (1-3, SO) followed with singles to load the bases. After a fly out to center by SS Carlos Penalver (0-3), Happ raced home and crossed the plate on a scoring error to put the Smokies up by two.

Birmingham rallied for two runs to tie it in the fourth on a RBI single to left by SS Marcus Lemon (1-4, RBI, 3 SO) and a solo home run to left by Jones, his second Double-A long ball. The Barons then jumped in front, 3-2, in the fifth, as Hawkins (1-4, R, 2B, 2 SO) doubled and scored on an infield single by 1B Keon Barnum (2-3, R, 2B, RBI, BB, SO).

RHP Brad Markey (2.0 IP, 3 SO) was stellar in relief, tossing two perfect innings in just his third relief outing of the year. The Southern League Mid-Season All-Star earned his team-leading eighth win of the year, as a part of the effort for the Smokies. The Barons’ Kleven (0.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, SO) yielded two runs in the eighth, suffering his third loss of the campaign.

Neither starter received a decision. RHP Michael Wagner (4.2 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 5 SO) struck out five over 4.2 innings for Tennessee, while Birmingham’s RHP James Dykstra (7.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, ER, 2 BB, 3 SO) allowed just one earned run over seven frames.

The Smokies looks win the series in tomorrow night’s home finale. Birmingham is projected to go with RHP Thaddius Lowry (0-1, 3.21 ERA) in the series finale. Tennessee has not yet named their starter for tonight’s contest.


The Pilot Pre-Game Show will kick off the broadcast at 6:50 p.m. ET, leading up to the 7:05 p.m. ET start from Smokies Stadium. Wednesday night’s contest can be heard exclusviely on SmokiesBaseball.com or via the TuneIn Radio or MiLB First Pitch apps. Tomorrow’s affair can also be viewed on MiLB.tv.

The 2016 home schedule wraps up with the Smokies’ annual Fan and Community Appreciation Night presented by Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance. As a thank you for all the support throughout the season, the first 2,000 fans through the gates will receive a voucher good for a hot dog, drink and a bag of chips. In addition, the first 500 people in attendance will receive a complimentary program and roster insert. Throughout the contest there will be a team signed jersey auction and other various raffles. Two 2017 season tickets will also be awarded one lucky fan courtesy of Wilkerson Windows. Wednesday’s affair will also be a Smoky Mountain Popcorn All-You-Can-Eat Wednesday. For less than $25 dollars a person, fans can enjoy all-you-can-eat hamburgers, hot dogs, nachos, baked beans, potato chips, ice cream sandwiches and Pepsi products.

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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