Late Huntsville homer sinks Smokies in series opener, 5-4

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Andy Gonzalez snapped a 4-4 tie with a leadoff home run in the bottom of the eighth inning as the Tennessee Smokies fell to the Huntsville Stars, 5-4, in the opener of a five-game series at Joe Davis Stadium on Sunday night.

In front of a crowd of 6,103 in the Stars’ home opener, the Smokies opened the scoring in the top of the first when Logan Watkins walked, stole second, and scored on a throwing error to make it 1-0. The Smokies extended their lead to 3-0 in the fourth inning on a Jonathan Mota RBI double and a run-scoring single by Mike Brenly.

The Stars began to whittle away their three-run deficit in the bottom of the fourth thanks to a pair of productive outs – a sacrifice fly by Gonzalez and an RBI groundout off the bat Jason Jaromillo – to make it a 3-2 contest.

The Smokies extended their lead to 4-2 in the top of the seventh when pinch hitter Jim Adduci doubled and later scored from second base on a wild pitch. In the bottom of the frame, however, Huntsville used a Brock Kjeldgaard sacrifice fly and a Khris Davis RBI single to pull even at 4-4.

Huntsville reliever Eric Marzec (1-0) picked up the win in relief while Robert Wooten fired a scoreless ninth inning to notch his third save. Marcus Hatley (0-1) took the loss for the Smokies, tossing the final two innings and allowing three runs. Tennessee starter Nick Struck surrendered two runs on three hits with four walks in five innings of work, but didn’t factor in the decision.

For the Smokies, Elliot Soto doubled twice in a 2-for-4 night at the plate while Watkins finished 1-for-1 with three walks and a run scored.
The Smokies and Stars continue their five-game series on Monday night when Tennessee sends right-hander Trey McNutt (0-0, 0.00 ERA) to the mound for his third start of the season against Huntsville right-hander Tyler Thornburg (2-0, 0.82 ERA) with first pitch slated for 7:43 p.m.

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