BILOXI, MS - Southern League most valuable player Max Kepler belted two two-out homeruns and Jason Wheeler took a no-hitter into the sixth for the Chattanooga Lookouts, as they defeated the Biloxi Shuckers a 6-1 in front of a crowd of 3,173 at MGM Park. Biloxi's four-game winning streak to start the postseason came to a halt on Thursday night and evened the series at one game apiece in this best-of-five set, as series becomes a best-of-three heading into AT&T Field in Chattanooga, Tenn. starting on Saturday.
Kepler snapped out of a 3-for-19 slump to start the postseason in a big way on Thursday, smacking a solo homerun in the first to put Biloxi in a 1-0 hole before even taking a swing.
The Berlin, Germany native was at it again in the fifth with a grand slam to break the game open, placing the Shuckers in a five-run deficit. Biloxi starter Adrian Houser (1-1) started the inning with two quick outs from Heiker Meneses and Stuart Turner, but a single by Shannon Wikerson and back-to-back walks to Steve Wickens and Jorge Polanco set the stage for Kepler's slam.
Houser took the hill attempting to replicate his complete-game shutout performance over the Pensacola Blue Wahoos in game two of the Division Series on Sept. 11 in which the Oklahoma native allowed three hits and struck out 10, but failed to make it out of the fifth for the second time in his last three starts dating back to his final regular season start on Sept. 5 against the Tennessee Smokies. In 4.2 innings on Thursday, the 22-year-old allowed five runs on three hits, three walks and five punchouts.
Biloxi's (1-1) offense was no-hit by Wheeler (1-0) through the first five innings, but broke through in the sixth with three consecutive singles by Nick Shaw (2x3, R), Yadiel Rivera (1x3, BB) and Orlando Arcia (1x4) to start the frame. Michael Reed (0x1, 3 BB) lined out to third for the first out and Garrett Cooper (0x3, RBI) grounded out to second, scoring Shaw to break up the shutout bid.
Chattanooga (1-1) brought the Shuckers' deficit back to five with another two-out run in the seventh when Travis Harrison singled up the middle against Drew Gagnon to plate Turner.
Both teams will take a breather on Friday and travel to Chattanooga for game three on Saturday. Southern League ERA champion RHP Tyler Wagner (1-0, 0.00) takes the bump for the Shuckers, while it has yet to be determined who will make the start for the Lookouts. First pitch is scheduled for 6:15 p.m., with coverage beginning at 6:00 p.m. on 1240-AM WGCM, 1580-AM WPMO and the Biloxi Shuckers Radio Network. Fans can also listen to the game using the TuneIn Radio app or by going to www.biloxishuckers.com.