KODAK, Tenn. (release) -- Smokies shortstop Jeudy Valdez and third baseman Kris Bryant both launched solo homers and recorded multi-hit efforts, while Huntsville first baseman Nick Ramirez smashed a solo shot of his own in the 13th as the Stars toppled Tennessee in a 4-3 extra-inning win in front of 5,178 on Saturday night at Smokies Stadium.
The series clinching win for Huntsville moves the club to 15-8 on the year, while the Smokies fell to 10-13 in 2014. The Stars have also won six straight contests in Kodak dating back to the 2013 season.
All was quiet offensively for each club for the first three extra frames. Then in the 13th, Ramirez jumped on the first pitch he saw in the inning, going the opposite way for a one-out solo blast to left-center to put the Stars up 4-3, a lead they would not relinquish.
Both teams traded single tallies in the opening frame. Huntsville got on the board in the first for the third straight time in the series after LF Josh Prince singled and then swiped both second and third before scoring on a force out. Tennessee answered right back in the bottom half when RF John Andreoli reached on a bunt single, took second on a sacrifice bunt and third on 3B Kris Bryant’s base knock, then subsequently scored on LF Rubi Silva’s sacrifice fly.
Huntsville would then quickly take a 2-1 advantage in the following frame. 2B Greg Hopkins got aboard on an error, before coming across on C Adam Weisenburger’s double to left. Two innings later, LF Kentrail Davis doubled to lead off the fourth and advanced to third on an infield single before scoring on a double play groundout, making it 3-1.
The Smokies would storm back with solo shots in each of the fifth and sixth frames to nod the score at 3-3. Valdez launched his second longball of the season on the first pitch in the last of the fifth, while Bryant connected with his fifth roundtripper of 2014 in the next inning to draw the contest even. Bryant’s blast tied the 22-year-old for first in the Southern League.
Valdez (3-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB) led all Smokies batters with three hits, while Bryant (2-6, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI) also recorded a multi-hit effort. Prince (3-5, 1 R) was the lone Stars hitter to collect two or more hits in the contest. With his two hits, Bryant extended his on-base and hit streaks to 22 and nine consecutive games, respectively.
Cubs starter Jake Arrieta (2.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO) fired the first two innings as scheduled for the Smokies as part of his Major League Rehab Assignment, yielding two runs, one of which was earned on two hits. Dae-Eun Rhee (7.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO) supported Arrieta with seven solid frames after, giving up a lone earned run on just three hits, though he did not receive a decision.
Huntsville starter Drew Gagnon (6.0 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO) also did not receive a decision despite a quality start, allowing three earned runs on seven hits in six frames. Relievers Arcenio Leon (2.0 IP, 1 H, 2 SO) and Kevin Shackleford (2.0 IP, 2 H, 1 SO) each contributed to keep the Smokies off the board after with two scoreless innings each.
Smokies relief pitcher P.J. Francescon (1.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 SO) suffered the loss to fall to 2-1 on the year, while Huntsville right-hander Johnnie Lowe (2.0 IP, 1 H, 2 BB, 1 SO) earned his first victory of 2014.
Tennessee and Huntsville are scheduled to meet again in the fourth game of their series tomorrow afternoon, with right-hander Pierce Johnson (0-1, 6.75) expected to get the nod for the Smokies, while the Stars are slated to send righty Taylor Jungmann (1-2, 4.71) to the hill. First pitch is set for 2:00 p.m. at Smokies Stadium.
It’s a U.S. Cellular Family Funday at the ballpark, with families able to purchase four game tickets, four meal vouchers and four Kids Zone wristbands for just $48 dollars.
Tickets are still available for Sunday’s contest, and the remainder of Tennessee’s 2014 home slate, and can be purchased online at www.smokiesbaseball.com, or by calling the Smokies Ticket Office at (865) 286-2300.