Logan Watkins, courtesy Adam Kline - Tennessee Smokies
Justin Bour's two-run double in the fourth inning gave the Smokies the lead and the Tennessee bullpen fired blanks the rest of the way as the Smokies held off the Mississippi Braves, 3-2, in the middle contest of a five-game series on Saturday afternoon at Trustmark Park.
With the Smokies trailing 2-1, Jae-Hoon Ha led off the top of the fourth inning with a double and Rebel Ridling followed with a single to put runners on the corners and no outs. The next batter, Bour, sliced a two-run double into the left field corner to give the Smokies a 3-2 advantage.
From there, the Tennessee bullpen held the Braves in check, although Mississippi didn't make it easy. Marcus Hatley entered in the sixth and worked two scoreless innings, stranding two runners on base to escape a seventh-inning jam. After Jeff Antigua walked the lone batter he faced, Alberto Cabera took the hill in the eighth and stranded runners on the corners.
Mississippi mounted a rally in the ninth as a one-out double by Keenan Wiley followed by a single and a stolen base from Andrelton Simmons put the tying and winning runs into scoring position for the Braves, but Cabrera struck out Evan Gattis and got Tim Smith to ground out to first to thwart the comeback bid. Mississippi left six runners on base over the final three innings.
The teams exchanged runs in the first inning. Smokies shortstop Junior Lake ripped a single to left on the first pitch of the game and stole second before advancing to third on an Elliot Soto sacrifice bunt and scoring on an RBI single by Rebel Ridling to give Tennessee a 1-0 edge. In the bottom of the frame, Wiley led off with a single and swiped second before scoring to tie the game, 1-1, two batters later on a double play off the bat of Gattis. The Braves took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third when Simmons singled and scored on an RBI single by Smith.
Smokies starter Dallas Beeler (1-3) picked up his first win of the season, working five innings and allowing two run on eight hits with one walk and two strikeouts. Cabera notched his third save.
Offensively for Tennessee, Ridling reached base four times, going 2-for-3 with a pair of walks and a run scored. Bour and Ha each finished 2-for-4 as well. The top two hitters in the Braves order, Wiley and Simmons, combined to go 7-for-9 and score both Mississippi runs.
For the Braves, starter Jose Lugo (2-2) suffered the loss, yielding three runs on nine hits over 5.2 innings. Three Mississippi relievers combined to hold Tennessee scoreless over the final 3.1 frames.
The Smokies and Braves continue their five-game series on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET when Tennessee sends right-hander Dallas Beeler (0-3, 3.89 ERA) to the mound while Mississippi counters with southpaw Sean Gilmartin (2-4, 2.82 ERA) at Trustmark Park.
GAME NOTES: The Smokies bullpen has worked 9.2 scoreless innings over the first three games of the series... Justin Bour entered the day tied for the Southern League lead with 29 RBIs... Tennessee is 7-7 in one-run games.
The Tennessee Smokies