The Birmingham Barons delivered a decisive statement Wednesday night, picking up an 8-3 win over the Mobile BayBears in game one of the Southern League Championship Series in front of 2,673 fans at Hank Aaron Stadium.
The Barons put the pressure on top Minor League Baseball prospect Archie Bradley early, getting a leadoff walk by Michah Johnson after a nine pitch at-bat. Cody Puckett followed, working the count into his favor at 2-0 before crushing a two-run homer to left field and giving the Barons a 2-0 lead.
The lead would grow to 3-0 in the fourth on a two-out double down the third base line by Brandon Jacobs. Dan Black, who singled to leadoff the inning, motored to third base and was waved home by manager Julio Vinas. The relay throw beat Black to the plate but his ensuing collision with catcher Rossmel Perez jarred the ball loose as home plate umpire Ryan Goodman called him safe at home.
Starter Chris Bassitt cruised through the first three innings, allowing just one hit and striking out two but ran into his first trouble in the fourth, allowing two hits and a walk to load the bases. He would recover his composure with a strikeout against Ryan Court to end the inning. He ran into similar trouble again in the sixth, allowing two more singles and a walk to load the bases with two outs for Dustin Martin. But again, Bassitt was able to bear down, striking out Martin swinging to end the threat.
The Barons chased Bradley from the game in the sixth, getting a leadoff single by Mike Earley and a ringing RBI triple by Tyler Saladino into the left-centerfield gap. After a walk to Brandon Jacobs, Mike Blanke brought home Saladino with a base hit to left. Blanke would be the last batter Bradley faced as he was removed in favor of Steve Garrison. Micah Johnson greeted Garrison with an RBI base hit to center, pushing the Barons lead to 6-0.
Bassitt retired the first two batters in the sixth but a base hit by Ryan Court and a pitch count near 100 forced Vinas to go to his bullpen. Bassitt allowed just six hits and struck out seven over 5.2 shutout frames.
Reliever Kevin Vance finished off the sixth inning and tossed two additional shutout innings before a pair of errors by Micah Johnson led to three unearned runs in the ninth. David Cales retired the final batter of the game to preserve the 8-3 win.
Puckett led the Barons offense on the night, going 3-for-6 with a run scored and two RBI while four other Barons recorded multi-hit games.
The Barons will look to take a commanding 2-0 series lead tomorrow night as RHP Chris Beck takes the hill against LHP David Holmberg. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 PM CDT.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.