Nathan Lukes hasn't shown much power over three seasons in the Minor Leagues, but he came through with the big hit when Double-A Montgomery needed him most.
The Rays outfield prospect delivered the decisive blow with a go-ahead homer in the eighth inning to lead the Biscuits to a 3-2 victory over the Lookouts on Thursday night at AT&T Field. The best-of-5 Southern League semifinals is tied at a game apiece.
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"Just to get an extra game is amazing," said Lukes, who's hit nine homers in 224 career Minor League games. "It's one step closer to going big and it's just an unreal experience. We're just having fun. Hopefully, we get to celebrate at the end of it."
After Montgomery fell, 4-3, in Game 1 on Wednesday, the 2015 seventh-round pick said the team needed to play with more urgency to make sure they didn't fall into a deeper hole.
"We've struggled against Chattanooga," he said. "We've always put up a good fight and every single game has been pretty close -- it's just a matter of one run, two runs. But every run that we can get helps and every inning our pitchers can throw up a zero, at the end of the day, helps. It's a team effort and that's how we're going to win."
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With Montgomery leading in the seventh, 2-1, T.J. White tied the game with a solo homer to left field. Leading off the eighth against reliever Cody Stashak, Lukes knew he'd get at least one good pitch to handle. The 23-year-old slugged a long ball over the right-field wall on the first offering.
"The first two at-bats I had [Thursday] I had a feel for what [Dereck Rodriguez] had," Lukes said. "I haven't been swinging the bat too well as of right now, but once they changed that pitcher, I had a feeling that he was going to go first-pitch heater. Luckily, that's what he gave me.
"The best part was crossing home plate and my entire team is just hanging over the edge [of the dugout] screaming and yelling. It's just a good sight to see."
Edwin Fierro (1-0) pitched a clean frame of relief in the seventh before Ian Gibaut worked around three walks in two innings to earn the save. The Biscuits stand two wins away from becoming league co-champions.
"We get to go home now and get to play in front of our home fans," Lukes said. "It's just amazing and hopefully we get to keep it going."
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Game 3 is scheduled for 7:35 p.m. ET Friday at Riverwalk Stadium.
Other SL playoff action:
Blue Wahoos 6, Jumbo Shrimp 3
Josh VanMeter went 3-for-4 and fell a triple shy of the cycle, while starter Jose Lopez allowed one run on three hits and a walk with nine strikeouts through eight innings as Pensacola took a 2-0 lead in the other semifinal. Box score