KODAK, Tenn. (release) -- Suns starting pitcher Justin Nicolino tossed seven solid innings, earning his Southern League leading 13th victory of the season, while center fielder Isaac Galloway’s run-scoring double in the seventh proved to be the difference in Jacksonville’s 2-1 win over the Tennessee Smokies on Monday evening at Smokies Stadium.
The defeat dropped Tennessee’s second half record to an even 32-32 record, and also was the fifth straight loss for the Smokies. Despite the loss, Tennessee remains one game ahead of the Chattanooga Lookouts in the second half North Division standings with six games left thanks to the Lookouts’ loss to the Jackson Generals. The victory also improved the Suns’ clip to 39-25 since the midpoint of the 2014 campaign.
An announced crowd of 3,238 attended the contest, increasing Tennessee’s single-season franchise record attendance this year to 279,222. The team broke the previous single-season mark of 268,033 this past Saturday evening to record their highest total in a single season in the team’s history.
Nicolino (7.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 SO) kept Smokies batters at bay throughout the evening, yielding only one run on four hits in seven frames to earn the circuit-leading win. The victory marked the southpaw’s fifth over his last six outings, posting a 2.37 ERA (10 ER in 38.0 IP) in that time period, as well as his Southern League leading 13th of 2014.
The lone blemish on the left-hander’s resume came in the third. RF Rubi Silva led off the inning with a single to right, then advanced to second on 1B Dustin Geiger’s single and on to third via a Suns error, before being brought home on an RBI groundout to tie the game.
From that point on, Nicolino went on to set down 12 of the last 14 batters he faced, including ten of the final 11. Suns reliever Matt Ramsey (2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 SO) went on to fire the final two shutout innings and notched his 13th save of the year.
The Suns struck first, scoring their first run in the opening frame. 2B Austin Barnes walked and then took second on a wild pitch, before coming across on 1B Viosergy Rosa’s run-scoring base knock center to put Jacksonville ahead 1-0.
After Tennessee tied the game in the third, Jacksonville would eventually grab the lead back in the seventh with another single score. 3B Terrence Dayleg reached base on a force out before coming all the way around from first to score on CF Isaac Galloway’s RBI double to rightcenter, pushing the Suns up 2-1.
Smokies starter C.J. Edwards (5.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 8 SO) fired five plus solid innings, allowing a lone run on just one hit while fanning eight, though he did not factor in the decision. Southpaw reliever Andrew McKirahan (2.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 SO) suffered the defeat to fall to 0-3, while Hunter Cervenka (1.0 IP, 1 H) and Blake Cooper (1.0 IP, 3 SO) each threw one shutout inning, with Cooper striking out the side in order in the ninth.
LF Pin-Chieh Chen (2-3) recorded his second consecutive multi-hit game and was the only batter from either side to accomplish that feat. The contest also marked the third straight game the Smokies had outhit the Suns and fallen.
The Smokies are slated to finish their series with the Suns and play their final home game of the 2014 regular season Tuesday evening, with first pitch scheduled for 7:15 p.m. Tennessee is expected to give the nod to RHP Pierce Johnson, while Jacksonville is expected to send RHP Trevor Williams to the hill.
It’s Fan Appreciation Night at the ballpark, as the Smokies will be saluting their fans throughout the night who came out in record droves in 2014. Prizes will be given out throughout the night as part of the final regular season contest of the year. It’s also the final Tail Waggin’ Tuesday of the regular season at Smokies Stadium, with fans able to bring their dogs and sit out on the berm with their pooches. Tail Waggin’ Tuesdays are presented by Frontline Heartgard.
Tickets for that game are still available and can be purchased online at smokiesbaseball.com, or by calling the Smokies Ticket Office at 286-2300.