Jackson, Tenn. - Brad Keller would rather forget his August 6th start against the Chattanooga Lookouts, one in which the young right-hander did not complete the first inning. Experience, however, can be a good teacher. Facing the same team three weeks later, the 22-year-old Keller (9-9, 4.94 ERA) took a no-hitter into the seventh inning on Sunday, helping the Jackson Generals to a 3-0 victory at The Ballpark at Jackson.
Keller--who retired 14 straight Lookouts hitters in his best stretch--gave Jackson (29-33, 66-66) his longest start of the year, working seven innings while striking out six men and walking three. Daniel Lockhart and Emilio Bonifacio both hit their first home runs as Generals to help Jackson nose ahead in the fifth inning.
Fresh off a 10-2 loss in the series opener on Saturday, the Generals bounced back on Sunday with a boost from a hyper- efficient Keller. Chattanooga (43-19, 85-47) managed just one walk over the first five innings, as LaMonte Wade drew his 73rd free pass of the year with two outs in the first inning. Thereafter, Keller mowed down the Chattanooga lineup for a while, getting six flyouts and five punchouts during the 14-batter dash into the sixth inning.
After Lookouts catcher Brian Olson grounded out to third base to begin the sixth inning, Keller missed the strike zone with eight of his next eleven pitches, walking two hitters. With men at first and second, Chattanooga's Edgar Corcino hit a groundball to first baseman Kevin Cron, but a throwing error allowed Corcino to reach safely, loading the sacks for Wade. The Lookouts' center fielder hit a soft liner that second baseman Vladimir Frias snared, and the quick-acting Frias deftly pitch the ball to shortstop Galli Cribbs at second base to double-off Chattanooga runner Ryan Walker for the twin-killing. Keller finished the sixth inning with just 78 pitches thrown.
Jonathan Rodriguez, Chattanooga's designated hitter and MVP candidate, led off the seventh inning with lofted single to right field that fell beyond the reach of sun-blinded outfielder Kelly Dugan. The play was ruled a hit, but Keller continued with no loss of effectiveness, inducing a flyout from the next hitter and starting a groundball double play against the hitter after that to end theinning. Keller's no-hit bid constituted the second time this month when a Generals starter carried a potential no-no into or beyond the seventh inning. Right-hander Frank Duncan previously denied any hits to the Biloxi Shuckers through the first eight innings of his start in Jackson on August 18th. Keller finished with 92 pitches thrown, with 51 going for strikes (55%).
Held at bay by Chattanooga's Dereck Rodriguez (5-4, 4.28 ERA) through four innings, the Generals found runs from unlikely sources. Lockhart, a .163 hitter this season in 15 games with Jackson, whipped an 0-2 offering from Rodriguez over the right field fence to lead off the fifth inning with his first Generals home run. Lockhart's homer was his first in the Southern League since July 7, 2016, when he went deep against the Generals as a member of the Tennessee Lookouts.
Rodriguez retired the next two hitters, taking his third turn against Bonifacio with a chance to end the fifth inning. The ten-year MLB veteran denied him, drilling a 1-1 delivery out to right field to put the Generals up 2-0. Bonifacio's home run was his first as a General and his first in the Southern League since August 3, 2007, when he was a 22-year-old Diamondbacks prospect with the Mobile BayBears.
The Generals tacked on a run in the sixth with a bases-loaded groundout from Lockhart, whose two-RBI effort marked a personal best with Jackson. Mason McCullough (H, 8) and Joey Krehbiel (S, 4) each worked a scoreless inning of relief behind Keller to secure the victory.
In the triumph, the Jackson offense extended a streak with three or fewer runs scored to seven consecutive games. Kevin Cron stole his first base of the year and recorded his tenth three-hit game of the season, while Bonifacio finished with two hits. The Generals won despite an 0-for-9 mark with runners in scoring position.
The Generals continue their final homestand with a 6:05 pm start on Monday, as right-hander Frank Duncan (1-2, 4.66 ERA) follows Keller in the rotation. Chattanooga will throw right-hander D.J. Baxendale (0-0, 1.54 ERA) against Duncan to try to re- take the series lead. Fans can listen to all the action starting with the Pregame Show at 5:50 pm CT on Willie 94 FM & 1390 AM, as well as the Jackson Generals Baseball Network via TuneIn Radio!
Only a few home games remain in the Generals' 2017 season! Make sure to get your tickets now to see the 20th season of professional baseball in Jackson, and the first for the team as an affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks! Call the team at (731) 988.5299, stop by The Ballpark or go online to jacksongeneralsbaseball.com to secure your seats now!
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.