The Tennessee Smokies used solid pitching and timely hitting to sweep the Pensacola Blue Wahoos in a Monday night doubleheader at Smokies Park, 6-3 and 3-2. The wins, in front of 3,973, improve the Smokies to 17-20 on the season's second half, 52-55 overall. Pensacola drops to 20-17, 54-52.
In the first-ever meeting between the Smokies and Blue Wahoos, Tennessee jumped out to a big lead in the first inning scoring five runs off Pensacola starter Mark Serrano. Matt Szczur and Logan Watkins led off with back-to-back singles and Szczur would score on a double by Junior Lake. Justin Bour followed with a single, scoring Watkins for his league-leading 84th RBI of the season. Greg Rohan capped off the opening frame with a three-run home run to give Tennessee a 5-0 lead.
Tennessee would add to their lead in the fifth when Mike Brenly hit a bases loaded single to score Lake from third, giving the Smokies a 6-0 advantage.
Smokies starter Eric Jokisch kept the Blue Wahoos offence in check allowing just one hit over his first five innings of work. Pensacola scored three times on four hits in the sixth to narrow the gap to 6-3. But Joksich was able to limit the damage and toss his first complete game of the season.
Jokisch (7-2) finished the game allowing three runs on five hits, striking out two in his seven inning of work. Serrano (6-3) picked up the loss for the Blue Wahoos going four innings allowing six runs on 10 hits.
Szczur led the Smokies' 12-hit attack going 3-for-4 in his Smokies Park debut.
The Smokies' pitching stayed hot in Monday's nightcap. Casey Harman, making his first start of the season, battled through four scoreless innings allowing just four hits and striking out two.
Tennessee would be the first to light up the scoreboard in the fourth inning off Pensacola starter Tony Cingrani (5-3). Nate Samson led off the inning with a single and following walks to Lake and Rohan, Samson ran home on a Cingrani wild pitch to give the Smokies a 1-0 lead.
The Smokies plated two more runs in the fifth inning. Dustin Harrington doubled to begin the inning and advanced to third on a passed ball by catcher Mark Fleury. Two batters later, Szczur grounded into a fielder's choice to score Harrington, and a throwing error by shortstop Billy Hamilton allowed Szczur to advance to second. Following a single by Samson, Szczur was able to score easily as reliever Josh Ravin was unable make a clean pickoff attempt at first to push the Smokies lead to 3-0.
Pensacola rallied in the seventh on a two-run home run by Fleury off Smokies reliever Frank Batista. But Batista was able to get the final two out and secure the Smokies win and notch his 19th save of the season.
Casey Weathers (4-1) picked up the win in relief tossing a scoreless fifth inning, walking one and striking out two.
The Smokies and Blue Wahoos play the middle contest of their five-game series on Tuesday night at 7:15 at Smokies Park. Tennessee sends right-hander Dae-Eun Rhee (7-5, 5.09) to the mound and Pensacola will counter with righty Kyle Lotzkar (4-5, 5.32). For tickets and more information visit www.smokiesbaseball.com or call (865) 286-2300.