KODAK, Tenn. – Unable to climb out of a two-run deficit, the Tennessee Smokies fell just short in a 7-5 loss to the Huntsville Stars Tuesday, in front of 6,885 fans on Safe Kids Health Awareness Day at Smokies Park. The loss puts the Smokies at 19-13 on the year, while Huntsville improves to 18-13. The Smokies are currently in first place of the Southern League North Division by half a game.
With two on and no outs in the bottom of the ninth, the Smokies were one hit away from possibly tying the game and sending it into extra innings. Stars’ closer Michael Fiers was able to close the door and retire the next three batters in order to end the game.
Early on, Huntsville struck first with two runs in the top of the second, as Chuckie Caufield brought in Steffan Wilson with an RBI single and later scored on a ground out by Hainley Statia. The Smokies answered in the bottom half of the inning, all with two outs. Josh Vitters singled, and Jim Adduci reached on an error by Stars’ first baseman Sean Hinton. Marwin Gonzalez doubled to scoring Vitters and Brooks Raley singled to score Adduci, tying the game at two.
The Smokies took the lead in the fourth when DJ LeMahieu drove in Adduci with a sac fly to right. Ryan Flaherty extended the lead to 4-2 with a single to bring in Gonzalez.
The Stars came back with a big inning in the fifth. After a single and walk put two runners on, Lee Haydel doubled and Erik Komatsu singled to score three runs and give Huntsville a 5-4 lead. Anderson De La Rosa made it 6-4 in the sixth with a solo shot to left field.
Blake Lalli narrowed the deficit to 6-5 in the seventh, hitting a solo homer to right. In the eighth, the Smokies threatened to tie it up when Marwin Gonzalez doubled to lead off the inning, and moved to third by a Matt Spencer groundout. But a Brett Jackson strikeout and a DJ LeMahieu groundout left him stranded at third.
Huntsville tacked on a run to make it 7-5 in the ninth when Angel Gonzalez doubled to bring in Haydel.
Raley (0-3), who took the loss, struggled in his four innings of work allowing 11 hits and five runs, while striking out one. Huntsville reliever Darren Byrd (4-1) got the win in relief, and Fiers (S, 5) got the save tossing the final two innings for the Stars.
The Smokies will continue their five-game series against the Stars tomorrow morning at 11:30 a.m. The Smokies will send LHP Chris Rusin (1-0, 5.70) to the mound to face RHP Michael Bowman (1-0, 2.93) for the Stars.