By: Kyle Crooks / Jacksonville Suns
The Jacksonville Suns (27-33) will look for two straight wins to start the series with the Tennessee Smokies (32-28) tonight with a first pitch slated for 7:05 p.m. ET from Bragan Field.
The Suns have now won five of their last six games, and have posted an 8-3 record in the month of June after mustering up a 9-20 mark in May.
Last night’s 5-2 win is the first of ten meetings between the Suns and the Smokies and the only clash at Bragan Field.
Brian Ellington (W, 4-1) lasted one and two-thirds scoreless and hitless innings while not walking a batter and striking out two. Michael Wagner (L, 0-1) took the loss in relief for the Smokies after two and two-thirds innings in which he allowed two runs (both earned) on four hits while not walking a batter and striking out three. Juancito Martinez (S, 3) earned his third save of the year after tossing a scoreless ninth while walking one and striking out a solo batter for Jacksonville.
The scoring would begin in the in the last of the fourth, when the Suns manufactured a walk and a single to put two runners on for Danny Black against Tennessee reliever Andres Santiago. Black then provided a single off the glove of Smokies second baseman Stephen Bruno, which scored Cox, and gave the Suns a 1-0 edge. With Kenny Wilson at the plate, a wild pitch from Santiago, and a throwing error from Smokies catcher Kyle Schwarber, allowed a run to score and create a 2-0 cushion for Jacksonville. In the top of the seventh frame, Tennessee got to Suns starter Tomshaw after he relinquished a pair of singles, then to allow a run-scoring base knock to Bijan Rademacher that trimmed the Suns edge to 2-1. In the same frame, and Suns reliever Brian Ellington on the mound, Elliot Soto laid down a squeeze bunt to score the tying run from third. To the bottom of the eighth and Viosergy Rosa led off with a double, to set up in scoring position for Matt Juengel’s RBI single that pushed Jacksonville back in front 3-2. Against Smokies bullpen arm Gerardo Concepcion, the Suns manufactured a trio of singles to load the bases for Wilson. Wilson would then generate a walk to bring in a run and extend Jacksonville’s scoreboard advantage to 4-2. With the bases still loaded, Carlos Lopez laid down a bunt that was bobbled by Smokies third baseman Wes Darvill that sent home the Suns fifth run. Matt Tomshaw in his start for Jacksonville worked six and one-third frames for the Suns, allowing two runs (one earned) on eight hits while walking one and striking out two. Smokies starter Pierce Johnson provided three scoreless frames of work relinquishing one walk while striking out two.
Tonight’s pitching matchup will feature Jacksonville right-hander Jake Esch taking the ball to be opposed by Tennessee righty Frank Batista. Esch enters this start 4-3 attached with a 2.98 ERA in 10 starts. The Georgia Tech product earned a no decision his last time out against Pensacola on 6/6, in which he would generate six innings allowing four runs (all earned) on seven hits while walking and striking out three. The former 11th round selection of the Marlins in 2011, was one of seven Suns honored as a Southern League Mid-Season All-Star. This month he has made a pair of starts that have seen him generate a 2.70 earned-run mark in 13.0 innings pitched. The 25-year old made a pair of starts with triple-A New Orleans after his call-up on 4/14, and finished 0-1 with a 5.23 ERA with both starts coming against the Iowa Cubs.
Batista takes the ball tonight for Tennessee 6-1 attached alongside the league’s best ERA of 1.49. He is coming off a no decision against Birmingham, in which he mustered up a seven-inning scoreless performance allowing six hits while not walking a batter and striking out three. The native of the Domincan Republic, like Esch, will be headed to the all-star game in Montgomery as one of seven Smokies selections to the festivities. On the road this year, the 26-year old has yet to pick up a losing decision, as he currently holds onto a 4-0 mark attached with an ERA of 1.27 away from Kodak, Tenn.
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.
Join us on Friday as we strike out ALS with ALS Awareness Night, Suns Lanyard Giveaway, Elvis Himselvis, Pet Friendly Weekend, Blood Alliance Blood Drive & NAPA Friday Family Fireworks! It’s ALS Awareness Night at the Baseball Grounds and join us as we raise funds and awareness in support of the ALS Association as we Strike Out ALS, sponsored by Sawyer Gas! Plus all kids get a Suns Lanyard and don’t miss an encore performance from Elvis Himselvis who will perform your favorite Elvis songs during the game, courtesy of Process Master & 95.1 WAPE! The Blood Alliance Bloodmobile will be on hand 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! It’s our pet friendly weekend at Bragan Field and all dogs get in for just $2.50 courtesy of Pedigree! Stay after the game 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: Tennessee Smokies (32-28) @ Jacksonville Suns (27-33)
Starters: PEN: RHP Frank Batista (6-1, 1.49 ERA) vs. JAX: RHP Jake Esch (4-3, 2.98 ERA)
Who’s Hot: Carlos Lopez has hit safely in eleven of his last twelve games and during that stretch has manufactured a .312 average (15-for-48). Matt Juengel blasted his tenth home run of the season while also producing a double in Wednesday night’s loss to Pensacola and Juengel, followed that performance up with a RBI in Thursday’s win, now pushing his tally to six RBI in a six-game span. Sharif Othman has put together a six-game hit streak in which he has gone 9-for-22 (.409) at the plate.
Suns Spots: Here’s a note from the official Jacksonville Suns game notes:
-Closer Sean Donatello is first in saves (14) in the Southern League. Zack Cox rests seventh in batting average (.312) while Matt Juengel is fourth in home runs (10), and Viosergy Rosa sits tied for third in walks generated (34).