Smokies unable to hold lead in 11-7 loss to Stars Wednesday

KODAK, Tenn. – Leading into the ninth inning of Wednesday afternoon’s contest with the Huntsville Stars, the Tennessee Smokies were unable to hold a two-run lead and fell 11-7 to the Stars in front of 6,186 at Smokies Park. The loss puts the Smokies at 19-14 on the year, and a half-game behind the Stars in the Southern League North Division.

Huntsville jumped on Smokies starter Chris Rusin early in the second inning when Chuckie Caufield scored on a Martin Maldonado sac fly, then extended the lead to 2-0 in the third with a Brandon Jones single to bring in Sergio Miranda.

The Smokies answered with a run in the bottom half of the third when Nate Samson doubled and DJ LeMahieu singled him in narrowing the Stars’ lead to 2-1.

The Stars added single runs in the fourth and fifth inning, and Matt Spencer narrowed the deficit, 4-3, in the sixth with a two-run shot to right field, his sixth of the season.

With the Smokies still trailing in the bottom of the seventh, Marwin Gonzalez started the inning off with a double and advanced to third on an error. A Rebel Ridling single brought in Gonzalez to tie things up, and after a Samson strikeout and LeMahieu groundout, Ryan Flaherty put one over the center field wall with a two-run shot to give the Smokies a 6-4 lead. Spencer followed with a walk, and Steve Clevenger sent an RBI double in the right-field gap giving the Smokies a 7-4 lead.

Huntsville narrowed the deficit to 7-5 in the eighth with a Sean Halton sac fly to score Maldonado. The Smokies were three outs from a win in the ninth, but the Stars broke the game wide open. Steffan Wilson hit a two-run homer to tie it at 7-7, and then Maldonado hit a sac fly to score Brandon Jones and give Huntsville the lead. Erik Komatsu and Lee Haydel followed with RBI singles to cap off a six-run inning and put the Stars up 11-7.

The Smokies pitching staff struggled to keep Huntsville’s bats quiet surrendering a combined 11 runs (10 earned) on 18 hits in the contest. Blake Parker (1-2) took the loss for Tennessee tossing the final two innings and allowing seven runs on six hits and two walks. Jameson Dunn (1-0) took the victory for the Stars.

The two teams will square off in Game 4 Thursday night at 7:15 at Smokies Park. Rob Whitenack (2-0, 2.65) gets the start for the Smokies while the Stars will send Jesus Sanchez (2-2, 3.94) the mound.