Montgomery, Ala. - The Jackson Generals, the Double-A affiliate of Major League Baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks, booked a return trip to the Southern League Championship Series on Saturday night, taking down the Montgomery Biscuits, 6-5 at Riverwalk Stadium.
. The win gave Jackson (3-1) the North Division Series over Montgomery (1-3) for the second time in as many postseasons, setting up the Generals to host Game 3, Game 4, and Game 5 of the SLCS against either Biloxi (2-2) or Pensacola (2-2) starting Friday, September 13 at The Ballpark at Jackson.
Saturday's action began with a bang, as Jackson outfielder Ben DeLuzio clobbered the third pitch from Montgomery left-hander Shane McClanahan for a towering solo home run to left field that led off the game. The Biscuits answered in the bottom of the first with a two-run shot by Brett Sullivan off Generals right-hander Emilio Vargas (1-0, 4.50 ERA), taking the Biscuits' first lead since Game 1 of the series. The score remained at 2-1 until the third, when Jackson tied the contest on a clutch RBI single to right field by Ramon Hernandez that scored Pavin Smith.
The 23-year-old Smith would factor prominently in the fourth inning as well. Ryan Grotjohn stroked a lead-off double to center field to get the inning started, and Camden Duzenack followed by mashing a lead-taking triple to left field for a 3-2 advantage that concluded a ten-pitch at-bat. After a flyout, Daulton Varsho earned his way aboard by wearing a pitch from Montgomery's Tommy Romero (0-1, 21.60 ERA), bringing Smith to the plate for the Generals. Entering the at-bat in a 2-for-14 rut, Smith smoked a 2-1 pitch from Romero for a three-run blast to right field, his first in two weeks. The homer made Jackson's lead 6-2.
On the hill, Vargas pitched into the sixth inning before allowing another Montgomery tally. A two-out RBI double by Biscuits left fielder Carl Chester brought the Biscuits within 6-3, but Vargas closed the inning with a strikeout, finishing with six punchouts, two walks, and three runs allowed on five hits. Cole Stapler pitched the seventh, giving up a solo homer to Miles Mastrobuoni that allowed Montgomery to pull within 6-4. In the eighth, Kevin McCanna battled through an outfield error that allowed Tristan Gray --- his former college teammate at Rice University --- to reach base. McCanna shut down the next three Biscuits to push the game into the ninth inning with Jackson leading, 6-4.
In the bottom of the ninth, West Tunnell (S, 1) loaded the bases with two walks and a single, drawing pitching coach Doug Drabek out of the dugout for a meeting with the whole Jackson infield on the mound. Following the conference, Tunnell got aggressive, striking out Taylor Walls on three pitches before inducing a sacrifice fly to deep center field from Sullivan, scoring Mastrobuoni and allowing Thomas Milone, the potential game-tying run, to advance to third base. Facing Gray --- who hit four homers against the Generals during the regular season --- Tunnell coaxed a flyout to Varsho in center field, who snared the game's final out to clinch Jackson's second straight SLCS berth.
Smith finished the game 2-for-4 with two runs scored and three RBI, helping the Jackson offense to a 3-for-11 mark with men in scoring position. Hernandez added his own 2-for-4 effort with a run driven in, and Drew Ellis went 2-for-5, cementing the outright team lead in hits (7) and total bases (19) through the four-game series. McCanna and Tunnell were the only relievers to appear multiple times in the series (twice each). McCanna threw two shutout innings without allowing a hit or a walk to the eight batters he faced. Tunnell was the only reliever to pitch on consecutive nights, closing Game 3 and Game 4 for Jackson.
For the second year in a row, the Generals will play for a Southern League title! The Generals have earned their way back into the Southern League Championship Series, and this year, they have the right to host Games 3, 4, and 5 of the SLCS at The Ballpark at Jackson! Game 3 is set for Friday, September 13, at 6:05 p.m. CT, with Games 4 and 5 to follow on Saturday, September 14, and Sunday, September 15 if necessary. Buy your tickets through the box office at The Ballpark at Jackson in person, by calling 731.988.5299, or online through JacksonGeneralsBaseball.com!
The Jackson Generals, a West Tennessee franchise since 1998, are the Double-A minor league affiliate of Major League Baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks. The Generals play at The Ballpark at Jackson, Tennessee's 2017 & 2018 Pro Sports Field of the Year. Next June, The Ballpark at Jackson will host the 2020 Southern League All-Star Game, and you can purchase 2020 season tickets today by calling 731.988.5299 or visiting JacksonGeneralsBaseball.com!
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.