Suns left fielder Jake Smolinski slides in safely for one of his three doubles at Regions Park against the Barons. Smolinski finished the day 4-for-6 with an RBI and two runs scored. Photo Courtesy: Birmingham Barons
By Steve Kolbe
The Jacksonville Suns won their second straight game over the Barons with an 8-6 victory in 12 innings on Wednesday afternoon. The Suns are a season-high five games over .500 with a record of 16-11, and have sole possession of first place in the South Division.
Birmingham scored the first run of the day in the third inning, when Tyler Saladino walked and scored on a single by Drew Garcia to give the Barons a 1-0 lead. Garcia increased his hitting streak to six games and at that point had driven in all four Birmingham runs in the series.
Before back-to-back losses to the Suns, the Barons had won five straight after their series sweep over Montgomery. The Barons outscored the Biscuits 39-17 in the process. Birmingham lost for just the second time this season when scoring at least six runs in a game. The Suns won for just the third time when allowing the game’s first run.
Birmingham starter Nestor Molina entered the game in search of his fourth straight win, and pitched into the fifth before the Suns were able to get to him. Three straight singles by Donnie Webb, Jake Smolinski, and Dallas Poulk put Jacksonville on the scoreboard in the fifth. Poulk’s base hit to center field drove in Webb to tie the game 1-1. Poulk and Smolinski would later score when Kyle Jensen doubled to left. Jensen now has 15 runs batted in for the season.
The Barons sent eight batters to the plate and scored three times in the sixth inning, when Suns starting pitcher Bryan Evans was a little wild. Saladino walked, went to second on a wild pitch, and crossed the plate later in the inning on a wild pitch to cut the Suns lead to 3-2. Wade Korpi entered the game in relief, and with the bases loaded Jose Martinez came through with a single to left field driving in two runs and giving the Barons in front 4-3. Martinez now has a five-game hitting streak.
No lead was safe throughout the day, and in the seventh inning the Suns tied the game 4-4 off of Barons reliever Nevin Griffith. Jake Smolinski drew a leadoff walk and scored on Shawn Bowman’s single to right. Bowman has 14 runs batted in this season. Jacksonville took a 5-4 lead in the eighth when Kyle Jensen singled to center to lead off the inning. Ryan Patterson entered the game as a pinch runner and went to second on a wild pitch, advanced to third on a ground out, and scored when Curt Smith sent a fly ball to center. Smith has driven in six runs in the last three games.
A.J. Ramos entered the game in the eighth inning, but couldn’t hold the one-run lead. Andy Wilkins hit a solo home run to right field to tie the game 5-5. It was his fourth round-tripper of the season. Ramos had given up just one single to the first 40 batters that he had faced this season. He allowed two hits and one run in his two innings of work on Wednesday against Birmingham.
In the 12th inning, Ryan Patterson led off with a walk. Curt Smith then drove in his second run of the day with a double to center with Patterson scoring to give the Suns a 6-5 advantage. Donnie Webb drove in a run with a sacrifice bunt to increase the lead to 7-5, and Jake Smolinski plated a run in the inning with his third double of the game. The Suns improved to 2-0 in extra inning games this season. During the 2011 campaign, the Suns led the Southern League with 10 extra inning wins.
Overall, seven of Jacksonville’s 13 hits were doubles. Jake Smolinksi finsihed 4-for-6 with three doubles, two runs scored, and a run batted in. Dallas Poulk wednt 3-for-7 with two doubles and scored a run. Kyle Jensen and Curt Smith each had two hits and two runs batted in. It’s the second time this season that Smolinski has had three doubles in a game to come within one of tying the Southern League record for most doubles in a single game. He had three doubles against Huntsville April 7th.
Suns starter Bryan Evans pitched five-and-a-third innings, allowing two hits and three runs(two earned). Kyle Kaminska was the winning pitcher to improve his record to 4-1. He tossed two innings, allowing just two hits and struck out two. Evan Reed pitched the 12th inning to notch his league-leading eighth save of the season. Six Suns pitchers combined to strike out a season-high 17 Birmingham hitters.
The Suns will look to continue their winning ways on Thursday night with RHP Zach Neal (2-2, 2.16) on the mound. Neal’s 2.16 ERA has him among the league leaders. LHP Pedro Hernandez (2-1, 3.24) is scheduled to start for the Barons.