June 16, 2007
Sevierville – From the first batter of the game, you could tell that the Tennessee Smokies meant business on Saturday night, and knew exactly what was at stake.
Win two games in a row and put themselves in position to win the first half championship. Lose a game and wait to see what happens in Huntsville. The Smokies scored three runs in the first inning and never looked back in knocking off West Tennessee by the score of 5-2 in front of 5,856 excited fans.
Pending the outcome of the Birmingham-Huntsville game, the Smokies would at worst be tied for first place going into Sunday’s game with one game to play in the first half. If the Smokies and Stars finish tied after Sunday’s outcomes, the game on Monday June 18th between the Smokies and Stars would serve as a one-game playoff to decide the first half champion.
Tennessee didn’t waste any time getting the offense going against Diamond Jaxx starting pitcher Joseph Woerman (2-4). Three consecutive singles to start off the game by Sam Fuld, Gary Cates, and the Southern League’s leading hitter Josh Kroeger gave the Smokies an early 1-0 advantage before an out was recorded. A sacrifice fly by Matt Craig followed by a Jake Fox RBI single gave the Smokies a 3-0 lead.
West Tennessee did not go quietly in this game however. Marshall Hubbard hit a controversial home run over the left field fence that manager Pat Listach did not agree with. After being tossed out of the game, the call stood and the lead was cut to 4-2. The Diamond Jaxx would get no closer, as the Smokies added an insurance run in the seventh to finish the scoring at 5-2.
Tennessee never looked back after the first inning. Starting pitcher Donnie Veal (4-4) pitched an impressive five innings without yielding a run on four hits. Veal worked himself out of a few jams, and had some outstanding defensive plays behind him, particularly from shortstop Carlos Rojas. The Smokies bullpen came out for another outstanding relief effort from Matt Avery and Jerry Blevins. Blevins pitched two scoreless innings, fanning three batters, to pick up his 2nd save of the season.
The Smokies finish this crucial five game series with the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx with a huge game on Sunday afternoon at 5:00 pm. In a game that could decide the first half championship, the Smokies will send left-hander Paul Schappert (2-1, 6.64) to face Diamond Jaxx right-hander Travis Chick (1-0, 0.96).