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Smokies head to All-Star Break with series win

(Friday) The Tennessee Smokies (31-36) dropped their second game of the series in extra innings against the Pensacola Blue Wahoos (38-30), 5-4 at Blue Wahoos Stadium on Friday night. 

The Smokies wasted little time getting on the board. With bases loaded in the first inning, Ian Rice singled into left field to score Roberto Caro. Two batters later, Jesse Hodges ripped a single down the right field line to score both Eddy Martinez and Ian Rice to give the Smokies an early three run cushion.

LHP Justin Steele made his first start since being placed on the IL on 6/7. He was re-activated this afternoon for RHP Scott Effross. In just 3.1 innings of work, Steele did not allow a hit or run and tossed a season-high seven strikeouts in a no decision. 

Pensacola broke up the Smokies combined no-hitter in the sixth inning against RHP Michael Rucker. They strung together their first three hits in the ballgame and received their first run off a bases loaded single from Michael Davis. A sacrifice fly to center by Jimmy Kerrigan, one batter later, ran the score 3-2.

In the bottom of the ninth, Pensacola was able to tie the ballgame to make it three extra inning games in a row between the two sides. Davis drew a leadoff walk from RHP Craig Brooks to begin the inning. He came around to score and tie the game on a bloop single from Taylor Grzelakowski.

After a scoreless tenth frame, the Smokies added a run in the eleventh off RHP Tyler Palm (W, 1-1). Charcer Burks came home from second to give the Smokies a lead on an error by Caleb Hamilton to make it 4-3.

The one run lead would not hold, as the Smokies were forced to use second baseman Christian Donahue (L, 0-2) in relief for the second time in three nights. Kerrigan tied the game with his second RBI of the night into right field. After a pair of Donahue walks, Travis Blankenhorn walked it off for the Blue Wahoos with a bases loaded single up the middle.

(Saturday) The Tennessee Smokies (32-36) only needed nine innings for the first time this week to tie the series against the Pensacola Blue Wahoos (38-31) with a 2-1 win at Blue Wahoos Stadium on Saturday night. 

For the first time this series, the Blue Wahoos struck first. Jaylin Davis doubled home Taylor Grzelakowski in the third inning to give Pensacola the early advantage. 

The very next frame, it was the Smokies turn. Roberto Caro kicked off the inning with a leadoff walk followed by a Vimael Machin single. Two batters later, P.J. Higgins delivered with an RBI-groundout to tie the game 1-1.

The one-two punch of Caro and Higgins struck again two innings later. Caro led off the sixth with a single to jumpstart the frame. Higgins stepped in and delivered his second RBI of the game with a one out single into right field to give the Smokies the lead.

Pensacola’s starter RHP Jorge Alcala’s (L, 5-4) night would come to a close midway through the fifth. He was responsible for both runs and tossed five strikeouts in a losing effort.

RHP Thomas Hatch (W, 4-6) gave the Smokies six solid innings in his 14th start of the season. He gave up only one run on six hits and tossed five strikeouts to pick up his fourth win of the season. It was the third time Hatch pitched past the fifth inning this year. 

LHP Jordan Minch delivered two no-hit innings to maintain the lead heading to the ninth before the Smokies turned to Southern League All-Star LHP Wyatt Short (S, 5) to close out the game. He sat the Blue Wahoos down 1-2-3 to avoid extra innings for the fourth straight night.

(Sunday) The Tennessee Smokies (33-36) won their fourth rubber match of the season Sunday afternoon with a 3-2 win over the Pensacola Blue Wahoos (38-32) at Blue Wahoos stadium on Sunday afternoon.

The Smokies scored the first run of the ballgame for the fourth time in the series. It was a trio of singles to right field in the fourth inning that made it an early 1-0 game. Jhonny Pereda’s 22nd RBI of the season brought home Vimael Machin. Machin’s single in the inning extended his hit streak to ten games.

RHP Griffin Jax (L, 2-2) took his second lost of the season for the Blue Wahoos in just his second start back off the IL. Jax gave up a run on five hits in 3.1 innings of work.

The Smokies added on to the cause in the seventh inning. Both Christian Donahue and Connor Myers set the table with back-to-back singles in the frame. Roberto Caro followed shortly with a blast into left field to score both runners to run the score 3-0.

RHP Luis Lugo (W, 1-0) was dominate in his Smokies debut on Sunday. He was promoted from Myrtle Beach earlier in the day to fill the roster spot left by RHP Craig Brooks who was promoted to Iowa. He pitched 6.1 innings and gave up just two runs on four hits. He sat down the Blue Wahoos 1-2-3 in four different innings.

The only trouble he ran into all afternoon was in the seventh. With bases loaded in the inning, Jordan Gore brought home Pensacola’s first run of the day on a sacrifice fly. One batter later, Tanner English ripped an RBI-single to make it a one run game.

Pensacola’s late rally would not go further. RHP Tommy Nance (S, 3) provided a solid 1.2 innings out of the bullpen to shut down the Blue Wahoos. Nance went 1-2-3 in the ninth to clinch the game and the series for the Smokies.

The Smokies are off the next three days for the All-Star break. The second half of the season will begin Thursday at Smokies Stadium in game one of a five game homestand against the Montgomery Biscuits. Fans can enjoy one dollar draft beers and a dollar Pepsi products presented by Coors Light.

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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