The Tennessee Smokies had the game-winning run on base in the ninth inning, but were unable to score and fell to the Huntsville Stars Friday night, 4-3. The loss, in front of 4,927 at Smokies Park, drops the Smokies to 21-27 for the second half, 56-62 overall. Huntsville improves to 24-24, 59-59.
Down 4-2 in the ninth inning, the Smokies made a big threat off Huntsville closer Brandon Kintzler. Logan Watkins led off the inning with a ground-rule double and Jae-Hoon Ha reached on an infield single. Justin Bour loaded the bases with no outs with a single to center. Junior Lake then popped out to shortstop and Matt Cerda scored Watkins on a fielder's choice that forced Bour out at second. With runners at the corners, Nelson Perez struck out to end the game and the Smokies' rally.
Earlier in the game, Huntsville drew first blood off Tennessee starter Eric Jokisch in the third when Scooter Gennett singled home Josh Stinson to give the Stars a 1-0 lead. Huntsville then extended their lead to 2-0 in the seventh when Brock Kjeldgaard scored from second on a throwing error by Matt Szczur.
Huntsville starter Josh Stinson faced the minimum batters allowed until the seventh inning. Szczur led off the inning with a triple and scored on a Watkins single to cut the Smokies' deficit to 2-1.
The Smokies tied the game at two in the eighth inning off reliever Darren Byrd. Nelson Perez hit a one double and would score three batters later on a Szczur single.
With the game tied in the ninth, Smokies reliever Kevin Rhoderick (2-6) gave up a one-out home run to Kjeldgaard then three consecutive singes to give the Stars a 4-2 advantage.
Jokisch, who did not factor in the decision, scattered five hits over his six innings of work allowing one run while striking out six.
Byrd (3-5) picked up the win for the Stars and Kintzler collected his ninth save of the season.
The Smokies will look to even the five-game series with the Stars on Saturday at 6:15 p.m. at Smokies Park. RHP Dae-Eun Rhee (7-6, 5.24) will start for the Smokies and Huntsville will counter with RHP Evan Anundsen (5-7, 4.88). The first 2,500 fans into the park will receive a free Smokies cap, courtesy of Food City, Peter Pan Peanut Butter and WBIR TV-10. For tickets and more information visit www.smokiesbaseball.com or call (865) 286-2300.