KODAK, Tenn. (release) -- The Tennessee Smokies scored five times in the eighth inning, but were unable to overcome a 7-1 deficit and fell to the Jacksonville Suns, 7-6, Thursday night at Smokies Park. The loss, in front of 3,570, drops the Smokies to 16-9, 50-44, while Jacksonville improves to 14-11, 47-44.
Smokies starter Eric Jokisch (8-8) worked in and out of trouble all night, but the Suns did the most damage in the third inning, scoring three runs on three hits. Jokisch went five innings, giving up three hits, three earned runs, three walks and struck out six.
Jacksonville starter Robert Morey (4-6) pitched five solid innings for the Suns, allowing five hits, one hit, one walk and five strikeouts.
After a Rafael Lopez walk led off the Smokies’ fifth inning, Nate Samson, pinch-hitting for Jokisch, smacked a RBI-double to left, scoring Lopez from second.
After a perfect inning in relief by Marcos Mateo, P.J. Francescon came in for the Smokies in the seventh. The Suns scored four runs on four hits on the Smokies’ southpaw to take a 7-1 lead.
The Smokies finally broke out of the offensive slump in the eighth inning, putting five runs up on the board. After walks to both Arismendy Alcantara and Javier Baez, Justin Bour reached on a fielding error by the second baseman to load the bases with no outs. Christian Villanueva grounded into a force out, scoring Alcantara and then Rubi Silva smacked a two-RBI triple down the left field line making the score 7-4. Chad Noble, pinch-hitting, hit a RBI-groundout to bring the score to 7-5. Rafael Lopez then hit his sixth home run of the season, a solo shot to right field bringing the Smokies within one.
That would be all the offense the Smokies would muster in the game as Jacksonville’s closer Michael Brady (S, 14) got the Smokies in order in the ninth.
Lopez went 1-for-3 with a home run, two runs scored, a RBI and a walk. Bour went 2-for-4 and Silva went 1-for-4 with a triple, two RBI and a run scored.
The second game of the series is Friday night at 7:15 at Smokies Park. Dae-Eun Rhee (1-0, 0.87), making his first start with the Smokies since April 14 will face off against Suns’ righty Anthony DeScalafani (2-1, 6.04). Friday features fireworks to a medley of Kenny Chesney songs for Kenny Chesney theme night after the game.