JACKSONVILLE, FL -- On the final day of the regular season, the Mississippi Braves needed to pair a victory over the Jacksonville Suns with a Mobile BayBears victory over Pensacola in order to secure a spot in the Southern League Playoffs. The M-Braves succeeded, fighting through a rain delay in the sixth and a wet final two innings at Bragan Field to defeat the Suns 6-5 in 11 innings Monday afternoon.
Mobile defeated Pensacola 10-1 at Hank Aaron Stadium prior to the M-Braves final out. With Mobile's victory, the winner of the Braves-Suns contest would secure a playoff spot. Christian Marrero singled to start the top of the 11th. He moved to second on a ground out and came in to score the game-winning run when Dan Brewer reached on an error by the Suns' shortstop.
Mississippi finished the season with an overall record of 76-63, tallying the most regular-season wins in Mississippi Braves history. The post-season birth is the first for the Double-A Braves since winning the 2008 Southern League Championship. The M-Braves will face Mobile Thursday and Friday at Hank Aaron Stadium and return to Trustmark Park Saturday night for game three of a best-of-five-game series.
The M-Braves jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Mycal Jones led off with a double to center field. He took third on a Christian Bethancourt sacrifice bunt, and Tommy La Stella delivered a RBI-single to center.
Jones was hit by a pitch to start the third. La Stella followed with a base hit to center. Jones was thrown out at third on a double steal attempt, moving La Stella up to second safely. Edward Salcedo drove him home with a single to center, extending the M-Braves lead to 2-0.
Jacksonville loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the third. Austin Barnes drove home Isaac Galloway with a single up the middle, and Mark Canha followed with a bases-clearing double to make it a 4-2 game for the Suns.
Omar Luna reached on a two-out double to start the top of the fourth for the M-Braves. Dan Brewer's base hit drove in Luna to cut the Suns lead to 4-3. Mitch Atkins then doubled to put runners at second and third. Jones followed with a two-run double, putting the M-Braves back out front 5-4.
Jacksonville tied the game at 5-5 in the sixth before the skies gave way to rain. Ryan Fisher's RBI-single drove home Audy Ciriaco. Heavy rains arrived after a walk to Brent Keys, halting play for 39 minutes.
The M-Braves stranded two runners on base in the top of the 10th. Jacksonville loaded the bases in the bottom of the frame but could not score. Ryne Harper and the Braves worked their way out of the jam and moved the contest on to the decisive 11th inning.
Harper (6-3) picked up the win, working two innings in relief. Scott McGough (4-3) suffered the loss for Jacksonville. Gary Moran (S, 1) worked the final frame to pick up his first and only save of the regular season.
The M-Braves take two days off and travel to Mobile for games one and two of the Southern League South Divisional Series. Thursday and Friday's games are scheduled for 7:05 PM at Hank Aaron Stadium. The Braves return to Trustmark Park for game three Saturday. Tickets go on sale at 9:00 AM Tuesday.
Pitching match-ups have not been announced. Should the series go four or five games, the two teams will return to Mobile for those games by virtue of the Braves being the wildcard team and the BayBears winning both halves.
Mississippi Braves (38-31, 76-63): 6 R 13 H 0 E
Jacksonville Suns (39-30, 73-63): 5 R 13 H 1 E
W: Ryne Harper (6-3)
L: Scott McGough (4-3)
S: Gary Moran (1)
Time: 3:54 (:39 delay)
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.