AT&T Field is the site of tonight’s opener in the 2014 Southern League Championship. (Photo courtesy: Chattanooga Lookouts)
By Jason Patterson / Jacksonville Suns
Undeniably, the two hottest teams in the Southern League down the stretch have survived and advanced into what is expected to be a highly competitive 2014 Championship Series. It begins tonight in Chattanooga.
The Jacksonville Suns (3-1, 81-59) and Chattanooga Lookouts (3-2, 61-77) will meet in a best of five format for the right to hoist the Billy Hitchcock trophy. The clubs begin play at AT&T Field Wednesday evening, with the first pitch of Game One scheduled for 7:15 p.m. ET.
Jose Urena (0-0, 6.00) will be the Game One starter for Jacksonville. The right-hander received a no-decision for his work in the post-season opener against Mobile, which saw the Suns steal away victory with a late rally marked by Austin Barnes go-ahead home run in the 9th.
Urena posted a 13-8 record in the regular season with a 3.33 ERA. In three starts against the Lookouts, he was 1-2 with a 3.50 E.R.A.
Chattanooga is expected to hand the ball to right-hander Andres Santiago (1-0, 3.00). Santiago pitched well enough across six innings in Game One of the division series to give the Lookouts an early advantage. The club held on for a 4-3 victory and a 1-0 series lead. He was 6-8 with a 4.47 E.R.A. during the 2014 regular season.
Fans can listen to every pitch of the Championship Series live on the Suns Baseball Network, with Roger Hoover providing play by play. Hoover will be joined by Michael West and Jason Patterson. West and Patterson will host a special post-season edition of the Memorial Hospital Pre-game Show, beginning at 7:00 p.m. ET on the Suns Baseball Network.
How They Arrived Here
Jacksonville reached the final round of the postseason by disposing of Mobile in only four games. The series, which the Suns claimed 3 games to 1, included a 9-1 rout on Monday in the South Division clincher.
Chattanooga’s entry route was a little tougher, requiring all five games of the North Division Series against first-half champion Huntsville. The finale saw the Stars battle back to within one run in the 9th inning before the Lookouts nailed things down to punch their ticket into the title matchup.
Despite the noticeable difference in the overall season records, these teams appear evenly matched. They met fifteen times in the regular season, with the series unsettled until the August 16 finale at AT&T Field. This most recent battle was decided by a narrow one run Jacksonville victory, which handed the Suns the series by a single contest. The final count was eight games to seven.
The head to head series has already provided some notable moments. The clubs have twice played extra innings, splitting the extended games on back to back days in Jacksonville across Independence Day weekend. Surprisingly, for two very effective offensive clubs, the Suns shutout Chattanooga on three separate occasions, with the Lookouts twice returning the favor.
Both teams peaked at the perfect time, claiming the second half crown in their respective divisions. Jacksonville finished the second half twenty games over .500, owning a 45-25 second half mark. Chattanooga stood alone as the only team in the North to post a winning second half. The Lookouts secured a 35-33 final record in second half action.
What should not be lost in the mere numbers, however, is the way both clubs closed out the season. Chattanooga compiled an eye-popping twenty wins against only eight losses across the season’s final month. Jacksonville swept the final two series of the year, winning the final ten regular season games consecutively to gain entrance into the playoffs.
Interestingly, the Suns only loss in nearly three weeks was a 4-3, eleven inning, decision in Game Two of their first round series against the BayBears. Chattanooga was shutout in both losses to Huntsville during the North Division series.
Back to Back Championships in 2009 and 2010 marked the Suns most recent post-season appearances. Jacksonville is playing deep into September for a league record nineteenth time in franchise history.
The Suns own five Southern League crowns and ten professional baseball titles overall. Jacksonville flies Southern League championship pennants from 1996, 2001, 2005, 2009 and 2010. River City representatives have also brought home Championships in the South Atlantic League (3), Southeastern League (1) and International League (1) along the way.
Jacksonville is playing in the Southern League Championship Series for the fourteenth time in 2014, also the league’s best all-time mark. The Suns have claimed victory during each of their last three trips into the final round of the post-season.
1988 stands as Chattanooga’s lone championship season to this point. The Lookouts have played for the Southern League title on four separate occasions, falling just short in 1992, 1995 and 1996. The franchise boasts four other minor league baseball titles, all secured between 1932 and 1961. Chattanooga is making its impressive thirteenth Southern League post-season appearance overall.
Though the combined success of both clubs in regards to reaching the post-season might lead one to believe otherwise, the only previous Southern League Championship Series meeting between this year’s participants was in 1996. Jacksonville secured its first league title by taking the series three games to one.
Tonight’s Key Information
Matchup: Jacksonville Suns (81-59, South Champions) @ Chattanooga Lookouts (61-77, North Champions)
Starters: CHT: RHP Andres Santiago (1-0, 3.00) JAX: RHP Jose Urena (0-0, 6.00)
Current Series: Begins Tonight.
Who’s Hot: Suns and Lookouts (Both teams ended the regular season on historic runs, Jacksonville winning ten straight games, Chattanooga nailing down twenty of its last twenty-eight games)
Season Series: Jacksonville won the season series 8 games to 7.
Southern League Titles: Jacksonville, 5 (1996, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2010)
Chattanooga, 1 (1988)
Sun Spots: Here are a few pieces of valuable information to consider heading into tonight’s game, direct from the official Jacksonville Suns game notes compiled by Michael West:
– With six total home runs in their four-game series victory over the Mobile BayBears, the Suns tied their season-high for most homers in a single series (also had six homers 5/15-5/19 at Pensacola and 8/22-8/26 at Tennessee).
– In their South Division Championship Series win, the Suns outdrew the BayBears 20-4 in walks.
– With nine runs in their game four victory, the Suns improved to 52-9 overall on the year when scoring 5+ runs.
– Additionally, Jacksonville improved its mark to 57-6 overall on the year when leading after six innings.
– The Suns now find themselves with a 40-21 record when playing error-free baseball on the 2014 season.
– After outhitting the BayBears 8-7 in game 4, the Suns are 44-13 overall when outhitting their opponents.
Today’s broadcast will air on the Suns Baseball Network’s flagship station 94.1 Classic Rock WSOS-FM. It can also be found via the Jacksonville Suns mobile app. Click the link below to listen online.
The 2014 season of Suns baseball is presented by EverBank, the official banking partner of the Jacksonville Suns. Post-Season tickets are currently on sale through the Suns Box Office. Championship Series tickets are sold at premium pricing with $10.50 for general admission, $12.50 for reserved seating and $16.50 for Homeplate Box seating. Tickets can be purchased by calling (904) 358-2846, or online at http://www.jaxsuns.com.