By: Kyle Crooks / Jacksonville Suns
The Jacksonville Suns (27-39) will look to retake the series lead tonight against the Chattanooga Lookouts (40-25) with a first pitch slated for 7:15 p.m. ET from AT&T Field.
The Lookouts in their two-run win last night clinched the Southern League North Division title guaranteeing their spot in the playoffs come September.
Chattanooga starter David Hurlbut (W, 3-2) worked seven frames surrendering three runs (two earned) on five hits while walking one and striking out four. Suns starter Jake Esch (L, 5-4) lasted two and two-thirds surrendering eight runs (all earned) on seven hits (two home runs) while walking three and striking out two.
The scoring would begin in the top of the first when Kenny Wilson led off the frame with a double, and then Carlos Lopez would provide a bunt single to put runners on the corners with nobody out. Austin Nola then bounced into a double play that would score Wilson and make the tally 1-0 in Jacksonville’s favor.Chattanooga would respond with a four spot in the bottom of the first. With runners on the corners, Max Kepler’s RBI single quickly tied the score at one. Chattanooga still threatening with a pair of runners on, Travis Harrison belted a two-run double that pushed the Lookouts ahead 3-1. To round out the scoring, a wild pitch placed Harrison at third, and he would be sent home courtesy of a Mike Gonzalez RBI groundout to push the scoreboard edge to 4-1. Flashing ahead to the bottom of the third Stephen Wickens (HR, 1) blasted a solo shot over the left field wall that pushed Chattanooga ahead 5-1. Still threatening in the frame, the Lookouts placed runners on the corners via a Kepler triple and a walk to Harrison. A sacrifice fly for Mike Gonzalez brought in Kepler and pushed the score to 6-1. Next batter, Adam Brett Walker (HR, 18) then blasted a two-run shot off of Suns starter Esch that pushed his squad in front 8-1.
To the top of the fourth and Matt Juengel (HR, 13) blasted a solo home run to trim the Suns deficit to 8-2. In the first of the sixth, a lead off walk by Carlos Lopez, and a fielding error by Lookouts right fielder Travis Harrison on a Nola fly ball, placed a pair of runners in scoring position. A sacrifice fly from Juengel provided a run as Lopez scored and made it an 8-3 ballgame. In the top of eighth a Lopez RBI single sent home Wilson and made it an 8-4 contest. With the bases now loaded, Juengel lifted a RBI sacrifice fly to make the deficit 8-5. A RBI double by Carlos Lopez in the ninth would trim Jacksonville a bit closer to create the final score of 8-6.Brian Ellington tossed two and a third scoreless innings out of the bullpen for Jacksonville. Scott McGough worked a pair of scoreless frames surrendering only a solo hit. Bullpen arm Chipper Smith tossed a scoreless eighth. Michael Morse in a rehab start for Miami finished 0-for-3 at the plate with two strikeouts and a walk.
Tonight’s pitching matchup will feature Jacksonville right-hander Austin Brice to be opposed by Chattanooga righty Alex Wimmers. Brice enters this start 2-5 to go along with a 6.59 ERA in 12 starts with the Suns. The former ninth-round draft pick of the Marlins in 2011, has made three starts in the month of June posting an 0-1 record to go alongside a 3.60 earned run mark. His last trip to the hill came on 6/13 against Tennessee, in what would be a losing decision lasting only four frames surrendering four runs (three earned) on seven hits (two home runs) while walking two and striking out five in a 89-pitch performance. With a win, the North Carolina native can hop above .500 for his minor league career, as he currently sits 32-32 in this his sixth year of professional baseball.
Wimmers takes the ball 4-1 while sporting a 4.84 ERA in 11 starts with the Lookouts. The former first-round pick of the Twins in the 2010 draft out of Ohio State, earned a winning decision his last time out against Birmingham on 6/13, in what was his longest start of 2015 lasting seven and two-thirds scoreless frames relinquishing only two hits while walking a pair of batters and tying a season-high for strikeouts with nine. The 26-year old has struggled at AT&T Field working to a 7.01 ERA in five starts and 25 and two-thirds innings tossed.
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 7:00 p.m. ET on the Suns Baseball Network.
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 (29-37) @ Chattanooga Lookouts (40-25)
Starters: CHA: RHP Alex Wimmers (4-1, 4.84 ERA) vs. JAX: RHP Austin Brice (2-5, 6.59 ERA)
Who’s Hot: Matt Juengel blasted his 13th home run of the season last night and has homered twice in his series while collecting seven RBI. Juengel’s 13th home run already surpasses all individual home run totals from any member of the 2014 Suns roster. The right-handed slugger is hitting .310 in his last 10 games with four home runs and 12 RBI. Carlos Lopez has hit safely in sixteen of his last eighteen games, and during that stretch he has manufactured a .353 average (24-for-68). Kenny Wilson has been red hot to start the series batting .500 (4-for-8) and creeping up his average in his last five contests to .333.
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 sixth in batting average (.316) and fifth in on-base percentage (.400). Matt Juengel sits in second for home runs (13), third for extra base hits (27), RBI (42), and total bases (117). Viosergy Rosa sits tied for fourth in walks generated (36). Austin Nola is tied for second in games played (64). For relievers, Brian Ellington controls the fifth-best ratio (9.87) of fewest baserunners/9IP.