KODAK, Tenn. - The Tennessee Smokies were unable to overcome a four-run fourth inning and fell to the Birmingham Barons 7-4 on Monday night at Smokies Park. With the win, Birmingham wins the North Division Championship 3-games-to-2. The Smokies ended 2013 with a 76-62 regular season record, 3-2 in the playoffs.
The Smokies took an early lead on Birmingham starter Myles Jaye in the opening frame on a RBI-single by Christian Villanueva that scored Javier Baez to give Tennessee a 1-0 lead.
Birmingham would score twice in the second inning off Smokies starter Neil Ramirez to take a 2-1 lead. Tennessee answered right back, knotting the game at two when Jonathan Mota drew a one-out walk and scored three batters later on a RBI-single by Arismendy Alcantara.
The big blow to Tennessee came in the fourth inning when the Barons scored four times, three of them unearned, to take a commanding lead. After Ramirez loaded the bases, Matt Loosen came in relief and got Micah Johnson hit a groundball to Alcantara, who misplayed the ball, allowing two runs to score. On the same play, a throwing error by catcher Taylor Davis allowed another run to score put the Barons ahead 5-2. Two batters later, an error by Baez allowed the fourth run of the inning to score and give Birmingham a 6-2 lead.
The Smokies cut the deficit in half in the fifth, when Baez hit a deep two-run home run to centerfield to make the score 6-4.
Loosen got in a grove after the big inning, going 5.1 innings allowing two runs (one earned) on three hits and striking out seven. The Barons did score an insurance run off Loosen in the ninth inning, extending their lead to 7-4.
After the two runs in the fifth, the Barons bullpen shut the door on the Smokies' offense. Nestor Molina (1-0) picked up the win going 2.2 innings, allowing two runs on three hits and Ryan Kussmaul added three scoreless innings in relief. Cody Winiarski came in to throw the final 1.1 innings and pick up the save and secure the North Division Championship for the Barons.
The Smokies would like to thank their fans, sponsors and media partners for their support during this record-breaking season. Tennessee won the second-half North Division title, and saw numerous players earn awards for their accomplishments.
Tennessee will open the 2014 season in Pensacola with a five-game series against the Blue Wahoos, beginning on Thursday, April 3 at Pensacola Bayfront Stadium. The team's 2014 home opener at Smokies Park will be on Wednesday, April 9 against the Chattanooga Lookouts.