By Steve Kolbe
The Suns took a 4-3 lead into the ninth inning on Friday but couldn’t hold on, as the Huntsville Stars scored two runs for a 5-4 win at the Baseball Grounds.
Jacksonville starting pitcher Jose Alvarez went five innings and allowed two hits and two runs. Huntsville started the scoring in the third. With runners on first and second, the Stars took a 2-0 lead when Brock Kjeldgaard doubled to left-center and drove in his first two runs of the season. It was Kjeldgaard’s third hit of the series and his second double.
The Suns cut the lead in half in the bottom of the fourth when Ryan Patterson hit Jacksonville’s first home run of the season over the left field wall. During the 2011 season the Suns hit 103 home runs, with Luke Montz hitting 22 of them.
Bryan Evans took over for Alvarez to start the sixth inning and retired the first batter he faced. He then walked Khris Davis, who eventually scored on an RBI single by Angel Gonzalez to make it 3-1 in favor of Huntsville. Evans pitched two innings allowing two hits and one run.
Trailing by two, the Suns took the lead in the home half of the eighth inning. Pinch-hitter Curt Smith singled and Donnie Webb reached base on an error by Stars left fielder Khris Davis. With two on and no one out, Jaime Ortiz blasted a three-run homer into the right field stands to give the Suns a 4-3 lead.
Wade Korpi and Josh Schmidt combined to pitch a scoreless eighth inning. Closer Evan Reed entered the game in the ninth looking for his second save in as many nights, but started the inning off by walking Josh Kline. Pinch-hitter Domnit Bolivar would deliver the tying run with a stand-up triple into deep center field and the game was tied 4-4. Bolivar would then score the go-ahead run on a Kentrail Davis sacrifice fly to left.
The Suns threatened in the bottom of the ninth when Jaime Ortiz and Kyle Jensen both took advantage of some control issues by reliever Santo Manzanillo, who failed to throw a strike with his first nine pitches. But after walking the first two batters and getting called for a bulk to move Ortiz and Jensen to second and third, Manzanillo settled down. Kyle Skipworth stuck out and Ryan Patterson and Jeff Dominguez each flew out to left to end the game.
The losing pitcher was Evan Reed. He allowed two hits and two runs in the ninth. Last season the Suns were 55-5 when leading after the eighth inning. The winning pitcher was Josh Stinson, who was just claimed off waivers from the New York Mets. Manzanillo earns his first save of the season. Jacksonville went 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position and left 11 runners on base. Huntsville stranded seven.
Game three of the series is Saturday April 7th with the first pitch scheduled for 6:05PM. Matt Montgomery takes the mound for the Suns against Evan Anundsen for the Stars.