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.