Tag Archives: Zach Neal

Suns Single Their Way Past Stars

 

The Suns beat the Stars 3-1 at Joe Davis Stadium in game one of a three-game series. Jacksonville finished with six hits, all singles. Photo Courtesy: Huntsville Stars

By Steve Kolbe

The Jacksonville Suns avoided being swept in a series for the first time this season, with a 3-1 win over the Huntsville Stars Monday night at Joe Davis Stadium.  The season series between the two teams ends with each side winning four of the eight games.
 
The Stars scored their lone run in the third inning against starter Zach Neal.  Josh Prince hit an infield single and took second on a throwing error by third baseman Curt Smith.  When Prince attempted to steal third, Neal’s throw went past Smith with Prince scoring on the Suns second error of the inning.
 
Huntsville starter Hiram Burgos retired the first 12 Suns batters of the game until Curt Smith singled in the fifth inning. 
 
Jake Jefferies led off the sixth inning with a walk, and went to second when Donnie Webb reached on an error.  After a ground out by Jose Duarte moved the runners over a base, Paul Gran drove in Jefferies with a sacrifice fly to tie the game 1-1.  Gran drove in three runs in the three game series.
 
The Suns took a 2-1 lead in the eighth when Kyle Jensen led off with a walk, and pinch hitter Shawn Bowman drove him in with a single to right.  Bowman had at least one hit in all three games against the Stars.
 
 Jacksonville added an insurance run in the ninth.  Jeff Dominguez reached on an error by third baseman T.L. Mittelstaedt, and Jensen drove him in with a RBI single to make the score 3-1.  The win improved the Suns record to 10-33 when they allow the first run of the game. 
 
The Suns had the leadoff man in an inning reach base three times in the last three innings, and all three times he came around to score.  The Suns scored all three of their runs in the game with two outs.  Jacksonville won for just the third time in the last nine road games. 
 
Curt Smith, Kyle Jensen, and Shawn Bowman each had a single in the game.  Jensen and Bowman drove in a run and are tied for the team lead with 42 RBI’s.  Hunter Morris went 2-for-4 on Monday, and in the series finished with three home runs, two triples, five RBI’s, and scored four runs.  Morris leads the Southern League in hits (104), RBI’s (67), doubles (27), and extra-base hits (46).  He’s second in the league in batting average (.314) behind Jackson’s Nick Franklin.
 
In his second straight solid outing, Suns starter Zach Neal allowed five hits and one unearned run over five innings.  Jordan Conley (1-1) allowed one hit in his two innings of work for the win.  A.J. Ramos again showed why he’s the most dominant closer in the league, breezing through the final two innings for his ninth save of the season.  Ramos earned the save in all three of the Suns wins on the road trip.
 
The Suns begin a three game series against the Montgomery Biscuits on Wednesday with the first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.

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Suns Win On Independence Day

Suns starter Zack Neal(4-6)allowed two runs on seven hits over seven innings. The only runs he allowed were on a two-run home run by Greg Rohan(above)in the first inning. Photo Courtesy: Tennessee Smokies

By Steve Kolbe

 
The Jacksonville Suns took a two-run lead into the ninth inning and hung on for a 4-3 win over the Tennessee Smokies on Wednesday night at Smokies Park.  The Suns improved to 31-1 when leading going into the ninth.
 
The Suns provided the fireworks in the first inning against Smokies starter Dallas Beeler.  Chris Gutierrez hit a solo home run to left to put the Suns in front 1-0.  With the blast, Gutierrez established a new career high with four home runs on the year.  It’s the first time since 2008 that he’s had more than two in a season.  With two outs, Kyle Skipworth reached on an error when Beeler dropped a throw at first base.  Jeff Dominguez then drove in Skipworth with a single to left to increase the lead to 2-0.  The Suns have scored at least one run in the first inning 29 times this season, with a record of 19-9 when they cross the plate in the first.
 
Tennessee drew even in the home half of the first against Suns starter Zach Neal.  After Jim Adduci singled, Greg Rohen belted his first Double-A home run, a two-run blast to left field to tie the game 2-2.  Rohen had hit a career-best 12 home runs for the Daytona Cubs of the Florida State League before he was promoted to the Smokies on July 2. 
 
In the fourth inning, Jeff Dominguez doubled to the left field corner, and scored when Shawn Bowman drove in his 40th run of the season with a single to center to give the Suns the edge 3-2.  Bowman is the first Suns player this season to reach the 40 RBI mark.
 
Jacksonville tacked on another run in the fifth inning.  Gutierrez led off with an infield single, and Skipworth singled to put runners on the corners with one out.  Jeff Dominguez hit a ground ball to short, with Gutierrez racing home with an important run to give the Suns a 4-2 advantage.   
 
After collecting five hits in the first two innings, the Smokies were held to just two hits from the third until the ninth inning against Suns pitchers Zach Neal and Kyle Kaminska.  In the ninth, Jae-Hoon Ha led off with a single, and stole second base.  Kaminska then struck out Jim Adduci, and enticed Greg Rohen into a ground out, but couldn’t get the final out.   
 
With two away, the Southern League’s top RBI man Justin Bour added to his total by driving in Ha with a single to left to cut the Suns lead to 4-3.  Bour now has 61 runs batted in this season.  Jacksonville summoned closer A.J. Ramos from the bullpen, and he issued just his eighth walk of the season when he put pinch hitter Jaun Apodaca on base.  With runners on first and second, Ramos denied the Smokies the game-tying run when he struck out Mike Brenly to end the game.
 
The Suns have won three straight over the Smokies.  Tennessee manager Buddy Bailey has 1,599 career wins over 24 seasons as a minor league manager.  His next win will make him one of just four active managers with at least 1,600 victories.
 
Left handed pitcher Rob Rasmussen was scheduled to start for the Suns, but the Marlins traded him along with third baseman Matt Dominguez to the Houston Astros in exchange for 36-year-old slugger Carlos Lee.  Rasmussen, the Marlins second round pick in the 2010 draft,  was 4-7 with a 3.90 ERA in 16 starts for Class A Jupiter this season.  Dominguez was batting .234 with seven home runs and 46 RBI’s with Tiple-A New Orleans.  He was the Marlins first round draft pick in 2007.
 
Zach Neal (4-6) was pressed into service and started his ninth game of the season.  Neal allowed two runs on seven hits over seven innings, six singles and a home run.  A.J. Ramos recorded the final out for his seventh save.  Smokies starter Dallas Beeler (3-6) allowed four runs on nine hits in four and a-third innings of work, and lost for the first time in five weeks.
 
Chris Gutierrez finished 3-for-4 with two runs scored.  Jeff Dominguez went 2-for-4 with two RBI’s.  Justin Bour was the only Smokies player with more than one hit.  Eight of Tennessee’s nine hits were singles.  The Suns have had 31 of their 84 games this season decided by a single run, with a 14-17 record.
 
Game two of the series is Thursday night from Smokies Park with the first pitch scheduled for 7:15 p.m.  RHP Matthew Neil (1-3, 5.53) will start his eighth game of the season for the Suns.  He’s lost his last three decisions.  LHP Eric Jokisch (3-1, 3.25) will take the mound for Tennessee.  He suffered his first loss of the season June 25 at Jacksonville, when he allowed 10 runs on nine hits in a relief appearance in the Suns 11-3 win.
 
 
 

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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 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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Blue Wahoos Even Series With Suns

Blue Wahoos starter J.C. Sulbaran struck out 10 to lead Pensacola to a 9-2 win over Jacksonville June 5, 2012 at Bayfront Stadium. Photo Courtesy: Pensacola Blue Wahoos

By Steve Kolbe

 
After a brief weather delay, the Jacksonville Suns started slow and never recovered in a 9-2 loss to the Blue Wahoos on Tuesday night at Bayfront Stadium in Pensacola.  The two teams are once again tied for third place in the South Division with identical 27-32 records.
 
The Blue Wahoos went right to work against Suns starter Graham Taylor in the first inning.  For the fans who were late to their seats, they missed leadoff hitter Ryan LaMarre blast his second round-tripper of the season to put Pensacola in front 1-0.  Didi Gregorius then doubled to left, and came around to score on Brodie Greene’s RBI single to give the Blue Wahoos a 2-0 lead.  It’s the second straight game that Pensacola has scored two runs in the first inning.  
 
Taylor settled down for the next two innings and was helped out by the double play ball, but he ran into more trouble in the home half of the fourth.  Joel Guzman and David Vidal hit back-to-back singles to left field to start the inning.  With one out, Andrew Means drove in both runners with a single, with Vidal scoring on an error, and the Blue Wahoos had doubled their lead to 4-0. 
 
Pensacola catcher Chris Berset keep the rally going with another single to left to put runners on first and third with only one out.  Blue Wahoos starting pitcher J.C. Sulbaran helped his own cause with a sacrifice bunt, with Means scoring on the play to make the score 5-0.  The inning finally ended when LaMarre was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double, but not before Berset crossed the plate to pad the lead to 6-0 in favor of Pensacola.  In the inning, the Blue Wahoos scored four runs on five singles.
 
Jacksonville brought in reliever Zach Neal to start the fifth inning, and he was greeted by an infield single by Didi Gregorius, who then moved to second base on a throwing error.  Brodie Green drove in his second run of the night when he tripled into the gap in left-center, with Gregorius scoring for a 7-0 advantage.  Later in the inning, David Vidal’s sacrifice fly pushed Greene across the pate and the scoreboard read 8-0.
 
The Suns scored their only two runs of the night in the seventh against J.C. Sulbaran.  Kyle Jensen led off the inning with a walk, and scored when Ryan Patterson drove in his 10th run of the season with a double down the left field line.  With two outs, Donnie Webb doubled for his 15th run batted in on the year, with Patterson scoring to make the score 8-2.

Pensacola tacked on another run in the eighth inning on a RBI ground out by Chris Berset, and the Blue Wahoos had a 9-2 win.  It’s the sixth time this season that the Suns have allowed eight runs or more, with the Blue Wahoos accomplishing the feat three times.  Pensacola has won consecutive games for the first time in over two weeks, last winning two contests in a row in Jacksonville May 18-19.

It’s the third time this season that the Blue Wahoos have scored nine or more runs in a game, they also had a 9-3 win over the Suns April 26th at the Baseball Grounds.  The seven run win is the second largest margin over victory that Pensacola has had in a game this season, second only to an 8-0 win over Birmingham May 12th at Bayfront Stadium.

Suns pitcher Graham Taylor had his shortest outing since his first start of the season, when he allowed six runs in four innings against Chattanooga.  Taylor surrendered six runs (5 ER) on ten hits in his four innings of work on Tuesday and fell to 3-5 on the season.  Zach Neal came out of the bullpen, allowing three runs on four hits in the final four innings of the game. 

Blue Wahoos starter J.C. Sulbaran allowed two runs on seven hits over six and a-third innings to improve his record to 4-4.  Sulbaran struck out 10 Suns batters to earn his first win over Jacksonville this season in four starts.  Relievers Wilkin De La Rose and Clayton Tanner finished the job, allowing just one hit in the final three innings.  Pensacola pitchers fanned 14 Suns batters on Tuesday, and in the series Blue Wahoos hurlers have 49 strike outs in four games.

For the Suns, Donnie Webb and Jeff Dominguez each finished with two hits, with Webb driving in his 15th run of the season.  Ryan Patterson, Curt Smith, Kyle Jensen, and Kyle Skipworth each had one hit.  The Blue Wahoos collected 14 hits.  Five players had multi-hit efforts and seven players scored at least one run for Pensacola.  David Vidal finished 3-for-3, drove in a run, and scored twice.  Andrew Means went 3-for-4 with a RBI and a run scored.  Ryan LaMarre and Brodie Greene each had two hits and two RBI.  Didi Gregorius added a pair of hits to extend his hit streak to eight games.  It’s his second streak of at least eight games this season.

The rubber match of the series is Wednesday night with the first pitch scheduled for 8:00 p.m. from Bayfront Stadium in Pensacola.  RHP Matthew Neil (0-0, 5.49) will start his fourth game of the season for the Suns.  RHP Daniel Corcino (2-3, 3.79) is set to take the mound for the Blue Wahoos.

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Skipworth Hits For Cycle; Suns Win Slugfest 13-10

Jacksonville Suns catcher Kyle Skipworth hit for the cycle including a grand slam against the Chattanooga Lookouts May 26, 2012 at AT&T Field. Photo Courtesy: MiLB.com

By Steve Kolbe 

Suns catcher Kyle Skipworth hit for the cycle to lead the Suns past the Lookouts 13-10 in a slugfest at AT&T Field in Chattanooga on Saturday night.  The win snapped the Suns four game slide, and also ended Chattanooga’s six game win streak.
 
The scheduled starter for the Lookouts Nathan Eovaldi didn’t take the mound as expected.  Instead, right-hander Luis Vasquez was pressed into service and started a game for the first time this season.  The Suns  came out swinging against Vasquez and sent nine men to the plate in the first inning. 
 
Leadoff man Danny Black doubled to right field to start the game, and Jake Smolinski drove in Black with a RBI single  to put the Suns in front 1-0 before many fans had even taken their seats.  With two outs, Kyle Skipworth hit a ground rule double to put runners on second and third and bring Kyle Jensen to the plate.  Jensen capped the inning by smashing his sixth home run of the season, a three-run blast to right-center field for a 4-0 Suns advantage.  The Suns improved their record to 11-2 when scoring a run in the first inning.  Jensen and Skipworth share the team lead with six round-tippers each.
 
In the second, Jacksonville added another run when Danny Black led off for the second straight inning, this time reaching base on an error by the pitcher.  After Paul Gran bunted his way on and Jake Smolinski was hit by a pitch, the bases were loaded with no outs.  Shawn Bowman then grounded into a force out, with Black thrown out at the plate.  With one out, Kyle Skipworth’s hit a sacrifice fly to right field with Gran tagging from third to increase the lead to 5-0.
 
The Lookouts scored their first run of the night against Suns starter Matthew Neil in the home half of the second, when Travis Denker led off the inning with his third home run of the season to cut the lead to 5-1.  The Lookouts have hit 10 home runs this season against the Suns, their most against any club.
 
Having just arrived at the ballpark prior to the game, reliever Eammon Portice took over on the hill for Vasquez in the third, and had similar results.  The Suns scored to make it 6-1 when Matthew Neil walked with two outs, and Danny Black drove him in with a single to right field.  Black reached base in each of the first three innings.
 
In the fourth, Jake Smolinski walked to lead off the inning, and Shawn Bowman singled behind him.  With two on and no outs, Skipworth drove in his second run of the night with a single.  Later in the inning, Russell Mitchell drove in his tenth run of the year, with Bowman coming in to score on a ground out and the Suns had built an 8-1 advantage.
 
The Lookouts came to life in the bottom of the fourth against Neil.  Singles by Travis Denker and Brahiam Maldonado, and a walk to Pedro Baez loaded the bases with one out.  Jake Lemmerman then drove in the first run of the inning, when Bowman committed an error on a grounder hit in his direction with Baez scoring to make the score 8-2 Suns.  Matt Wallach brought the Lookouts closer with a base-clearing double into the right field corner, and at the end of four innings Jacksonville led 8-5.
 
Before the fifth inning began, the Lookouts made a call to the bullpen and summoned another newcomer, Bret Montgomery.  After striking out the first batter of the inning, five straight Suns hitters would reach base against Montgomery.  Danny Black hit his second double of the night, Paul Gran scratched out an infield single, and Jake Smolinski drove in Black with a single.  With the score 9-5 Suns, Shawn Bowman walked on four pitches to load the bases and set the stage for Kyle Skipworth.  With one mighty swing, Skipworth sent the ball sailing high into the Chattanooga night and over the right field fence for the Suns first grand slam of the season.  By the end of the inning, the Suns had scored five runs on four hits to expand the lead to 13-5.  Jacksonville scored runs in each of the first five innings in the game.  During their four game losing streak, the Suns had plated a total of only nine runs.
 
Chattanooga chipped away by scoring three runs in the bottom half of the fifth.  Luis Nunez singled to lead off the inning, and scored on Travis Denker’s double to straightaway center.  The inning was highlighted by a no-doubt-about-it two-run home run to left field off the bat of Pedro Baez, and the score was 13-8.  Baez has hit a two-run homer in two straight games, and he now has 26 runs batted in.  Suns relief pitcher Zach Neal took over for Matthew Neil and struck out Jake Lemmerman for the final out of the inning.
 
The Lookouts didn’t go away quietly, and scored two more runs in the seventh.  J.T. Wise single to left, and Denker doubled behind him.  Baez cashed in a run with a ground out with Wise scoring and Denker moving to third on the play.  With two outs, Lemmerman singled to drive in Denker to cut the lead to 13-10, but that’s as close as Chattanooga would get. 
 
The 13 runs are the most that the Suns have scored in a game this season.  In the first eight games of the season series against the Lookouts, Jacksonville had scored a total of 26 runs. 
 
During the 2011 campaign the Suns hit four grand slams, third-most in the Southern League.  Alex Romero, Luke Montz, Kevin Mattison, and Jake Smolinski each hit one.
 
For the Suns, Kyle Skipworth finished 4-for-4 and hit for the cycle.  He doubled in the first, singled in the third, hit his grand slam in the fifth, and tripled in the seventh.  Skipworth drove in six runs and scored twice.  Danny Black went 3-for-6, drove in a run, and scored two others.  Jake Smolinski was 2-for-4 with two RBI and three runs scored.  Paul Gran had two hits and scored twice. 
 
For the Lookouts, Travis Denker went 4-for-5 with two doubles and a home run.  He drove in two runs and scored four times.  Nick Buss, Brahiam Maldonado, and Matt Wallach each finished with two hits in the losing cause.
 
Matthew Neil pitched four and two-thirds innings in his second start for the Suns.  He allowed eight runs on 10 hits and did not figure in the decision.  Zach Neal tossed two and a-third innings to earn his third win of the season.  Evan Reed struck out two of the three batters he faced in a flawless ninth to record his ninth save. 
 
In the spot start, Luis Vasquez allowed five runs on five hits in the first two innings to fall to 1-2.  The Suns are 2-7 this season against the Lookouts, with both of the wins coming against Vasquez.  The 13 runs are the most that the Lookouts have surrendered in a game this season.
 
The series finale is set for Sunday night from AT&T Field with the first pitch scheduled for 6:15 p.m.  The Suns will send RHP Omar Poveda (3-2, 4.54) to the mound for his ninth start of the season.  Jacksonville will try to hand RHP Ethan Martin (5-0, 3.28) his first loss of the year.  Martin is one of only two starting pitchers in the Southern League with a perfect record.

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Suns And Biscuits Split Twin Bill

The Jacksonville Suns and Montgomery Biscuits split a doubleheader at Riverwalk Stadium on May 13, 2012. The Suns won game one 6-2 and the Biscuits claimed the night cap 7-1. Photo Courtesy: Montgomery Biscuits

By Steve Kolbe 

The Suns and Biscuits split a doubleheader on Sunday May 13th at Riverwalk Stadium with Jacksonville winning the first game 6-2, and Montgomery claiming game two 7-1.
 
In the first game of the day, the Suns took the lead in the fourth inning off of Montgomery starter Jake Thompson. Dallas Poulk led off the inning with a single, and later scored when Kyle Jensen sent a sacrifice fly to center to put Jacksonville in front 1-0.  The lead was short lived, with Montgomery sending eight men to the plate and scoring twice with two outs in the bottom half of the fourth .  At one point, five straight batters reached base in the inning against Suns reliever Bobby Bramhall, with Greg Sexton and Brad Coon each driving in a run with and RBI single for a 2-1 Biscuits advantage.
 
The Suns took the lead for good in the fifth inning when Russell Mitchell led off with a single, and Jake Jefferies followed with a double to put runners on second and third.  Chris Gutierrez then drove in his ninth run of the season with a sacrifice fly to tie the game 2-2, and Jake Smolinski singled to knock in Jefferies with the go-ahead run and give Jacksonville a 3-2 lead.
 
Suns designated hitter Kyle Jensen hit his fourth home run of the season in the sixth, when he jumped on the first pitch from relief pitcher Marquis Fleming and sent it over the right field wall to increase the Suns lead to 4-2..  It was Jensen’s fourth home run of the season.  Later in the inning, Donnie Webb drove in Ryan Patterson with a sacrifice fly and Dallas Poulk added an RBI single with Jefferies scoring to expand the lead to 6-2.

Suns catcher Jake Jefferies slides in safely just ahead of the throw to Biscuits catcher Mark Thomas in the Suns 6-2 win in the first game of the doubleheader. Photo Courtesy: Montgomery Biscuits

The win snapped the Suns six game losing streak.  Jacksonville had four extra-base hits in the game, one more than their total in the previous six games.  The Suns improved to 15-1 when scoring the first run of the game.
 
Corey Madden (1-0) pitched an inning and a third to earn his first win of the season.  Bryan Evans, who beat Montgomery for his first career double-A victory last August, started game one of the twin bill for the Suns.  Evans was forced to leave the game after he was injured on a play at the plate in the first inning, when he was sent into the air and landed on his back after tagging out the runner Ty Morrison.  Biscuits starter Jake Thompson (0-4) dropped his fourth straight game to fall to 0-4 on the season.  He allowed three runs on five hits in four and two-thirds innings of work. 
 
In the night cap, the Biscuits used the big inning to defeat the Suns 7-1.  Montgomery jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the third inning against Suns starter Zach Neal, when David Wendt tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Emeel Salem. 
 
Montgomery broke the game open by scoring five times in the fifth inning to increase the lead to 6-0.  The big hit in the inning was a fly ball to left field off the bat of Kyeong Kong with the bases loaded.  Three runs scored when Jake Smolinski fell down trying to make the tough catch and was given an error on the play.  Tyler Bortnick and Emeel Salem also drove in a run in the inning against Neal and reliever Wade Korpi. 
 
The Suns scored their only run of the second game when Paul Gran walked in the sixth inning and then scored on a ground out by Smolinski.  The Biscuits tacked on a run in the bottom half of the sixth, when David Wendt singled and was driven in by Ty Morrison.  Wendt finished the game 3-for-3 with three runs scored.
 
Alex Koronis (1-0) pitched two innings for his first win of the season.  Spot starter Merrill Kelly, normally a long reliever, and two relief pitchers combined to allow the Suns just three hits in the seven inning game.  Zach Neal (2-5) pitched four and two-thirds innings and suffered his fourth straight loss after allowing just one earned run.
 
Game four of the series is set for Monday night at Riverwalk stadium with the first pitch scheduled for 8:05PM ET.  LHP Graham Taylor (2-3, 4.81) will start his eighth game of the season for Jacksonville.  RHP Shane Dyer (4-2, 2.18) takes the mound for Montgomery for his eighth start of the year.

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BayBears Win Third Straight Over Suns

The Mobile BayBears won for the third staight game at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville to extend their division lead to three games over the Suns. Photo Courtesy: Mobile BayBears

By Steve Kolbe

The Mobile BayBears increased their lead in the South Division over Jacksonville to three games with a 6-1 win on Tuesday night.  Mobile has won the first three games of the series, outscoring the Suns 19-2. 

The BayBears started quickly against Suns pitcher Zach Neal sending nine men to the plate in the first inning.  The first four batters of the game singled to put Mobile in front 2-0.  Brent Clevlen and Marc Krauss each drove in a run.  Before the inning was over Alfredo Marte had driven in a run with a single, and Wladimir Sutil knocked in a run with a double for a 4-0 BayBears lead.  It was the second time this season that the Suns allowed four runs in the first inning. 

In the second inning, David Nick led off with a single and Clevlen drove in his second run of the night with a ground out to make the score 5-0 BayBears.  Zach Neal allowed five runs on seven hits in two innings on the night.  The BayBears are the second team in the Southern League to reach 20 wins. 

The Suns scored their only run of the game in the fourth inning when Kyle Skipworth walked with one out and Kyle Jensen doubled behind him.  Dallas Poulk then drove in his second run of the year with a sacrifice fly to center. 

Mobile added a run in the sixth inning when Sutil tripled to left and came in to score on a Rossmel Perez sacrifice fly to extend the lead to 6-1.  Wladimir Sutil finished the game 3-for-4, drove in a run and also scored.  All three of his hits were for extra bases with two doubles and a triple.  David Nick, Kyle Greene, and Marc Krauss each finished with two hits, and Brent Clevlen drove in two of the six runs for Mobile.  Krauss, who was named the Southern League player of the week, has now hit safely in 17 of his last 19 games. 

Derek Eitel improved his record to 3-2 with the win.  He pitched six innings allowing five hits and one run.  It was the first earned run that a BayBears starting pitcher has allowed in three games in this series.  In the first eight games of the season series against Mobile, the Suns have scored just nine runs against BayBears starting pitchers.  Suns starter Zach Neal pitched two innings, allowing seven hits and five runs to fall to 2-4.   

The BayBears have won nine of their last 12 games and scored at least six runs in six of the wins.  The Suns have lost five of their last six and have been outscored 32-18.   

Game four of the series is Wednesday afternoon with the first pitch scheduled for 1:05PM at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.  LHP Graham Taylor (2-2, 5.23) will make his seventh start of the season for the Suns.  The BayBears counter with RHP Chase Anderson (1-0, 2.63) as he starts his fifth game of the year.

 

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Barons 5-2 Win Ends Suns Winning Streak

Right fielder Justin Greene drove in two runs and scored another in the Barons 5-2 win over the Suns. Photo Courtesy: Birmingham Barons

 
By Steve Kolbe
 
The Jacksonville Suns four game winning streak came to an end with a 5-2 loss in Birmingham on Thursday night.
 
The Barons took the lead in the third against Suns starter Zach Neal.  Damaso Espino led off the inning with a single and Justin Green followed with a ground-rule double.  Espino scored the first run of the night when Tyler Saladino lifted a sacrifice fly to center for a 1-0 Barons lead, and Drew Garcia then tripled to dive in his fifth run of the series and it was 2-0.  The final run of the inning crossed the plate when Garcia scored from third on a ground out to give Birmingham a 3-0 advantage.  The Suns fell to 3-11 when allowing the first run of the game.  Garcia’s triple was his third of the season and 17th for the Barons this season.  Birmingham has hit the most triples in Minor League Baseball.
 
Birmingham scored two more runs in the fourth inning, when Greene smashed his second double in as many innings to expand the Barons lead to 5-0.  Green finished the game 2-for-3 with two runs batted in and also scored a run.
 
The Suns scored their two runs in the eighth inning to avoid being shutout for the second time this season. Jake Smolinski and Shawn Bowman singled off Barons starter Pedro Hernandez, who would give way to reliever Ryan Kussmaul after throwing 99 pitches.  Russell Michell doubled to left off of Kussmaul to cut the lead to 5-2, but that was as close as the Suns would get.
 
Jake Smolinski and Russell Mitchell finished 2-for-4.  Smolinski has hit safely in four straight games since returning from an injury.  He has three straight multi-hit games.   Mitchell drove in Jacksonville’s only two runs, and in his eight games with the Suns he has seven RBI’s. 
 
Birmingham pitcher Pedro Hernandez won his third straight game to improve his record to 3-1.  Hernandez threw 99 pitches over seven and a-third innings of work, allowing eight hits and two runs.  Zach Neal lost his second straight start.  He pitched four innings, allowing seven hits and five runs.  Bobby Bramhall and Chris Squires combined to pitch four innings and allowed two hits.  The Suns are now 9-4 on the road, and over their last 17 games have a record of 12-5.
 

The Suns look to get back on track on Friday with Graham Taylor (2-1, 3.86) on the mound.  Taylor has won his last two starts allowing just two runs on eight hits over 13 innings against Mobile and Pensacola.  The Barons counter with Simon Castro (1-1, 4.65).  He’s given up 35 hits and 16 runs in his 31 innings of work in his five starts.  The first pitch is scheduled for 8:05EST from Regions Park in Birmingham.

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Blue Wahoos Cruise Past The Suns

Pensacola starting pitcher Daniel Corcino allowed just three hits against the Suns to earn his first win of the season. Photo Courtesy: Pensacola Blue Wahoos

 

By Steve Kolbe

The Pensacola Blue Wahoos downed the Jacksonville Suns for the second straight game with an 8-2 win on Friday night at the Baseball Grounds. 

For the second time in as many nights Henry Rodriguez and Joel Guzman led the Blue Wahoos at the plate.  After combining for eight hits the previous night, the duo were at it again in this one.  Rodriguez led off the fourth inning with a single, and Guzman followed by hitting his third home run of the season to give the visitors a 2-0 lead for a second straight night.  It was just the second home run that Zach Neal has surrendered this year in his four starts.  The Suns dropped to 1-10 when they allow their opponent to score first, while the Wahoos are now 9-4 when they score the first run. 

In the fifth inning, Ryan LaMarre doubled to left and came in to score Pensacola’s third run on a single by Rodriguez.  LaMarre finished the night 2-for-4, scored two runs, and drove in another. 

The Blue Wahoos sent 11 hitters to the plate and exploded for five runs in the top of the seventh against reliever Garrett Parcell and built an 8-0 lead.  Yordanys Perez drove in two runs in the inning with one of the Blue Wahoos five doubles in the game.  Ryan LaMarre, Josh Fellhauer, and Miguel Rojas also each drove in a run in the inning.  Six straight Pensacola batters reached base in the seventh, including a pair of intentional walks. 

The Suns scored their first run of the night in the seventh, when Kyle Jensen walked to lead off the inning, and scored when Donnie Webb doubled.  Webb was thrown out on a close play at third.  Jensen also hit his third home run of the season in the ninth inning.   

Seven players had two hits for Pensacola as the Blue Wahoos hammered out 14 hits in the game.  Yordanys Perez and Joel Guzman each drove in two runs on the night.  In the first three games of the series, the Wahoos have scored 22 runs on 36 hits.  After having just one extra base hit and 11 singles in the second game of the series, Pensacola had five doubles and a home run in Friday’s game. 

Jensen was 1-for-3 with two runs scored and he also drove in a run.  Donnie Webb was 2-for-4 with a run batted in.  Webb is 5-for-11 in the last three games.  Daniel Corcino allowed just three hits in five and a-third innings to even his record at 2-2.  Zach Neal allowed 10 hits and three runs in his six innings of work and is now 2-2 on the season.

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