KODAK, Tenn. - Rebel Ridling's sixth home run of the season wasn't enough to overcome a six-run deficit as the Tennessee Smokies fell to the Huntsville Stars Monday night, 8-4. The loss, in front of 3,787 at Smokies Park, drops the Smokies to 21-30 on the season. Huntsville improved to 28-22, 1.5 games back of first-place Jackson.
Tennessee jumped on the scoreboard in the first off Huntsville starter Josh Stinson. Jae-Hoon Ha led off with a single and moved to third on a double by Logan Watkins. Ha would score two batters later on a RBI groundout by Justin Bour to give the Smokies an early 1-0 lead.
The Stars would strike bake in the top of the second, tagging Tennessee starter Dae-Eun Rhee for five runs. Huntsville started the inning with a single by Domnit Bolivar, and former Tennessee Volunteer Kentrail Davis brought him home with a double. Lee Haydel followed with an RBI single and Tommy Manzella and Scooter Gennett would drive in three more runs between them with an infield single and a two-run double, respectively, to give Huntsville a 5-1 lead.
After getting the leadoff batter in the third out, Rhee allowed four consecutive singles allowing one more run to score. Smokies reliever Jeff Antigua entered the game with bases loaded and walked in a run before retiring the side with the Stars ahead 7-1.
Rhee (3-2) lasted 2.1 innings allowing seven earned runs on nine hits.
Stinson (6-2) kept the Smokies bats quiet over his five innings of work. He allowed one run on three hits while striking out three.
Ridling tried to spark the Tennessee offense with his home run to left field in the sixth to narrow the deficit to 7-2.
Trailing 8-2 in the eighth, the Smokies staged a rally scoring twice, but left the bases loaded. Bour walked and Ridling reached on an error by Gennett. A wild pitch by Stars reliever Darren Byrd advanced the runners a base, and Luis Flores smacked a two-RBI single to left field. Elliot Soto hit a pinch-hit single and Mike Burgess walked to load the bases for Ha. Huntsville turned to their closer Jesus Sanchez (S, 5) who got Ha to strike out and end the Smokies' threat.
Tennessee looks to bounce back in Game 2 vs. Huntsville Tuesday night at 7:15 at Smokies Park. The Smokies will send RHP Nick Struck (4-5, 4.86) to the mound, while RHP Evan Anundsen (3-1, 2.55) will get the start for the Stars. Tickets can be purchased at www.smokiesbaseball.com or by calling (865) 286-2300.