An 11-year wait is over as the Barons head back to the Southern League Championship Series for the first time since 2002 after a pressure-packed 7-4 win against the Tennessee Smokies in Monday's decisive fifth game at Smokies Park.
The Smokies jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead in the first against starter Myles Jaye, getting a two-out RBI single by Christian Villanueva.
However, the Barons struck right back in the top of the second, loading the bases and tying the game on an RBI groundout by Brandon Jacobs. Mike Blanke followed with a base hit to center, giving the Barons their first lead at 2-1.
The Smokies benefitted from yet another two-out hit in the bottom of the inning, getting an RBI base hit by Arismendy Alcantara to tie the game at 2-2.
The Barons would take control with four runs in the fourth thanks in part to three errors by the Smokies defense. Trayce Thompson led off the inning with a single and went all the way to third on back-to-back walks to Blanke and Jared Mitchell, loading the bases and driving starter Neil Ramirez from the game. Matt Loosen relieved and induced a ground ball to second base off the bat of Micah Johnson, but the ball ate up Alcantara allowing Saladino and Blanke to score. Mitchell would score later on the play on a throwing error by catcher Taylor Davis. After a pop out by Cody Puckett, Trayce Thompson sent a ground ball to shortstop that Javier Baez mishandled, allowing Johnson to score and giving the Barons a 6-2 advantage.
Baez atoned for the error in the 5th with a towering home run to left-center field against reliever Nestor Molina (1-0, 3.18), cutting the Barons lead to 6-4. It was Baez's second home run of the series. Following Beaz's home run, Ryan Kussmaul was brought in and provided 3.0 scoreless innings in relief before giving up a two-out walk to John Andreoli in the eight.
The Barons tacked on an insurance run in the 9th after getting a leadoff double by Jared Mitchell. He would advance to third on a bunt single by Johnson and scored on a sacrifice fly by Puckett, giving the Barons a 7-4 lead.
Cody Winiarski allowed a base hit in the 9th but struck out Baez to earn the save as the Barons poured onto the field in celebration of their first championship appearance in over a decade. It was also the franchise's first game five win since the 2002 Western Division Series against the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx.
The Barons will head to Mobile to face the two-time defending champion BayBears in the Southern League Championship, beginning Wednesday, September 11th. Game times in the series to be determined.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.