KODAK, TN - Friday night featured a match-up of two of the top teams in Southern League when the Mobile BayBears met the Tennessee Smokies in the first game of a five game set. The BayBears entered having won 5 straight at home, while the Smokies came off a three games to two series victory against the Southern League best Birmingham Barons.
The match-up was great on paper; the game was even better.
Mobile erased a 1-0 deficit with three runs in the top of the 6th, and survived a late Tennessee rally for a 3-2 victory in front of 5,513 at Smokies Park.
BayBears spot-starter Mark Serrano made the game's first mistake in the bottom of the third when he threw a first pitch strike to Javier Baez. The Cubs top prospect banged it over the right-centerfield wall for his 17th home run with the Smokies - and 34th of the season - to put Tennessee up 1-0.
Mobile's answer came in a top of the 6th that started with 3 straight hits.
Nick Ahmed led off with a double to straight away center, Justin Greene followed with his second single of the night, and both baserunners scored on a Nick Evans opposite field double that put the BayBears ahead 2-1. Evans scored two batters later on an error, when a routine Mike Freeman bouncer up the middle went off second baseman Arismendy Alcantara's glove and into center field.
The three runs would prove enough for Mobile, who survived another Smokies home run, and a 9th inning rally.
Rubi Silva's 14th home run came in the bottom of the 6th to bring Tennessee within one at 3-2, but the BayBears bullpen would shut them down the rest of the way. Blake Cooper retired all four batters he faced, and Willy Paredes worked a 1-2-3 8th to set up an opportunity for Jake Barrett's 12th save.
The right-hander struck out Silva to start the 9th, but a single from Jonathan Mota and a double from Matt Szczur had the tying run on third and the winning run on second with two outs. Leadoff batter John Andreoli walked up to the plate with the game and a 10-game hitting streak on the line, but his deep line drive to center was hauled in by Keon Broxton to preserve the BayBears sixth straight victory.
With the win, the BayBears improve to 73-57, and Mobile is now tied with Birmingham for the best overall record in the Southern League.
Mark Serrano improved to 5-2 behind 5 2/3 solid innings in which he allowed the two runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out six. The right-hander is now 3-0 with a 2.70 ERA in five starts for Mobile.
Game two of the five game set in Tennessee will feature Bradin Hagens (10-8, 3.57) on the bump for the BayBears opposite Eduardo Figueroa (5-1, 3.49) for the Smokies. First pitch is scheduled for 5:15 CT, and the game can be heard live on baybearsradio.com.