CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (team release) --The Tennessee Smokies clinched their third consecutive Southern League North Division Championship with a 7-2 victory over the Chattanooga Lookouts in Game Three of the North Division Championship Series at AT&T Field on Saturday night.
The victory completes a sweep of the Lookouts, and the victory gives Tennessee its third consecutive berth in the Southern League Championship Series, which will begin later this week.
Smokies starting pitcher Trey McNutt (1-0) earned the victory after a solid performance where he allowed two runs on seven hits, walked two batters and also struck out a pair. McNutt was the only starting pitcher to earn a win in the series.
The Smokies offense was paced by Rebel Ridling, who drove in four early runs to help Tennessee out to a big lead. Ridling’s two-run triple in the top of the first gave Tennessee a 2-0 lead before Josh Vitters added a sacrifice fly to give McNutt a 3-0 advantage going into the bottom of the first. Alfredo Silverio led off the inning with a solo homer, however McNutt would settle down and strike out the next three batters.
After a scoreless second, Tennessee added a pair of runs in the third inning to lead 5-1. Once again Ridling did damage at the plate for the Smokies in the fourth, hitting a two-run single to put the Smokies up 7-1. Chattanooga scored its final run in the bottom of the fourth against McNutt, and the bullpen wouldn’t allow any more runs, thanks in part to stellar defense by centerfielder Jae-Hoon Ha.
Ha turned a double play to end the bottom of the sixth as he made a running catch on a fly ball by Travis Denker then doubled up Jake Lemmerman at first to end the inning. He also made another highlight reel grab to end the bottom of the eighth, stealing a base hit away from Brian Cavazos-Galvez.
In the ninth, Rafael Dolis got the final two outs when Griff Erickson hit into a double play to complete Tennessee’s sweep.
The Smokies will play the winner of the South Division Championship Series (either Mobile or Birmingham) in the 2011 Southern League Championship Series later this week. Fans can stay up-to-date on the latest SLCS information later this week by visiting smokiesbaseball.com for the schedule and also ticket information for the final three games of the series to be played at Smokies Park.