Shortstop Hak-Ju Lee set the Montgomery franchise record by extending his hitting streak to 21 games. Lee doubled in the ninth inning in the Biscuits 6-2 win over the Jacksonville Suns to break the record that had stood since 2005. Photo Courtesy: Montgomery Biscuits
By Steve Kolbe
In the start of an important stretch with Jacksonville playing seven straight games against teams ahead of them in the South standings, the Suns fell to the Biscuits 6-2 on Wednesday at the Baseball Grounds. The Biscuits kept pace with Penasacola for the divsion lead with the win (12-8).
Suns starter Graham Taylor was reinstated off the disabled list prior to the game against the Biscuits, and made his first appearance since allowing six runs on 10 hits in five innings in a loss at Montgomery. Taylor pitched well, throwing 87 pitches and allowing just three singles over the first four innings.
In the fifth, leadoff man Michael Sheridan didn’t waste any time giving the Biscuits a 1-0 lead, swinging at the first pitch from Taylor and clubbing his sixth home run of the season into the right field bleachers. The Suns fell to 10-35 when allowing the first run of the game.
The Biscuits took command of the game in the sixth against Suns reliever Josh Schmidt. Ty Morrison walked to lead off the inning, and Ryan Garko was grazed in the jersey by a pitch. With one out, Tyler Bortnick singled to load the bases. Already with a home run, Sheridan came through in the clutch when he doubled to right field with Morrison and Garko both scoring to increase the Biscuits lead to 3-0. Sheridan was 1-for-7 with the bases loaded entering the game. Schmidt retired Brett Nommensen on a grounder back to the pitcher, but with two outs Brad Coon singled to drive in a pair of runs to make the score 5-0. The Biscuits batted around in the inning, scoring four times on three hits.
The Suns scored their only two runs of the night in the home half of the sixth against Montgomery starter Nick Barnese. Donnie Webb led off with a single to center. With one out, Jake Smolinski reached on shortstop Hak-Ju Lee’s eighteenth error of the season to put runners on first and second. Curt Smith followed with a RBI-single to center, driving in Webb to put the Suns on the scoreboard. Smith has 39 RBI’s this season. After Ben Lasater singled to load the bases, Montgomery brought in reliever Joe Cruz. Kyle Jensen dove in his 42nd run of the year with a grounder to first base, with Smolinski scoring on the play to cut the lead to 5-2, but that’s as close as the Suns would get.
In the ninth inning, Mark Thomas doubled to deep center and Hak-Ju Lee doubled into the right field corner with Thomas crossing the plate to add to the lead at 6-2. Lee set the Montgomery team record with his 21st consecutive game with a hit, breaking the team record held by Rico Washington during the 2005 campaign. In 13 of the 21 games during the streak Lee has had only one hit, and he has waited until his final at-bat four times to extend the streak. Lee has hit safely against the Suns six times in the 21 games.
Suns starter Graham Taylor (4-8) allowed one run on five hits over five innings in the loss. Nick Barnese (1-0) allowed five hits and two unearned runs to earn the win in just his fourth start. He missed the first half of the season with after straining his shoulder during spring training. Adam Liberatore allowed one hit over the final two innings to earn his eighth save of the season. Three of his eight saves have come against the Suns.
Kyle Jensen went 2-for-4 and his double was the Suns only extra base hit in the game. Ty Morrison, Tyler Bortnick, and Michael Sheridan each had three hits for Montgomery. Sheridan drove in three of Biscuits six runs. Montgomery leads the Southern League in batting (.267).
The Biscuits improved to 8-3 against the Suns this season, and have scored at least six runs in six of the eight victories. Montgomery has won four in a row in the season series going back to June 28th, scoring 29 runs along the way. With the loss, Jacksonville fell to 2-7 against teams from the South Division in the second half.
The capital letters “SR” were inscribed in the dirt behind home plate in honor of Suns Owner Peter Bragan, Sr., who passed away at the age of 89 this past Saturday.
Game two of the series is set for Thursday with the first pitch scheduled for 7:35 p.m. from the Baseball Grounds. RHP Matthew Neil (1-4, 6.04) will make his tenth start of the season for the Suns. He has lost his last four decisions. RHP Alex Colome (4-3, 4.72) gets the call for the Biscuits.