Smokies salvage series finale in Chattanooga, 8-4

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (release) -- A six-run sixth inning propelled the Tennessee Smokies to an 8-4 win over the Chattanooga Lookouts in the finale of a four-game series on Sunday afternoon at AT&T Field. The victory snapped Tennessee’s season-long six-game skid.

The Lookouts staked Southern League ERA leader Ethan Martin to a 1-0 lead with a run in the bottom of the second. From there, though, the Smokies scored the game’s next eight runs.

In the top of the fourth, Nelson Perez’s two-run single put Tennessee up, 2-1. The Smokies chased Martin from the game with a six-run sixth, matching their largest frame of the season. With two outs, Tennessee strung together five consecutive run-scoring hits.

Back-to-back singles by Chad Noble and Dustin Harington made it a 4-1 game. Mike Burgess and Junior Lake followed with a pair of doubles to put Tennessee up, 7-1 before a Logan Watkins RBI single made it 8-1.

Chattanooga battled in the bottom of the ninth, scoring three runs against reliever Trey McNutt on a two-run single by catcher Griff Erickson and a sacrifice fly, but the Lookouts rally fell short.

Nick Struck (11-9) became the first Southern League pitcher to reach 11 wins, limiting the Lookouts to one run on four hits over five innings. Martin (7-6) suffered the loss after allowing six runs on six hits over 5.2 frames. Zach Rosscup contributed five strikeouts over three scoreless innings out of the Tennessee bullpen.

The top three hitters in Tennessee’s order – Lake, Watkins, and Jae-Hoon Ha – each finished with two hits while Harrington went 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI in his first Double-A start.

Prior to Sunday’s regularly-scheduled game, the Smokies and Lookouts completed a game that was suspended in the eighth inning on Saturday. The Smokies dropped the 11-inning affair, 12-11, on a two-run, walk-off single by C.J. Rutherford as Tennessee blew its fourth lead of the contest.

The game was suspended due to rain in the eighth inning on Saturday night. The Smokies led, 7-0, but the Lookouts scored six runs in the fifth and tied it at seven in the sixth. The teams traded solo home runs in the seventh before the game went into a rain delay and was eventually suspended.

When play resumed on Sunday, relievers Frank Batista and Steve Ames each tossed two scoreless, hitless innings to send the game into extra innings. Tennessee jumped on top in the tenth, 10-8, when the Smokies loaded the bases and, with two outs, pinch hitter Chad Noble laced a two-run single just inside the right field line for his first Double-A hit. The Lookouts tied the game at 10 in the bottom of the 10th when Rafael Ynoa lined a two-run single off Kevin Rhoderick with the bases loaded.

The Smokies re-gained the lead in the top of the 10th. With one out and runners on the corners, Logan Watkins singled home Nelson Perez to make it an 11-10 game.

Casey Harman entered in the bottom of the frame and recorded two quick outs before loading the bases on a single and back-to-back walks to put the tying and winning runs in scoring position.

Rutherford followed with a two-run single down the left field line to give the Lookouts the 12-11 victory.

Harman (0-3) suffered the loss while Red Patterson (6-1) earned the win despite allowing three runs in two innings of relief for the Lookouts.

Facing Dodgers’ top prospect Zach Lee, the Smokies opened the scoring in the top of the second, taking a 2-0 lead thanks to a pair of one-out RBI doubles by Mike Burgess and Nate Samson.

The Smokies took advantage of a costly Chattanooga error to plate two more runs in the top of the third inning to extend their lead to 4-0. With one out and the bases loaded, Greg Rohan bounced back to the mound but Lee’s throw to the plate was wild, allowing a pair of runs to score.

In the fourth, Tennessee used a two-out rally to push three more runs across. With Watkins aboard, Justin Bour cracked a two-run homer to right center to make it a 6-0 contest. Two batters later, Rohan’s second double of the night plated Juan Apodaca to extend the Tennessee lead to 7-0.

Tennessee starter Dallas Beeler held the Lookouts off the scoreboard until the bottom of the fifth inning, when Chattanooga would break out the bats. After back-to-back walks and a sacrifice bunt put two men in scoring position with one out, an Ynoa RBI single got Chattanooga on the board. Nick Buss followed with a two-run triple to cut the Lookouts deficit to 7-3. A Luis Nunez RBI single made it 7-4 and chased Beeler from the contest. Tony Zych entered in relief and the first batter he faced, Kyle Russell, launched a two-run homer to right to pull Chattanooga within one, 7-6. The Smokies escaped the jam, but not before the Lookouts sent 10 batters to the plate.
Chattanooga tied the contest at seven in the bottom of the sixth inning. With the bases loaded and one out, Luis Nunez lifted a fly ball to right field and Wallach beat Nelson Perez’s throw to the plate.
Tennessee would snag the lead right back when Perez led off the top of the seventh with his third home run of the season to put the Smokies back on top, 8-7. However, Chattanooga evened the score at eight in the bottom of the frame when Blake Smith took Marcus Hatley deep. The contest went into a rain delay following the final out of the seventh inning.

Neither starter factored in the decision. Beeler surrendered a season-high five earned runs on six hits over 4.1 frames, walking three and striking out two. Lee struggled as well, allowing seven runs (five earned) on seven hits in 3.2 innings to raise his Southern League ERA to 9.45 over his first five Double-A starts.

In the loss, every Tennessee starting position player recorded a hit with Watkins going 3-for-6 with an RBI and two runs scored.
Following an off day on Monday, the Smokies continue their nine-game road trip when they open up a five-game series against the Jacksonville Suns at 7:05 p.m. on Tuesday. In the series opener, Tennessee is scheduled to send southpaw Eric Jokisch (5-2, 2.98 ERA) to the mound against Suns right-hander Matt Neil (1-5, 5.59 ERA) at The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.

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