Matt Magill(above) allowed just two singles and struck out 11 over seven innings of work in the Lookouts 4-1 win over the Jacksonville Suns at AT&T Field. Photo Courtesy: Chattanooga Lookouts
By Steve Kolbe
The Jacksonville Suns scored a run in the ninth to avoid begin shutout for the 11th time this season, but fell 4-1 to the Lookouts in the first of a five game series at AT&T Field in Chattanooga. The Suns are 3-8 against the Lookouts this season. Since a five-game sweep against the Montgomery Biscuits, the Suns have lost three straight and four of their last five. The Suns fell into a second place tie with Pensacola, two games behind the first place Biscuits.
Suns starter Matthew Neil and Lookouts starter Matt Magill kept the game scoreless for the first six innings, with Neil allowing just four hits and Magill touched for only two singles. Chattanooga took the lead in the bottom of the seventh with an unearned run. Luis Nunez led off with a double and scored on a throwing error by Suns first baseman Ben Lasater to put the Lookouts up 1-0. Lasater fielded Jake Lemmerman’s sacrifice bunt, and when he tried to throw out Nunez at third, the ball sailed into left field. Jacksonville fell to 15-42 when giving up the first run of the game.
The Lookouts added insurance in the bottom of the eighth against Suns reliever Mike Ojala. The first four batters of the inning each had a hit, starting with J.T. Wise, who led off the inning with his 31st double of the season. After a single by Blake Smith put runners on first and third, Brahiam Maldonado singled with Wise coasting home to increase the Lookouts lead to 2-0. Luis Nunez then doubled down the left field line, with Smith coming around to score to make the score 3-0. Jake Lemmerman tacked on the Lookouts last run with a sacrifice fly, with Maldonado touching the plate and the Lookouts were in command 4-0.
Lookouts starter Matt Magill was untouchable, retiring 14 straight Suns batters after Jake Smolinski singled in the third inning. The Suns scored their lone run in the top of the ninth against Lookouts reliever Chris Withrow. After walks to Chris Gutierrez and Ben Lasater, Kyle Skipworth drove in his 51st run of the season with a two-out single to center.
Luis Nunez and Blake Smith each finished 2-for-4 for the Lookouts, with Nunez hitting a pair of doubles. Kyle Skipworth finished with two of the Suns three singles. Ben Lasater reached base twice with walks. Chris Gutierrez with a walk, and Jake Smolinski with a single were the only other Suns players to reach base. The Suns had just four base runners in the first eight innings.
The Suns struck out 16 times in the game, one shy of their season-high of 17 set on May 2nd at Birmingham. Nine of the 10 Suns players with a plate appearance struck out at least once. Ben Lasater was the only player that didn’t go down on strikes in the game.
Matthew Neil (2-7) allowed one unearned run on five hits in the loss. Matt Magill (10-6) surrendered just two singles over his seven innings in the win. Magill stuck out 11 Suns batters, one shy of his season high, to increase his league-leading total to 147 strikeouts. Magill’s 10 wins are the third-most in the Southern League, with Nicklas Struck of Tennessee leading with 13 wins, and Huntsville’s Josh Stinson second with 11 victories. Chris Withrow earned his second save of the season.
The Suns will look to get even in the series on Wednesday, with the first pitch slated for 7:15 PM from AT&T Field in Chattanooga. LHP Graham Taylor (7-9, 3.86) takes the hill for the Suns. LHP Aaron Miller (5-6, 4.26) will start for the Lookouts.