By Steve Kolbe
The Jacksonville Suns struck out a season-high 17 times and ended up on the wrong side of a 14-inning affair on Friday night, with the Lookouts winning 5-4 at AT&T Field in Chattanooga. The Suns lost in extra innings for the first time this season and are now 2-1 when working overtime, with all three of the games on the road. The Lookouts have gone into extra innings five times in their last 11 games. Chattanooga is now 3-3 in extra-inning games this season.
The Suns scored the first run of the game in the second inning against Lookouts starter Chris Withrow, when Shawn Bowman walked to lead off the inning and later scored on a single by Russell Mitchell to give Jacksonville a 1-0 advantage. Mitchell has driven in nine runs this season.
The Lookouts used the long ball to take the lead in the bottom half of the second against Suns starter Graham Taylor. After Brahiam Maldonado led off the home half of the inning with a single, Pedro Baez smashed his second home run of the season over the left field fence, a two-run blast that put the Lookouts in front 2-1.
In the third inning, the Lookouts flexed their muscle again when Blake Smith hit a solo home run to right field off of Taylor to increase the lead to 3-1. Taylor has given up a team-high seven home runs this season.
Jacksonville cut into the lead in the fourth when Shawn Bowman led off inning by reaching base again, this time with a single. Playing in his second straight game, catcher Jake Jefferies drove in Bowman with his second double of the year, and the Suns trailed 3-2.
In the fifth, the Suns reclaimed the lead when Paul Gran walked, and Jake Smolinski reached on an error by shortstop Jake Lemmerman. With two on and one out, Bowman continued his strong night at the plate when he doubled into the gap in right-center field, with Gran scoring from second and Smolinski hustling around from first to give the Suns a 4-3 edge. That would be the last run of the night. After scoring four runs on four hits in the first five innings, the Suns had just three hits in the games final nine innings.
In the home half of the seventh, Rafael Ynoa led off the inning with his first triple of the season. He wasn’t on base for long, with Nick Buss driving him in with a single on a two strike pitch to tie the game 4-4. Ynoa would later leave the game after he was injured on a head first slide into first base.
In the fourteenth inning, lead off hitter Nick Buss was hit by a Josh Schmidt pitch and Luis Nunez singled to left. After a ground out by J.T. Wise, the Suns walked Blake Smith intentionally to load the bases and take their chances with the pitcher, Blake Johnson. With Chattanooga out of position players, Johnson was forced to grab a bat and take a trip to the plate. With the Suns infield in, Johnson helped his own cause with his first hit of the season, sending a grounder back up the middle for the game-winning RBI to give the Lookouts a 5-4 victory. In the series Lookouts pitchers have five hits against the Suns, with at least one hit in every game.
This season, 20 of Jacksonville’s first 48 games have been decided by a single run, with the Suns 10-10 in those games. The Suns won eight of their first 12 one-run games this year, but have won just two of the last eight games decided by the smallest of margins.
Suns starter Graham Taylor took the mound at 7:20 p.m. for his tenth start of the season. He allowed four runs on 10 hits over six innings and was long gone when the game ended four hours and nine minutes later. Relievers Kyle Kaminska, A.J. Ramos, and Bobby Bramhall combined to pitch seven scoreless innings. Josh Schmidt allowed two hits and the game-winning run the 14th inning to fall to 1-3 on the season.
Chris Withrow started the game for the Lookouts, and allowed four runs on four hits over five innings. Before the night was over, Lookouts manager Carlos Subero had made six calls to the bullpen. In the end, Blake Johnson pitched two hitless innings to earn the win and improve to 2-3. Both teams combined to use a dozen pitchers. For the Lookouts, only Luis Vasquez and Allen Webster were left in the bullpen at the end of the night. Zach Neal, Wade Korpi, and Evan Reed were the only Suns hurlers not to have their names called.
Jacksonville hitters struck out a season-high 17 times on Friday. In five of the last eight games, Suns batters have struck out at least 11 times. Shawn Bowman went 3-for-4, drove in two of the Suns four runs and scored twice. Jake Jefferies, Russell Mitchell, Danny Black, and Paul Gran each had one hit.
The Lookouts tied a season-high with 16 hits with 11 players with at least one hit on the night. Pedro Baez, Luis Nunez, Blake Smith, Jake Lemmerman, and Chris Withrow each finished with two hits apiece.
Chattanooga has taken the first three games of the series, and won a season-high six straight games. For the second time in the series the Suns scored the first run but ended up on the losing end. Jacksonville is now 17-4 this season when scoring the first run of the game. The Suns have been outscored 19-9 during their four game losing streak, and overall the Suns have just five wins in 21 games and have fallen into fifth place in the South Division. The Lookouts increased their season-high winning streak to six games.
Game four of the series is Saturday night with the first pitch slated for 7:15 p.m. from AT&T field in Chattanooga, Tennessee. RHP Matthew Neil (0-0, 3.60) will make his second start of the season for the Suns. Neil made his double-A debut May 20 against Pensacola, allowing two runs on five hits over five innings and did not figure in the decision. The Lookouts will send RHP Nathon Eovaldi (2-2, 3.18) to the mound for his ninth start of the season.