The Chattanooga Lookouts (3-2) defeated the Huntsville Stars (2-3), 7-6 to clinch a berth in the Southern League Championship for the first time since 1996. Chattanooga will face the Jacksonville Suns in a best-of-five series starting on Wednesday, September 10 at AT&T Field with first pitch set for 7:15 p.m.
Chattanooga found themselves in an early 2-0 deficit when Yadiel Rivera hit a ball to starting pitcher Nick Struck, who committed a throwing error to allow two runners to score.
In the bottom of the inning the red-hot Chris O'Brien cut the deficit in half with his second home run of the playoffs. The backstop has now hit six home runs since the start of August and has three RBIs so far this postseason.
The Lookouts' offense began to take off in the fourth inning when O'Brien struck again, this time singling home Daniel Mayora who led off the inning with a walk. With two outs Angel Sanchez pinch-hit for Struck and delivered his second pinch-hit RBI of the series to put the Lookouts up 3-2.
Up by one the team looked to expand their lead. Outfielder Bobby Coyle Jr. led off the fifth with a double and scored on a single by Corey Seager. After an O'Brien walk, O'Koyea Dickson delivered a three-run home run over the left field wall to make the score 7-2.
With a five-run lead the Lookouts seemed to be well on their way to their first ever North Division title (divisions were realigned in 2005), but Huntsville closed the gap in the top of the seventh. Newly added right-hander Jose Dominguez made his 2014 Lookouts' debut and allowed three runs on two hits and a walk.
Things continued to go south for Chattanooga when Rivera led off the top of the ninth with a single. Nick Shaw then doubled to put runners on second and third with one out. A wild pitch by Daniel Coulombe scored Rivera to put the Stars within one run, but then clamped down and struck out pinch-hitter Shawn Zarraga looking to end the game and clinch the North Division Title. Coulombe now has three saves this postseason with a 1.93 ERA in 4.2 innings.
Today's win marks the first time the Lookouts have won a playoff series since 1996 when they snagged a three-games-to-one series victory over Memphis. The team went on to lose to Jacksonville in the Championship Game three-games-to-one. It is also the first time the team has defeated Huntsville in a playoff series since 1992 (won three-games-to-one).
On Wednesday, the team will welcome in the Jacksonville Suns for the first two games of the Southern League Championship Series. This upcoming series will mark the first time the two teams have met in the playoffs since 2001 when Jacksonville took three-out-of-five games in the first round. Chattanooga will be looking to win their first Southern League title since 1988, when they swept Greenville.
Starters for Wednesday's game are yet to be announced, but the first pitch is set for 7:15 p.m at AT&T Field.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.