With the first-half title race coming down the stretch, the Biloxi Shuckers (36-25) rallied to top the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (25-34) 5-3 on Friday night at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. The Shuckers maintain a one and a half game lead over the Mobile BayBears in the South Division of the Southern League with nine games remaining in the first half.
Biloxi had a pair of opportunities to score in the early innings. In the second, Lucas Erceg walked and motored to third on a double by Jake Hager. Trent Grisham struck out for the second out before Tyler Heineman was intentionally walked, bringing up Shuckers pitcher Thomas Jankins. The righty slapped a ball to right that was tracked down by Cade Gotta, leaving the bags full. Biloxi would load the bases again in the third on two singles and a walk before Hager lined out to right, against leaving the bases full of Shuckers.
Jacksonville got on the board in the bottom of the fourth. Second baseman Isan Diaz singled in front of Peter O'Brien, who launched a home run to left, his third of the season, to put the Jumbo Shrimp up 2-0. A run on a fielder's choice in the bottom of the fifth extended the Jumbo Shrimp lead to 3-0, chasing Jankins before he could complete five innings.
Hager started the Shuckers comeback in the sixth. Erceg singled to leadoff the inning before Hager launched a home run off the scoreboard in left, his seventh of the season and second in as many nights, to bring Biloxi within a run. Yet again, the Shuckers would load the bases on a pair of walks and a hit-by-pitch, but left them full on a Keston Hiura strikeout.
Trailing 3-2 in the top of the eighth, Grisham started the inning with a single. Heineman then laced an opposite field double to right, putting runners on second and third with no one gone. Pinch hitter Clint Coulter struck out for the first out, bringing up Corey Ray. The Shuckers' centerfielder worked a full count before pulling a pitch from LHP Jeff Kinley (L, 3-1) down the right field line, plating both runners to give the Shuckers a 4-3 lead. Kinley exited the game in favor of Jose Pena, and Ray took advantage of the new hurler on his first toss, swiping third base and scoring on a throwing error by Rodrigo Vigil, extending the Shuckers lead to 5-3.
RHP Brad Kuntz (W, 2-2) tossed a pair of scoreless innings, allowing just one base runner on a walk while striking out three. RHP Daniel Reynolds (H, 2) earned his second hold by tossing a scoreless eighth, and RHP Nate Griep (S, 21) picked up his league-leading 21st save after hurling a perfect ninth, striking out two.
Game Two of a five-game series against the Jumbo Shrimp is on Saturday night 5:35 PM CT. The Shuckers will send RHP Cody Ponce (2-4, 5.24) to the mound against Jumbo Shrimp RHP Nick Neidert (6-3, 3.03). The game can be heard locally on Cruisin' WGCM AM 1240/100.9 FM, TuneIn Radio or the MiLB First Pitch App.
Single game tickets for the Biloxi Shuckers 2018 season are on sale now and can be purchased at the MGM Park box office or over the phone through Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000. Season tickets, flex plans and group outings are also available and can be reserved by calling 228-233-3465 or visiting www.biloxishuckers.com.
ABOUT THE BILOXI SHUCKERS:
The Biloxi Shuckers are the Double-A Affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. The Shuckers play at MGM Park in Biloxi, Mississippi. For more information please visit biloxishuckers.com and follow us on Twitter @biloxishuckers and at facebook.com/biloxishuckers.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.