By Steve Kolbe
The Jacksonville Suns scored three runs in the first inning Saturday night on the way to a 5-2 win over Pensacola at the Baseball Grounds.
Donnie Webb led off the game by reaching base on an error charged to shortstop Miguel Rojas. It was the 12th time this season that the first batter of the game for the Suns has reached base. Ryan Patterson then singled against Blue Wahoos starter Tim Crabbe, and both he and Webb advanced to second and third with no outs. Shawn Bowman delivered with the runners in scoring position, a double to right field to drive in a pair of runs for a 2-0 Suns lead. Bowman and Kyle Jensen are tied for the team lead with 13 runs batted in. Jacksonville tacked on another run in the first when Russell Mitchell singled to drive in Bowman from second. Mitchell has driven in four runs in his last three games.
Suns starting pitcher Graham Taylor was strong throughout, allowing only four singles through five innings. He was able to keep the Pensacola bats silent, the Blue Wahoos had scored 17 runs on 26 hits in the last two games. In the sixth inning, Pensacola broke through against Taylor when Henry Rodriguez beat out an infield single and Cody Puckett hit his first home run of the season to cut the Suns lead to 3-2. Puckett hit 15 home runs last season with the Carolina Mudcats, which was good for second-most on the team. He hit his first round-tripper this season in his 21st game of the year.
Down by just a run and in search of their third straight win, the Blue Wahoos went to their bullpen in the sixth and seventh innings. Drew Hayes and Wilkin De La Rosa struggled in the seventh allowing two runs, walking three batters, and hitting another.
The Suns sent eight men to the plate in the seventh, and with the bases loaded Kyle Skipworth was hit by a pitch on a full count to force in a run an increase the lead to 4-2. It was Skipworth’s 12th run batted in this season. Jose Duarte, Shawn Bowman, and Russell Mitchell each drew a base on balls in the inning, with Mitchell’s walk forcing in a run to make it 5-2.
Graham Taylor improved his record to 2-1. He pitched six innings allowing six hits and two runs, struck out five and walked only Ryan LaMarre, who was the first batter of the game. In his last two starts, Taylor has allowed eight hits and just two runs in 13 innings of work. Evan Reed earned his league-leading sixth save of the season by pitching two hitless innings and striking out two batters. Tim Crabbe was the losing pitcher and is now 1-1 on the season. He allowed seven hits and those three runs in the first inning, but none after that.
Shawn Bowman finished 2-for-3, drove in two runs, and scored another. Kyle Jensen went 2-for-4 and has had at least one hit in all four games in the series against the Wahoos. Russell Mitchell was 1-for-3 with two runs batted in. The Suns scored in the first inning for the ninth time this season, and are now 12-1 when scoring the game’s first run. With the win the Suns improved to 13-11, and are now 6-8 at home.
The rubber game of the series between the Suns and Blue Wahoos is Sunday afternoon at 3:05 pm. The game will also be televised on CW-17.