By: Kyle Crooks / Jacksonville Suns
The Jacksonville Suns (15-25) will look to snap a five-game skid tonight when they take on the Mississippi Braves (22-18) with a first pitch slated for 7:05 p.m. ET from Bragan Field.
The Suns last night had multiple opportunities to take the lead in the late stages of the game prior to extra innings in their 8-7 loss, but continued to struggle with situational hitting. Jacksonville stranded the bases loaded in the seventh and eighth frames while batting 5-for-21 with runners in scoring position and leaving 12 men on base throughout the contest. As a team they are .194 when batting with the bases loaded and hitting .220 with runners in scoring position. There are six Suns that are currently holding a sub .200 batting average with runners in scoring position through 41 games of the season.
Francisco Rondon (W, 2-0) earned the victory in relief for Mississippi in one inning of work allowing three runs (none earned) on two hits while walking a batter and striking out one. Sean Donatello (L, 0-2) took the loss out of the bullpen for the Suns generating two innings allowing five runs (three earned) on five hits while walking a pair of batters.
The scoring would begin in the bottom of the first when the Suns had runners on the corners with nobody out courtesy of a Carlos Lopez lead off double, and Kenny Wilson reaching on an error by the first baseman Kevin Aherns. Next batter Austin Nola, would scratch across the first run on a double play ball giving Jacksonville a 1-0 lead through one frame. In the third the Braves tied the score after Mallex Smith worked a two-out walk to then move into scoring position after a Kendry Flores throwing error. Next batter Corban Joesph brought him home on a run-scoring base hit. In the last of the third Nola put the Suns on top via a RBI base hit plating Carlos Lopez who lead off the frame with a double. Jacksonville would lead 2-1 through three innings of play at Bragan Field.
The Suns lead would not last long, as in the top of the fifth Mallex Smith ripped a RBI double to score Matt Kennelly and knot up the contest at a 2-2 score. The Braves broke the tie in the eighth frame after Smith reached first on a bunt single to then steal second and set up KD Kong for the go-ahead RBI single giving Mississippi the slim 3-2 advantage. In the bottom of the eighth, against Braves reliever Bryton Trepagnier, Matt Juengel would ground into an inning ending double play with the bases loaded in a pinch hit appearance to end any further threat with the Suns still trailing by one.
In the ninth with the bases loaded Corban Joesph provided insurance for Mississippi off of Suns reliever Sean Donatello with a two RBI single to give the Braves 5-2 lead. In the bottom half of the frame the Suns tied the score after generating the bases loaded. A fielding error by Braves centerfielder Mallex Smith, on a Ryan Rieger fly ball, cleared the bases and tied the score at five.
Moving to the 10th, Emerson Landoni put Mississippi back in front with a run-scoring single to put his squad up 6-5. The critical hit came from Eric Garcia in the same stanza when his two-run double gave the Braves the necessary insurance and a 8-5 lead. Jacksonville would not go quietly in the bottom of the 10th after Nola’s two RBI double trimmed the deficit to a run in the 8-7 Jacksonville loss. Suns starter Kendry Flores lasted seven innings allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits while walking two and striking out a pair of batters.
Tonight’s pitching matchup will feature right-hander Jake Esch taking the ball for the Suns to be opposed by Braves righty Tyrell Jenkins. Esch enters with a 3-2 record attached alongside a 2.55 ERA. In his last start the Georgia Tech product generated five innings allowing one run (earned) on three hits while walking a batter and striking out two in a no decision against Biloxi on 5/17. In the month of May the former 11th round draft pick of the Marlins is 1-2 while sporting a 3.91 ERA in four starts. Esch received a call up to Triple-A New Orleans on 4/14 and made a pair of starts going 0-1 with an earned-run mark north of 5.23 surrendering six earned runs on 14 hits over 9 and 1/3 innings of work. He owns the ninth-best ERA (2.55) in the Southern League to date.
Jenkins will toe the rubber for Mississippi with a 2-2 record while working to a 3.00 ERA. The righty is coming off arguably his best start against Pensacola on 5/17 in a performance where he would last seven scoreless frames relinquishing three hits while walking five and striking out three. He’s the #7 ranked prospect within the Braves organization according to Baseball America, and came over via a trade on November, 17th 2014 with the St. Louis Cardinals, that sent Jayson Heyward to St. Louis in return for veteran starter Shelby Miller. This is Jenkins first taste of the double-A level in this his sixth season in the minors.
Fans can listen to the game live on the Suns Baseball Network, with Roger Hoover providing play by play. Roger Hoover and Kyle Crooks will host the Memorial Hospital Suns Pre-Game Show beginning at 6:50 p.m. ET on the Suns Baseball Network.
Friday is Family Faith Night with a post-game concert with Chris August, Blood Alliance Blood Drive & NAPA Friday Family Fireworks! It’s a Night of Faith, Fellowship and our National Pastime with a post-game concert with Award Winning Christian Artist Chris August, courtesy of Bug Out & The Promise! The Blood Alliance Bloodmobile will be at Bragan Field and the Suns encourage all fans to donate blood! The first 25 donors receive 2 tickets to the game plus a hot dog and soda voucher! Also check out the hottest rides from your Southern Ford Dealers which will be on hand. Stay after the game and before the concert as we light up the skies with the NAPA Friday Family Fireworks, presented by your local NAPA AutoCare center dealers!
The 2015 season of Suns baseball is presented by EverBank, the official banking partner of the Jacksonville Suns. Sponsorships, group outings, and season/individual game tickets are currently available by calling the Suns front office at (904) 358-2846.
Matchup: Jacksonville Suns (15-25) @ Mississippi Braves (22-18)
Starters: JAX: RHP Jake Esch (3-2, 2.55 ERA) vs. MIS: RHP Tyrell Jenkins (2-2, 3.00 ERA)
Who’s Hot:Last night Carlos Lopez collected Jacksonville’s second individual four-hit performance of the season finishing 4-for-6 with a pair of doubles. The Suns right fielder is now batting .385 in his last 10 games and has collected a hit in 14 of his last 16 contests. After providing a grand slam in the series finale with Biloxi on 5/19, Ryan Rieger mustered up a three-hit performance in what was his fourth multi-hit game of the season. Austin Nola knocked in three runners last night in his second three RBI performance of 2015.
Suns Spots: Here’s a note from the official Jacksonville Suns game notes:
-Starter Kendry Flores is first in batting average against (.169), second in WHIP (0.83), second in fewest baserunners allowed per nine innings (7.82), third in innings pitched (50.2), and controls the sixth-best ERA (1.95) in the Southern League. Starter Jake Esch controls the league’s 9th best ERA (2.55). Closer Sean Donatello sits first in saves (10) in the S.L. Reliever Lay Batista has generated the league’s lowest average against holding opposing batters to a .115 average. Jacksonville has worked to only the league’s ninth-best batting average (.241) and sit in the lower-third of the S.L. with the seventh-best ERA (3.94).