JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Smokies Baseball) – For the second time in as many days, the Smokies received a big lift from their pitching staff, and held onto win the first game against the Suns, 7-3, on Saturday night at The Baseball Grounds. With the win, Tennessee improves to 11-5 on the season.
LHP Brooks Raley made his third start of the year for the Smokies, and immediately found himself in a hole as he walked the first batter he faced. After getting Ryan Curry to fly out, Raley surrendered a two-run home run to Jake Smolinski, and the Suns went up 2-0 after one inning of play. The Smokies offense answered right back in the top of the second off LHP Graham Taylor, as Blake Lalli doubled to right field and Nate Samson homered to tie the game at 2-2.
In the top of the third inning, the Smokies piled in four runs on five hits off Taylor, which was highlighted by a two-run homer to left field by Josh Vitters. At the end of three innings, the Smokies already recorded ten hits and had a 6-2 lead. After giving up the two runs in the first inning, Raley settled down to retire 11 of the next 13 batters he faced. Jacksonville got a run back in the fifth inning on a solo home run by Luke Montz to cut Tennessee’s lead to 6-3. Later on in the frame, Raley gave up back-to-back singles, and a fielding error by Marwin Gonzalez loaded the bases for the Suns with one out. RHP Hung-Wen Chen came onto relieve in a bases loaded jam, and quickly induced a double play to end the threat. Chen and Kyle Smit combined to hold the Suns scoreless for three and a third innings, and the Smokies were in front 6-3 after eight innings.
The Smokies picked up another insurance run in the top of the ninth, as Matt Spencer launched a pinch-hit, solo home run over the left field wall. LHP Luke Sommer gave up two hits in the bottom of the ninth before getting Ben Lasater to ground out and the game.
Tennessee finished the night with a combined 13 hits. It is the tenth time this year they have compiled double-digit hits.
The Smokies continue their five game series against the Suns on Sunday afternoon at 3:05 PM. LHP Chris Rusin (1-0, 6.43) will make his fourth start for the Smokies, and the Suns will give the ball to RHP Omar Poveda (1-0, 4.20). The Smokies will return to Smokies Park on Thursday, April 28th, as the Smokies will host the Carolina Mudcats in a five-game series through May 2. Tickets can be purchased at www.smokiesbaseball.com or by calling (865) 286-2300.
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