Hoover, AL (Smokies Baseball) – Josh Vitters’ sacrifice fly to score Junior Lake in the 13th inning was the difference in Birmingham on Monday afternoon, as the Smokies came away with a 1-0 victory over the Barons in the series finale. The win improves the Smokies overall record to 45-30 on the season.
The Smokies offense had been outscored 18-5 in the first four games of this series, and early on it looked as if Tennessee would break through with a key hit off Birmingham LHP Justin Edwards, but the Smokies could not capitalize with men on base. In total, the Smokies went 0-for-13 on the day with runners in scoring position. On the day, Edwards pitched seven scoreless innings for Birmingham, allowing six hits and striking out two and walking two.
Smokies LHP Chris Rusin made his second half debut and held the Barons lineup scoreless on just two hits through five innings of work. He also struck out one and walked one. Jeff Stevens, Esmailin Caridad, Rafael Dolis and Kevin Rhoderick (4-0) each tossed two scoreless innings in relief of Rusin. They allowed a combined three hits and struck out seven hitters over that span.
In the top of the 13th, Lake reached base on a throwing error by Tyler Kuhn and would advance to second on a single to right field from Ryan Flaherty. Both runners advanced into scoring position following a sacrifice bunt by Rebel Ridling. After an intentional walk to Steve Clevenger, Vitters flew out to right field, which allowed Lake to tag from third and slide in safely around a throw to the plate, and Tennessee took a 1-0 lead.
After Lake committed an error of his own to allow the tying run to reach base in the bottom of the 13th, Rhoderick induced a double-play ball to end the game and preserve the win. The lone run was ruled unearned, and Tennessee’s streak without scoring an earned run is now at 34.1 innings.
The Smokies now return home for a five game series against the Carolina Mudcats beginning on Tuesday at 7:15 PM. RHP Trey McNutt (1-3, 3.19) will make the start for the Smokies, and RHP Matt Klinker (4-4, 3.53) takes the ball for Carolina. Tickets can be purchased at www.smokiesbaseball.com or by calling (865) 286-2300.