By Steve Kolbe
In a game that lasted nearly four and a half hours, the Jacksonville Suns downed the Pensacola Blue Wahoos 5-4 in 13 innings in first-ever extra inning game at Maritime Park.
Jacksonville jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first when Jake Smolinski led off the game with a single, and with two outs was driven in by Kyle Skipworth who doubled off the wall in right field. Skipworth finished the game 1-for-6, and now has at least one hit in each of his last four games when in the starting lineup. It was his seventh run batted in this season. Smolinski led off the game with a hit for the third straight game and also went 1-for-6.
The Suns have scored the game’s first run in six of the last eight games, and improved their record to 5-1 when they cross the plate first.
The Blue Wahoos entered the game ranked second in the Southern League with a batting average of .271, and in the bottom of the first inning the first five batters to face Suns starter Bryan Evans collected a hit. Singles by Didi Gregorius, Ryan LaMarre, and Brodie Greene and doubles by Henry Rodriguez and Mike Costanzo put Pansacola in front 4-1. The Suns had given up a total of three runs in the first inning in their first 11 games of the season.
Pensacola wouldn’t score again for the rest of the night. In the sixth inning the Suns would cut the Wahoos lead to 4-3. Already with two hits in the game, second baseman Paul Gran continued his big night when he hit a two-run home run off of Blue Wahoos starter Curtis Partch to make it a one-run game. For Gran, it was his first home run and first two runs batted in this season, and his near record-setting night was far from over.
In the seventh, Shawn Bowman dialed up his first home run of the season, a solo shot to left, and the score was tied 4-4. The Suns have hit nine home runs in the first dozen games of the season, by nine different players and all against right handed pitchers.
Venturing into extra innings for the first time this season, Jose Duarte led off the 13th with an infield single. Jaime Ortiz followed with a single and Jake Smolinski drew a walk against Luis Atilano to load the bases with no outs. It appeared that Atilano was going to pitch his way out of the jam, getting pinch-hitter Jake Jefferies to pop out and striking out Bowman. But with two outs, he threw a wild pitch that went all the way to the backstop and Duarte hustled home to give the Suns a 5-4 lead. It was one of five wild pitches thrown by Pensacola pitchers in the game.
Chris Squires entered the game in the 13th, and after allowing a leadoff double to pinch-hitter Brian Peacock retired the next three Blue Wahoos batters to record his first save of the season and seal the 5-4 win.
The two teams combined to use 13 pitchers, six by Jacksonville. Bryan Evans went five innings and allowed seven hits and four runs. The Suns bullpen was perfect, scattering three hits over eight innings. On the same day he arrived in Penascola from New Orleans, Garrett Parcell pitched an inning of hitless ball. Josh Schmidt tossed two innings and allowed just one hit. A.J. Ramos rebounded from walking in the game-winning run a night ago to pitch three innings without allowing a hit. Wade Korpi earned his first win of the year by pitching the 12th inning and striking out two of the four batters he faced. Suns hurlers combined for 15 strikeouts in the win, and have now fanned at least 10 batters in four of the last six games. The only players not to appear in the game for the Suns were pitchers Kyle Kaminska, Evan Reed, and Bobby Bramhall and outfielder Ryan Patterson.
Paul Gran went 5-for-6 and had a hit in his first five plate appearances in the game. He finished with three singles, a double, and a home run. Gran’s five hits in the game fell just one shy of tying the Southern League record for most hits in a game by a single player. The record is six, a feat that’s been accomplished 11 times and last by Chattanooga’s Luis Bolivar April 7, 2008.
Kyle Jensen had two hits, and Jeff Dominguez and Jose Duarte each had one hit on the night. Jacksonville finished with 13 hits in the game, Pensacola had 10.
During the 2011 season the Suns were involved in 19 extra-inning games, most in the league. They finished 10-9 in those games. Jacksonville improved to 5-7 with the win. Pensacola missed a chance to tie Mobile for the top spot in the South Division.
Game three of the series is Tuesday and once again features a match up of right handed pitchers. Daniel Corcino takes the mound for Pensacola and Zach Neal is scheduled to start his second game for the Suns.