The Tennessee Smokies remain in the thick on the championship race of the Southern League Eastern, but must make up some ground quickly this coming week in a four game series with Jacksonville, at Smokies Park, and at Greenville.
The Smokies had won four in a row, including a 9-0 win over second place Jacksonville on Saturday night, to pull within a half game of the Suns. But, they lost an extra inning heartbreaker, 4-3, to the Las Angeles AA farm team from Jacksonville on Sunday at Smokies Park.
Jacksonville’s Victor Diaz sent a solo home run over the left field wall with two out in the top of the 11th inning Sunday night. Tennessee went down in order in the bottom half of the frame to lose for the first time in five games.
Jacksonville scored first in the contest by putting runners at the corners with no outs in the top of the first inning, while a double to right field scored a run. Tennessee starting pitcher, Peter Bauer, settled down and struck out the next batter swinging and the next looking before forcing a 6-4 fielder’s choice for the third out.
Smokies’ leadoff hitter Rich Thompson lined a leadoff double to right field and Dominic Rich dropped a single in shallow left field to put runners at the corners. Shawn Fagan followed with an RBI single over second base to even things up at 1-1.
Tennessee pulled back in front in the bottom of the third inning with a Mike Rouse solo homerun over the centerfield wall. The long ball was Rouse’s seventh of the season.
Jacksonville tied things back up with another two out hit and a runner in scoring position in the top of the sixth inning.
The score remained 2-2 through the ninth inning. In the top of the 10th, the Jacksonville leadoff hitter reached on a Jim Deschaine throwing error and was moved into scoring position off a sacrifice bunt by the next Suns’ batter. A single to shallow centerfield followed to put runners at the corners with one out before a long fly ball to right field scored the go-ahead run on a sacrifice.
Smokies’ relief pitcher, Francisco Ozuna, who had came in to replace Bauer in the top of the eighth was replaced by Hugo Castellanos after the Jacksonville run in the eighth.
Thompson reached on a wild pitch that went to the backstop after a strikeout to leadoff the bottom of the 10th. A Rich sacrifice followed by a Danny Solano sacrifice moved Thompson to third base. Fleming dropped the two-out RBI single into shallow centerfield to score Thompson and make the score 3-3, setting the stage for the Diaz homerun.
In Saturday’s 9-0 Tennessee win, the Smokies jumped out to a quick 5-0 first inning lead behind consecutive home runs by Fleming, Deschaine and Rouse in front of a Smokies Park season high crowd of 6,447.
Smokies’ left-hander Diego Markwell became the Southern League’s first 13-game winner, pitching seven-scoreless innings, giving up only four-hits and striking out six.
Deschaine and Thompson were each 4-5 in Saturday’s win and Rich hit a two-run homer as the Smokies connected on a season high four home runs.
Tennessee scored five first inning runs on five hits in the victory game. The Smokies’ offense struck for a total of 53-hits in their four game winning streak.

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