Monthly Archives: June 2012

Biscuits Stay Hot With Win Over Suns

Ty Morrison finished a single shy of the cycle, drove in three runs and scored four others in the Biscuits 8-6 win over the Jacksonville Suns on June 29, 2012 at Riverwalk Stadium. Photo Courtesy: Montgomery Biscuits

By Steve Kolbe

 
The Jacksonville Suns scored three runs in the first inning, but the Montgomery Biscuits tied their season high with 14 hits on the way to an 8-6 win at Riverwalk Stadium on Friday night.  The Biscuits have reached double-digit hits in all four games of the series, and have out hit the Suns by a total 49-35.
 
The Suns started quickly when Biscuits starter Joe Cruz struggled with his control, allowing the first four batters to reach base in the opening inning.  Donnie Webb walked on four pitches, Chris Guierrez singled, and Jake Smolinski walked to load the bases before Cruz recorded an out.  Kyle Jensen drew a walk on four straight pitches, forcing in Webb to put the Suns up 1-0.  Jensen increased his team-leading RBI total to 38, with 10 of them coming with the bases loaded.  Kyle Skipworth knocked in Gutierrez from third with a ground out to the right side to make the score 2-0.  After Paul Gran popped out, Jake Jefferies hit a ground ball to first baseman Michael Sheridan that went under his glove and into right field, with Smolinski scoring on the error to build the Suns lead to 3-0.  The Suns have scored first in all four games of the series but have just one win.
 
Montgomery countered in the bottom of the first against Suns starter Graham Taylor.  Leadoff man Hak-Ju Lee singled to center on a two strike pitch and Ty Morrison doubled down the third base line, also on a two strike pitch, to put runners on second and third with no outs.  Ryan Garko drove in Lee from third with a sacrifice fly, and Tyler Bortnick plated Morrison with a single up the middle and the Suns lead was cut to 3-2.  Hak-Ju Lee has had a lead off hit in all four games in the series for the Biscuits.
 
Cruz entered the game with the second-most walks in the league, and struggled to find the plate again in the second when he walked Jeff Dominguez and Donnie Web.  Cruz then threw a wild pitch, and catcher Mark Thomas added to the trouble when his throw to third base went into left field, with Dominguez scoring to increase the Suns advantage to 4-2.  In the first two innings, Jacksonville scored four runs on just one hit, five walks, a wild pitch, and an error.
 
The Biscuits began their comeback in the third inning when Ty Morrison led off with a walk and Omar Luna doubled down the third base line, with Morrison motoring all the way around from first to cut the lead to 4-3. 
 
In the fourth inning, Montgomery took the lead for good by scoring three runs on four hits against Taylor, all with two outs.  Brett Nommensen singled and went to second on a ground out.  Hak-Ju Lee then drove in Nommensen with a single to right field to tie the game 4-4.  Ty Morrison continued his big night when he hit a two-run home run over the right field fence to give Montgomery a 6-4 edge.  It was Morrison’s second round tripper of the season, and the Biscuits third home run in the last three games.
 
With Suns reliever Alan Oaks on the mound in the sixth the Biscuits scored two important runs, again with two outs.  Lee singled and scored when Morrison tripled into the gap in left-center and it was 7-4 Biscuits.  Omar Luna came through with a two-out single, with Morrison coasting across the plate to make the score 8-4.  Montgomery has rallied to tie or take the lead after falling behind in all four games in this series.
 
With Biscuits closer Adam Liberatore on the hill in the ninth, Paul Gran singled and Curt Smith hit a two-run home run to make it 8-6, but that’s as close as the Suns would get.  Smith has hit three home runs in his last five games.  The Suns as a team have hit 14 round trippers in the last 13 games.
 
Montgomery has won five of the last six games, while the Suns have dropped seven of their last 11 contests.  Friday night’s not alright, with Jacksonville just 3-10 in games played on Friday.
 
Curt Smith finished 3-for-5 with two RBI and Jake Smolinski was 2-for-4.  The Suns finished with seven hits, six of them singles, and until the ninth didn’t have more than one hit in any of the first eight innings of the game.  The Suns tied their season high by walking 10 times, with Donnie Webb and Kyle Jensen each issued three free passes. 

The top three batters in the Biscuits lineup combined for nine of the 14 hits on the night.  Hak-Ju Lee, Ty Morrison, and Omar Luna each finished with three hits apiece.   Lee extended his hit streak to 10 games.  Morrison had a double, triple, and a home run to finish a single away from the cycle.  Morrison accounted for seven of the Biscuits eight runs, scoring four times and driving in three others.  Tyler Bortnick singled in the first inning to extend his hit streak to 15 games, one away from tying for the longest streak in the Southern League this season (Chris Gutierrez and Henry Rodriguez).  Every player except left fielder Kyeong Kang    (0-for-4) reached base at least once in the game for Montgomery. 

Graham Taylor (4-7) allowed six runs on 10 hits over five innings and has lost three of his last four decisions.  Montgomery had been tough on lefties, with a record of 17-7 against southpaws this season.  Taylor fell to 1-4 in eight road starts this season, with his lone win April 23 at Mobile.  Friday’s game was the fourth time this season that Taylor has surrendered six or more runs in an outing.  Biscuits starter Joe Cruz (6-6) allowed four runs on four hits and earned the win despite walking seven batters in five innings.  Cruz improved to 4-1 at home, and has won four straight decisions overall after winning just twice in his first 10 starts of the season.

The series finale is Saturday night from Riverwalk Stadium with the first pitch set for 8:05 p.m.  RHP Matthew Neil (1-2, 5.05) gets the nod for the Suns.  RHP Nick Barnese (0-0, 4.50) will make his second start of the season for the Biscuits. 

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Biscuits Take Over First Place In South

Biscuits first baseman Ryan Garko belted a three-run home run in the sixth inning to lead Montgomery to an 8-3 win over the Jacksonville Suns June 28, 2012 at Riverwalk Stadium. Photo Courtesy: Montgomery Biscuits

 By Steve Kolbe

The Montgomery Biscuits scored five times in the sixth inning on the way to an 8-3 win over the Suns on Thursday at Riverwalk Stadium.  The Biscuits improved to 5-3 in the second half, and took sole possession of first place in the South Division.
 
Before many found their seats, Jake Smolinski hit his second home run of the season, swinging at the first pitch of the game and sending it over the left field wall to put the Suns in front 1-0.  It’s the second time this season that Jacksonville has had their first batter of the game go deep.  Donnie Webb hit a home run against Tennessee while leading off on June 22nd at the Baseball Grounds. 
 
The Biscuits threatened in the third inning when they loaded the bases with only one out.  After falling behind in the count 3-0 to Tyler Bortnick, Suns starter Bryan Evans wiggled his way out of the jam when Bortnick grounded into an inning-ending double play. 
 
Montgomery started another rally in the fifth inning when Mark Thomas reached base with an infield single, and Ty Morrison doubled to put runners on second and third with one out.  Evans then let a pitch get away, hitting Ryan Garko in the batting helmet to load the bases.  Kyeong Kang walked on four pitches, pushing Thomas across the plate to tie the game 1-1.  Bortnick came to the plate with the bases full of Biscuits for the second time in three innings, and came up empty again when he grounded into another inning ending double play.
 
Kyle Jensen gave the Suns a 2-1 lead in the sixth, hammering the first pitch of the inning to deep left-center field for his tenth home run of the season.  Jensen has hit a home run in two straight games, and is the first Suns player to reach double digits.
 
Jacksonville summoned reliever Chris Squires to begin the sixth inning.  He walked the first batter that he faced in his return to the Suns when he gave Tyler Bortnick a free pass.  After Bortnick advanced to second base on a wild pitch, Squires settled down and retired the next two batters he faced.  With two outs, Mark Thomas hit a hard grounder to third and Shawn Bowman’s throw to first sailed over the head of Curt Smith, with Sexton scoring to even the score 2-2.
 
After Hak-Ju Lee was issued an intentional walk, Ty Morrison drove in Thomas with a single to right field to put the Biscuits ahead to stay at 3-2.  Squires then fell behind in the count 3-1 to Ryan Garko and when he tried to challenge him with the fastball, Garko smashed his fifth home run of the season to left-center.  The three-run blast increased the Biscuits lead to 6-2.  Garko has reached base safely in 11 straight games.  Montgomery sent eight men to the plate and scored five runs on three hits in the inning.
 
The Biscuits added to their lead in the seventh inning against Zach Neal, when Greg Sexton hit a two-run home run to make the score 8-3.  Montgomery has scored 54 runs in the first eight games of the second half (over seven runs per game).  The Biscuits improved to 26-3 when they score six or more runs, the Suns have only three victories when they score three or fewer.
 
Jake Smolinski and Jeff Dominguez each had multi-hit games for the Suns.  For Montgomery, Tyler Bortnick extended his team-high hit streak to 14 games with his infield single in the second inning.  Mark Thomas finished 3-for-4 with three singles and scored two runs.  Hak-Ju Lee and Ty Morrison each collected two hits.  Lee extended his hit streak to nine games.
 
The Biscuits leadoff hitters made things difficult for Suns pitchers throughout the night, reaching base in seven of the eight innings (triple, double, two singles, three walks).  The Suns have scored the first run in all three games of the series but have lost twice.
 
Suns starter Bryan Evans (2-5) didn’t figure in the decision after allowing just one run on five hits over five innings.  Chris Squires (0-1) suffered the loss after giving up five runs on three hits in the sixth inning.  Biscuits starter Jake Thompson (5-5) allowed three runs on seven hits and earned the win.  Thompson went 0-4 in his first seven starts of the season, but is 5-1 in his last seven starts.  Neil Schenk allowed just one hit over the final two and two-thirds innings for his first save of the season.
 
Game four of the series is Friday night from Riverwalk Stadium in Montgomery with the first pitch scheduled for 8:05 p.m. EST.  The Suns will send LHP Graham Taylor (4-6, 4.54) to the mound for his sixteenth start of the season.  The Biscuits will look to win the series with RHP Joe Cruz (5-6, 4.96) on the hill for his fifteenth start of the year.

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Suns Power Past The Biscuits In 10 Innings

 

Curt Smith and Kyle Jensen each hit home runs, and the Suns scored three runs in the tenth inning for a 5-2 win over the Montgomery Biscuits at Riverwalk Stadium June 27, 2012. Photo Courtesy: Jacksonville Suns

 By Steve Kolbe

The Jacksonville Suns hit two home runs to power past the Montgomery Biscuits 5-2 in 10 innings at Riverwalk Stadium on Wednesday night. 
 
The Suns once again jumped on the scoreboard early, when Kyle Jensen led off the second inning blasting his ninth home run of the season to put Jacksonville in front 1-0.   Jensen has hit safely in his last three games.  The Suns offense has started quickly over the last week, scoring in the second inning or earlier in five of the last six games.
 
The Biscuits evened the score 1-1 in the bottom half of the second, when Tyler Bortnick hit his fourth home run of the season off Suns starter Jose Alvarez.  It was just the fourth home run that Alvarez has surrendered in nearly 79 innings of work this season.
 
In the third inning, Jeff Dominguez led off with his eleventh double of the season and scored on Jake Smolinski’s sacrifice fly to left, and the Suns took a 2-1 lead.  With 20 RBI, Smolinski is one of seven Suns players with at least 20 runs batted in this season.
 
Montgomery tied the game in the sixth inning against Suns reliever Kyle Kaminska.  Greg Sexton hit a one out single to left, and Brad Coon doubled to put runners on the corners.   Mayo Acosta then grounded to third, with Sexton beating Shawn Bowman’s throw to the plate to even the score 2-2.
 
The teams combined to leave 21 runners on base in the game, with the Suns stranding nine.  The Suns left the bases loaded twice, and the Biscuits left the bases full three times.  Each team loaded the bases in the ninth inning and failed to score. 
 
Jake Smolinski led off the tenth inning with a walk against Biscuits reliever Kirby Yates.  After Yates retired the next two batters, Shawn Bowman doubled off the wall in left field, with Smolinski scoring to give the Suns a 3-2 edge.   After falling behind in the count 0-2, Curt Smith added some insurance for the Suns by blasting his fifth home run of the season to increase the lead to 5-2. 
 
The win snapped the Suns three-game road losing streak.  Jacksonville improved to 3-2 in extra innings, with all five games played on the road.  The Suns are 3-0 against Montgomery this season when they hit a home run in a game, and 0-4 when they don’t.
 
Shawn Bowman and Jeff Dominguez each had two hits for the Suns.  Curt Smith connected for his fifth home run of the year.  After going without a home run since the first series of the season, Smith has belted four in his last 11 games. 
 
For the Biscuits, Hak-Ju Lee finished 3-for-5 with three singles.  His stolen base in the second inning was the 100th stolen base of the season by Montgomery base runners.  Greg Sexton and Brad Coon each had multi-hit games.
 
Jose Alvarez allowed only one run on seven hits over five innings.  Kyle Kaminska tossed three and two-thirds innings in long relief and allowed a run on four hits.  Suns reliever Corey Madden (2-1) entered the game in the ninth inning with the bases loaded, and struck out Tyler Bortnick to dash the Biscuits hopes.  Madden faced just the one batter in the game to earn his second win of the season.  A.J. Ramos retired the Biscuits in order in the tenth inning for his sixth save of the season.
 
Biscuits starter Kyle Lobstein allowed two runs on two hits in his five innings of work.  Kirby Yates (0-2) allowed two hits in each of his two innings after the Suns had only two hits in the first eight innings of the game.  Yates has two losses this season, both against the Suns.
 
Game three of the series is Thursday night with the first pitch slated for 8:05 p.m. EST.  RHP Bryan Evans (2-5, 3.48) is scheduled to start for the Suns.  RHP Jake Thompson (4-5, 5.26) gets the call for the Biscuits.

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Suns Fall To Biscuits In Slugfest

 

Biscuits shortstop Hak-Ju Lee(above)finished 2-for-5, drove in a run, and also scored in Montgomery’s 7-6 win over the Suns at Riverwalk Stadium June 26, 2012. Photo Courtesy: Montgomery Biscuits

By Steve Kolbe

The Suns first road game of the second half ended up being a slugfest, with Jacksonville coming up short in a 7-6 loss at Riverwalk Stadium on Tuesday night.  The Suns fell to 2-4 this season in Montgomery.

 The Suns jumped out to an early lead in the first inning against Biscuits starter Alex Colome. Donnie Webb led off with a double to right-center, and he scored when Chris Gutierrez doubled to put Jacksonville up 1-0.  The Suns have scored at least one run in the first inning in 22 games this season. 

The Biscuits wasted no time getting on the scoreboard in the home half of the first.  Leadoff man Hak-Ju Lee singled and stole second base.  The Biscuits next stolen base will be their 100th of the season.  Ty Morrison then singled with Lee scoring to tie the game 1-1.  Suns starter Omar Poveda would face only one more batter.  Omar Luna hammered a line drive back up the middle that hit Poveda in the lower left leg, forcing the Suns pitcher to leave the game.   With Suns lefty James Leverton taking over, Kyeong Kang singled to center with two runs scoring to give the Biscuits a 3-1 advantage. 

Jacksonville roughed up Colome in the second inning, sending nine batters to the plate and scoring five runs on four hits to take a 6-3 lead.  Colome committed two balks in the inning, one of which allowed a run to score.  Chris Gutierrez and Paul Gran each drove in a run with a single in the inning, and Kyle Skipworth plated a run with a sacrifice fly. 

Montgomery started chipping away at the Suns lead in the third.  Omar Luna, Ryan Garko, and Tyler Bortnick all singled to load the bases.  Leverton then committed a balk, with Luna scoring to cut the Suns lead to 6-4.  There were three balks called in the first three innings of the game. 

The Suns had a chance to break the game open in the fifth inning when Jake Jefferies doubled, Jeff Dominguez singled, and Aaron Dudley walked to load the bases with no outs.  But the Suns came up empty when Biscuits reliever Alex Koronis retired the next three batters he faced in what would be the turning point of the game. 

In the home half of the sixth inning, the Biscuits rallied against Suns left hander Bobby Bramhall.  With one out and two on, Mark Thomas came through when he doubled off the wall in left field, with Michael Sheridan scoring to bring the Biscuits within one at 6-5.  Hak-Ju Lee then singled with Brett Nommensen rumbling home to even the score at 6-6. 

In the seventh, the Biscuits completed the comeback against Suns reliever Jordan Conley.  Kyeong Kang led off the inning with a double down the left field line.  After Tyler Bornick was hit by a pitch, and Michael Sheridan dropped down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners to second and third, the Suns elected to walk Brett Nommensen to load the bases.  Mark Thomas then drove in the go-ahead run with a ground ball to short, with the Suns unable to turn an inning-ending double play, and Kang touched the plate to put the Biscuits in front 7-6. 

The two teams combined for 13 runs on 28 hits.  Jake Jefferies finished 3-for-5 with a double and scored a run.  Jeff Dominguez and Aaron Dudley each had two hits, and Chris Gutierrez drove in two of the Suns six runs.  The Suns collected five doubles in the game, two shy of their season high.  

Montgomery finished with a season-high 14 hits in the game.  Ryan Garko and Kyeon Kang led the Biscuits with three hits each.  Kang has now reached base safely in 12 straight games.  

Jordan Conley (0-1) suffered the loss, allowing one run on three hits in two and two-thirds innings of work. Neil Schenk (3-0) pitched the seventh inning for the win.  Adam Liberatore tossed the final two innings to earn his seventh save of the season.  The Suns threatened in the ninth with Jeff Dominguez and Curt Smith hitting singles to put runners on the corners with two outs.  Liberatore buckled down and struck out Donnie Webb to end the game.

 
Game two of the series is Wednesday with the first pitch scheduled for 8:05 p.m. EST.  LHP Jose Alvarez (2-4, 4.15) will start his 14th game of the season.  After allowing just two singles in eight innings in a 2-0 win over Tennessee, Alvarez was named the Southern League’s Pitcher of the Week.  The Biscuits will send LHP Kyle Lobstein (3-3, 4.7) to the mound for his 15th start of the season.

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Suns Win Series Against Smokies

 

The Suns take two from the Tennessee Smokies, 11-3 and 10-3, on a stormy day June 25, 2012 at the Baseball Grounds. Photo Courtesy: Jacksonville Suns

By Steve Kolbe

The Jacksonville Suns won both games against the Tennessee Smokies on Monday at the Baseball Grounds to take three of the five games in the series.  Jacksonville claimed the first game 11-3, and then won the regularly scheduled game 10-3. 
 
When the rain suspended game four of the series Sunday, the Suns were trailing 2-1 in the third inning.  When play resumed on Monday morning at 11:00 a.m., Suns reliever Zach Neal took over on the mound for Graham Taylor.  Taylor allowed two runs on five hits over two and a-third innings before the game was suspended.
 
The Suns took the lead in the bottom of the third.  Jake Smolinski led off with a walk, and came around to score on Paul Gran’s second triple of the season to tie the game 2-2.  Kyle Skipworth then hit a ground ball to shortstop Junior Lake, who committed the first of his two errors in the inning, with Gran crossing the plate to put the Suns in front 3-2.
 
With Alan Oaks on the mound for the Suns, Tennessee tied the game in the sixth inning.  Jim Adduci beat out an infield single, and Mike Burgess drove him in with a double to tie the game at 3-3.
 
The Suns took the lead for good in the sixth inning against Smokies pitcher Eric Jokisch.  Jeff Dominguez led off with a double down the third base line, and Jose Duarte singled to right to put runners on the corners.  After a sacrifice bunt by Zach Neal moved Duarte over to second, Donnie Webb drove in two runs with a single to give the Suns a 5-3 lead.
 
In the seventh inning, Kyle Skipworth was awarded first base on catchers interference, and Curt Smith then walked.  With two outs, Jeff Dominguez smashed his third home run of the season to increase the Suns lead to 8-3.  Dominguez has hit two three-run home runs this season, both at the Baseball Grounds.
 
The Suns padded the lead in the eighth inning with a two out rally.  Jake Smolinski was hit by a pitch, Paul Gran singled, and Kyle Skipworth walked to load the bases.  Shawn Bowman then cleared the bases with a double to left-center field to make the score 11-3.  Bowman is 3-for-6 with nine RBI this season with the bases loaded. 
 
Paul Gran went 3-for-5 with a RBI and scored two runs.  Donnie Webb, Shawn Bowman, and Jeff Dominguez each had two hits in the first game.  Bowman leads the Suns with 36 RBI.
 
Pitcher Alan Oaks arrived at the ballpark on Monday morning after being transferred from Jupiter of the Florida State League to Jacksonville.  He earned the win, allowing a run on three hits.  Smokies pitcher Eric Jokisch (3-1) allowed 10 runs on eight hits and lost for the first time this season.
 
In the regularly scheduled game, Suns starter Matthew Neil retired the first nine batters that he faced before running into trouble in the fourth.  Jim Adduci walked to lead off the inning, but was erased when Jae-Hoon Ha grounded into a double play.  With two outs, the Smokies collected four straight hits to start the scoring.  Junior Lake singled and scored when Justin Bour doubled to right field to give Tennessee a 1-0 advantage.  Bour leads the Southern League with 55 runs batted in.  Nelson Perez followed by hitting his first triple of the season, with Bour scoring to build a 2-0 lead.  Nate Samson made it 3-0 when he singled up the middle, with Perez cruising across the plate.
 
The Suns began the comeback in the home half of the fourth against Smokies starter Dallas Beeler.  Kyle Jensen doubled with one out, and scored when Aaron Dudley collected his first hit and first RBI with the Suns to cut the lead to 3-1.  Jacksonville drew even in the fifth, with Jake Smolinski and Kyle Jensen each driving in a run to tie the score 3-3. 
 
The Suns broke the game open in the sixth when they batted around, and tied their season-high for runs in a inning by scoring seven times, all with two outs.  Paul Gran led off with a double, and Jeff Dominguez walked with one out to put runners on first and second.  After pinch hitter Kyle Skipworth struck out, Donnie Webb drew a walk to load the bases with two away.  Chris Gutierrez snapped an 0-for-6 stretch with a clutch single to drive in two runs and put the Suns ahead 5-3.  After Jake Smolinski was hit by a pitch, the bases were full of Suns again.  Kyle Jensen delivered with a single to center, with Webb and Gutierrez scoring on the play to make the score 7-3.  Jensen is 3-for-6 with nine RBI with the bases loaded this season.
 
Already with a hit and RBI, Suns first baseman Aaron Dudley cleared the bases with one swing of the bat when he blasted a home run into the right field seats and the Suns had a 10-3 lead.  The Suns scored seven runs in an inning for the second time this season.  In a 7-0 win in Mobile on April 23rd, the Suns scored all seven of their runs in the eighth inning.
 
Kyle Jensen finished 3-for-3, drove in three runs and scored twice.  He is second on the team with 35 RBI.  Aaron Dudley went 2-for-4 with four RBI.  Donnie Webb, Jake Smolinski, and Kyle Jensen each scored twice.
 
Kyle Kaminska (5-3) pitched a scoreless sixth inning for the win.  His last victory was May 2nd at Birmingham.  Kevin Rhoderick (1-3) allowed five runs on five hits.  
 
The Suns hit seven home runs against the Smokies, with Donnie Webb hitting two of the long balls.  It’s the first time this season that Jacksonville has hit a home run in every game of a series.   Jacksonville has now scored 10 or more runs in a game four times this season.
 
The Suns begin a five game series in Montgomery on Tuesday night with the first pitch scheduled for 8:05 p.m. EST.  The Biscuits took three of five from the Suns at Riverwalk Stadium May 11-15.

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Suns Ninth Inning Rally Falls Short

Jacksonville center fielder Donnie Webb paced the offense with a two-run home run, a triple, and three RBI in the Suns 7-6 loss to the Tennessee Smokies. Photo Courtesy: Jackonville Suns

By Steve Kolbe

After a 30 minute rain delay,  the Jacksonville Suns fell behind early on Saturday night, and a ninth inning comeback fell just short in a 7-6 loss to the Tennessee Smokies at the Baseball Grounds.

The Suns took the lead in the second inning when Kyle Skipworth and Curt Smith each hit solo home runs to give Jacksonville a 2-0 advantage.  The Suns have started the scoring in all three games of the series against the Smokies, but have lost two of three contests. 

Tennessee put together a big inning in the top of third, sending nine men to the plate against Suns starter Bryan Evans.  Pitcher Jeff Antigua led off the inning with a walk, and Logan Watkins doubled behind him to put runners on second and third.  Jae-Hoon Ha then singled to left field, driving in Antigua to trim the Suns lead to 2-1.  With one out, Justin Bour increased his league-leading RBI total to 54, when he hit a sacrifice fly to center with Watkins hustling home from third to tie the game 2-2.  

With one on and two outs, Nelsen Perez hit a two-run home run into the right field stands to put the Smokies on top 4-2.  It was his first home run with Tennessee after being promoted from High-A Daytona three days earlier, where he ranked third in the Florida State League in round trippers.  The inning continued when Matt Cerda singled with two outs, and that brought Mike Burgess to the plate.  Burgess then belted a two-run home run to center field to increase the lead to 6-2.  The home run by Burgess is the longest hit at the Baseball Grounds this season.  In the inning, the Smokies scored six runs on five hits.  It’s the seventh time this season that the Suns have allowed five or more runs in an inning.  

The Smokies added a run in the seventh on a RBI single by Jae-Hoon Ha to make the score 7-2.  The Suns began their comeback attempt in the bottom half of the seventh, when pinch hitter Paul Gran singled and scored on Donnie Webb’s sixth triple of the season to make the score 7-3. 

In the home half of the ninth, reliever Kevin Rhoderick struck out Jeff Dominguez for the first out.  After Paul Gran was hit by a pitch for the 12th time this season, Donnie Webb blasted a two-run home run into the right field seats to cut the lead to 7-5.  Webb has hit a home run in two straight games, both to right field. 

Rhoderick struck out Chris Gutierrez for the second out of the inning, but Jake Smolinski scratched out an infield single, and stole second base.  Shawn Bowman then drove in Smolinski with a single to left, and the Suns were down 7-6.  With a runner on first, two outs, and the Suns down by just a run, the stage was set for high drama.  The Smokies made the call to the bullpen and summoned their closer Frank Batista.  In a showdown between two Southern League All-Stars, catcher Kyle Skipworth jumped on the first pitch that he saw from Batista, and nearly gave the Suns a walk-off win by sending a fly ball deep to left field.  With the crowd and the Suns dugout on their feet, left fielder Nelson Perez raced back and made the catch on the warning track, and the Suns comeback fell just a few feet short.  The Suns have scored three runs in the ninth inning four times this season, but Saturday’s loss is the first time that they have come up short of a win. 

Five of the 18 combined hits in the game were home runs.  Jacksonville belted three homers in a game for the first time this season, and have hit five home runs in the series.  For the Suns, Donnie Webb paced the offense going 2-for-5 with a home run, triple, and three RBI.  Webb is tied for third in the Southern League with six triples.  Logan Watkins, Justin Bour, and Jae-Hoon Ha each collected two hits for the Smokies.  Watkins tripled on the first pitch of the game from Bryan Evans. 

Suns starter Bryan Evans (2-5) entered the game with a 2.90 ERA, third lowest in the league.  He pitched four innings, allowing six runs on seven hits.  Evans had allowed only 12 runs in his first eight games at the Baseball Grounds.  Casey Weathers (3-1) picked up the win by allowing one hit over two innings of work for the Smokies.  Frank Batista, who finished second in the Florida State League with 26 saves last season with Daytona, recorded the final out to earn his 11th save of the season.

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Jose Alvarez Quiets Smokies In 2-0 Win

Suns starter Jose Alvarez allowed just two singles over eight innings in the Suns win over the Tennessee Smokies.  Alvarez and closer A.J. Ramos combined for the two-hitter.  Photo Courtesy: Jacksonville Suns

By Steve Kolbe

The Jacksonville Suns used the combination of dominant pitching by Jose Alvarez, and the long ball, to blank the Tennessee Smokies 2-0 Friday night at the Baseball Grounds. 

With eight shutouts already this season, the Suns have one more than their total from the 2011 campaign.  Each of the last three home victories for the Suns have been by shutout (7-0 and 9-0 over the Jackson Generals; 2-0 over the Tennessee Smokies).  Seven different pitchers have been on the mound for Jacksonville shutout wins this season, with Graham Taylor involved in two. 

The Suns jumped out to an early lead in the first inning against Smokies starter Dae-Eun Rhee.  On the second pitch that he saw, Suns leadoff man Donnie Webb hit his fourth home run of the season to give Jacksonville a 1-0 edge.  Webb’s blast landed in the last row of seats in right field, and nearly cleared the stands.  It was the second straight night that the Suns have hit a home run in the first inning.  Webb has now smashed three home runs in his last 11 games in the starting lineup. 

A day after Chris Gutierrez had his 16-game hit streak end, he found his power swing in the fifth inning on Friday night.  His solo home run to left field increased the Suns lead to 2-0.  Gutierrez has hit both of his round trippers in front of the home fans this season. 

The two-run advantage was more than enough for Suns starter Jose Alvarez, who rebounded from his shortest outing of the season June 14th at Mississippi (3.1 IP, six runs on eight hits).  The last time that Alvarez pitched at the Baseball Grounds on June 8th, he tossed a season-high eight innings and allowed just one run on four hits and deserved a better fate.  The Suns were shutout 1-0 by Jackson Generals starter Danny Hultzen on that night.

Alvarez was rewarded for his efforts on Friday against Tennessee, winning for the first time since May 1st to improve to 2-4 on the season.  He allowed just two singles over eight innings, walked only one and struck out five.  From the fourth inning to the eighth inning, Alvarez retired 14 straight batters.  In his last three starts at the Baseball Grounds, Alvarez has surrendered only three runs on 10 hits in 21 innings of work.  With Alvarez at the 99 pitch mark (61 for strikes), the Suns summoned A.J. Ramos to pitch the ninth inning, and he slammed the door on the Smokies to ear his fifth save of the season. 

Pitching on eight days rest, Tennessee starter Dae-Eun Rhee suffered the loss to drop to 4-3 on the season.  He tossed seven innings, giving up two runs on seven hits.  Rhee has allowed the second-most runs (55) of any pitcher in the Southern League.

The Suns improved to 27-8 when scoring the first run of the game.  Jacksonville has scored at least one run in the first inning 20 times this season, with a record of 16-4 when they cross the plate in the first. 

Game three of the series in Saturday night at the Baseball Grounds with the first pitch scheduled for 6:05 p.m.  RHP Bryan Evans (2-4, 2.90 ERA) will start his 14th game of the season for the Suns.  Evans is third in the Southern League with his 2.90 ERA.  For the Smokies, RHP Dallas Beeler (2-5, 4.32 ERA) gets the nod for his 15th start of the season.

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Smokies Down Suns To Start Second Half

Suns left fielder Jake Smolinski provided the only offense for the Suns when he hit hit his first home run of the season in the first inning against the Tennessee Smokies June 21, 2012 at the Baseball Grounds. Photo Courtesy: Jacksonville Suns

 By Steve Kolbe

The Jacksonville Suns finished the first half of the season 14-21 at home, and began the second half of the season falling to the Tennessee Smokies 3-1 on Thursday night at the Baseball Grounds.
 
The Suns scored their only run of the night in the first inning, when Jake Smolinski hit his first home run of the season off Smokies starter Nick Struck to put Jacksonville in front 1-0.  The Suns have scored at least one run in the first inning 19 times this season, and now have a record of 15-4 when crossing the plate in the first. 
 
The Smokies grabbed the lead in the third inning against Suns starter Omar Poveda.  Logan Watkins led off with a single, and Junior Lake singled behind him.  With one out, Justin Bour singled to right field with Watkins scoring to tie the game 1-1.  Bour leads the Southern League with 53 runs batted in.  Nelson Perez then put the Smokies in front with a sacrifice fly to center field, with Lake cruising home to give the Smokies a 2-1 edge.
 
Tennessee added another run in the fourth inning when Matthew Cerda led off with a single, and later scored on a Logan Watkins RBI single to increase the advantage to 3-1.
 
For the Suns, shortstop Chris Gutierrez went 0-for-4 and his hit streak came to an end at 16 games.  It’s the first time since May 30th that Gutierrez has been held without a hit.  For the Smokies, Junior Lake went 4-for-5 with three singles and a double.  It was his first four-hit game of the season. 
 
Suns starter Omar Poveda (6-3) pitched six innings, allowing three runs on nine hits.  The Smokies had at least one in every inning in the game except the sixth.  Nick Struck (8-6) tossed six innings in the win, and is one of just three Souther League pitchers this season with eight victories.  He allowed just two hits, a single and the solo home run to Smolinski.  Marcus Hatley earned his third save of the season.
 
Game two of the series is set for Friday with the first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m.  LHP Jose Alvarez (1-4, 4.66) takes the mound for the Suns.  RHP Dae-Eun Rhee (4-2, 5.29) will get the start for the Smokies.
 

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Suns Close First Half With 5-0 Loss To Braves

The Suns finished the first half of the 2012 season with a 33-37 record after falling to the Mississippi Braves 5-0 June 17, 2012 at Trustmark Park. Photo Courtesy: Jacksonville Suns

By Steve Kolbe

 
The series finale between the Jacksonville Suns and Mississippi Braves was the last game completed in the first half of the season in the Southern League, with the Braves blanking the Suns 5-0 Sunday night at Trustmark Park.  The Suns finished the first half of the season in fourth place in the South Division with a record of 33-37 (14-21 at home; 19-16 on the road).
 
The Suns have now been held off the scoreboard seven times this season, and were shutout for the third time in the last nine games.  On the season, Jacksonville has come up empty five times at the Baseball Grounds, and twice on the road. 
 
The Braves took the lead for good in the third inning against Suns starter Matthew Neil, scoring two runs on three hits.  Keenan Wiley led off the inning with a line drive single that hit Neil in the knee.  After moving to second base on a ground out, Wiley swiped third for his 10th stolen base of the season.  Joe Leonard then singled to right field, with Wiley crossing the plate to give the Braves a 1-0 lead.  With two outs, Joe Terdoslavich doubled off the wall in left field, with Leonard rumbling all the way around from first to make the score 2-0 Mississippi.
 
The Braves added another run in there fourth inning.  Jason Christian scratched out an infield single and went to second on a wild pitch by Neil.  After Neil retired the next two batters, Keenan Wiley delivered a two out single to left, with Christian scoring to increase the Braves lead to 3-0.
 
In the fifth inning, Joe Leonard led off with a double to left against Suns reliever Bobby Bramhall, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Joe Terdoslavich to put the Braves up by a comfortable 4-0 margin.
 
Mississippi tacked on another run in the seventh against Bramhall with a two out rally.  Joe Leonard drew a walk, and quickly stole second base.  Tim Smith then cashed in with a single up the middle, with Leonard coasting home to make it 5-0.  The Braves finished the first half in last place in the South Division with a record of 30-40.  Mississippi won a series for just the second time this season at home, taking three of the five games from Jacksonville.
 
For the Suns, Chris Gutierrez increased his hit streak to 16 games with a single in the first inning.  He is batting .350 (21-for-60) during his streak with 14 singles, six doubles, and a home run.  The 16-game streak is tied for the longest in the Southern League this season.  Pensacola’s Henry Rodriguez had a 16 game streak earlier in the first half.  The longest hitting streak in Southern League history is 33 games, set in 1987 by Greg Tubbs of Greenville.
 
The Suns finished the game with six hit, with Jake Smolinski’s seventh inning double the only hit for extra bases.  For the Braves Joe Leonard finished 2-for-3, drove in a run and scored three of the five runs.  Joe Terdoslavich and Jason Christian each had two hits for the Braves.
 
Matthew Neil (1-2) pitched three and two-thirds innings and lost his second straight start.  He left the game after being hit for a third time by a ball hit back up the middle.  Neil allowed three runs on six hits and walked two batters.  Sean Gilmartin (5-6) tossed six innings and allowed just three hits in the win. 
 
With the loss, the Suns missed a chance to join Mobile and Montgomery as the only teams in the league with 20 road wins in the first half.  Jacksonville finished 19-16 on the road, with nine of the 19 victories by one run.
 
The Suns begin the second half of the season against the Tennessee Smokies at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville beginning Thursday June 21st, with the first pitch scheduled for 7:35 p.m.
 

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Braves Spoil Suns Chance At .500

 By Steve Kolbe

The Suns scored twice in a ninth inning rally, but fell short in a 4-3 loss to the Mississippi Braves Saturday night at Trustmark Park.
 
The game was scoreless through the first six innings with Suns starter Graham Taylor allowing just two hits, and Braves starter David Hale surrendering only three singles.  Jacksonville scored the first run of night in the seventh inning, when right fielder Kyle Jensen led off by hitting his eighth home run of the season to give the Suns a 1-0 edge.
 
Taylor ran into trouble in the Braves half of the seventh.  With one out, Joe Terdoslavich walked and Christian Bethancourt and Keenan Wiley both singled to load the bases.  The Suns left Taylor on the mound to face pinch hitter Ian Gac, who hit a hard grounder that glanced off the glove of third baseman Shawn Bowman and deflected into left field, with Terdoslavich and Bethancourt scoring to give the Braves a 2-1 lead.
 
Mississippi scored two more insurance runs in the eighth inning against reliever Evan Reed.  Todd Cunningham singled to right and stole second base.  Tim Smith then singled to left, driving in Cunningham to increase the lead to 3-1.  Pinch runner Alden Carrithers stole second base, and he scored when Joe Terdoslavich doubled to the left field wall for a 4-1 Braves advantage. 
 
The Suns rallied in the ninth inning against Braves closer Mark Lamm, scoring two runs on three hits.  Kyle Jensen and Kyle Skipworth singled to put runners on the corners with one out.  Curt Smith then drove in Jensen with a single to cut the lead to 4-2.  Paul Gran’s sacrifice fly to right field plated Skipworth to make the score 4-3, but Lamm stuck out Jose Duarte to end the threat. 
 
Suns shortstop Chris Gutierrez finished 2-for-4 with two singles and extended his hit streak to 15 games.  He is batting .360 (20-for-56) during the streak.  Not to be out done, Braves center fielder Todd Cunningham singled in his last at bat to extend his hit streak to 15 games.  The longest hitting streak in the Southern League this season is a 16-game streak by Pensacola’s Henry Rodriguez.
 
Kyle Jensen and Curt Smith also finished with two hits for Jacksonville.  Jensen hit his first home run in the month of June.  Christian Bethancourt, Joe Terdoslavich, and Keenan Wiley had two hits each for Mississippi.
 
Suns manager Andy Barkett was ejected in the middle of the fourth inning.  Curt Smith appeared to have stolen second base, when the throw from Braves catcher Christian Bethancourt got away from Phil Gosselin covering the bag.  Smith was called out, and Barkett was then thrown out by third base umpire Matt McCoy when he argued the call.  Barkett has been tossed out three times this season, and twice by the same umpiring crew.
 
Graham Taylor (4-6) pitched six and two-thirds innings, and had a two-hitter going into the seventh.  He allowed two runs on six hits and stuck out four.  David Hale (5-3) tossed seven innings, allowing four singles and the solo home run to Jensen.  Hale entered the night having walked the fifth-most batters in the league, but on Saturday he didn’t issue a free pass.  Mark Lamm wiggled his way out of the ninth inning jam to earn his eighth save of the season.
 
The Suns have scored the first run in all four games of the series, but have lost twice.  Jacksonville is 27-7 this season when crossing the plate first.  The Suns are 19-15 on the road this season, and are one of just three teams that can finish the first half with 20 or more road victories.
 
The series finale is Sunday from Trustmark Park, with the first pitch scheduled for 6:00 p.m. EST.  RHP Matthew Neil (1-1, 4.67) will start his 6th game of the season for the Suns.  LHP Sean Gilmartin (4-6, 3.40) takes the hill for his 14th start of the year for the Braves.  Three of Gillmartin’s wins have been complete games, most in the Southern League.
 

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