KODAK, Tenn. (SUBMITTED) -- From start to finish, Saturday night’s contest between the Birmingham Barons and Tennessee Smokies had a ceremonious feel to it. The 5,659 at Smokies Park had even more to cheer about as well as Russ Canzler’s walk-off home run gave the Smokies an 8-7 victory and Bill Dancy his 1,600th managerial win. With second-place Huntsville postponed, the Smokies’ victory put their magic number to clinch the Southern League North Division second-half title at one.
Heading into the bottom of the ninth tied at seven, almost everyone in attendance was looking for the storybook finish. Canzler’s drive to center off Barons reliever Anthony Carter looked like it might clear the fence, but was ruled not to have done so. He would triple on the play as a result.
Sensing the ball hit the metal piping on top of the outfield wall, Dancy protested to first-base umpire Spencer Flynn. The three-man umpire crew then congregated and eventually changed the call to a home run. The ruling was met with joy by the home team as the Smokies players rushed the field to first congratulate Canzler, and then Dancy.
Leading up to the game, Tennessee honored long-time Knoxville News Sentinel beat writer Nick Gates with a tribute to his 38 years of service, naming the stadium’s press row in his honor.
Tennessee starter Trey McNutt, making his Smokies Park debut after being called up from High-A Daytona last week, battled valiantly early on but was touched up by Birmingham for four runs (two earned) across the first four innings.
Led by Brandon Guyer though, the Smokies would make a furious comeback not once, but twice. His RBI double in the sixth followed a RBI groundout by Brett Jackson and preceded an RBI double by Matt Spencer to bring Tennessee to within 4-3. Spencer would plate Guyer in the seventh to tie the game up at four.
After the Barons put three up on the board in the top of the eighth off Smokies reliever Aaron Shafer to go back up, 7-4, Guyer came through once again. He followed an RBI single by Tony Campana with an RBI double that plated Campana and David Macias to tie the game up at seven.
Tennessee reliever Kyle Smit (4-1) pitched a scoreless ninth to ultimately get the win.
The Smokies will go for the four-game sweep over the Barons Sunday at 5:00 at Smokies Park. Matt Long (6-8, 5.05) will get the start for Birmingham against Tennessee’s Ty’Relle Harris (1-0, 0.00). Tickets for the game, which will include a Smokies jersey t-shirt giveaway for the first 1,000 kids 12-and-under, can be purchased at www.smokiesbaseball.com or by calling (865) 286-2300.
Courtesy: Smokies baseball