The postseason couldn't come soon enough for Tennessee starter Mark Holliman following a sub-par August.
After posting a 2-3 record with a 5.50 ERA in the final month of the regular season, Holliman tossed a seven-inning gem Thursday for Tennessee in a 6-3 win over Huntsville in Game 1 of their Southern League playoff series.
Holliman (1-0) had struggled during the second half in the season, going 3-4 with a 4.98 ERA since tossing a seven-inning no-hitter against the Stars on June 21. He returned to his first-half form, allowing Huntsville two runs on five hits and a walk with six strikeouts.
"The biggest thing for me tonight was being able to mix up all my pitches," Holliman said. "My fastball was really working for me, I was locating it pretty well and it had good life on it, too."
The Smokies offense had early life as Tennessee scored four runs in the first, highlighted by Issmael Salas' two-run double.
"This is just my second year as a pro, so you can definitely say that the adrenaline was going," Holliman said. "Having my teammates give me such a lead right at the beginning really helped out. But once I got through the first inning all right, that made things a lot better."
Geoffrey Jones took over in the eighth, but after giving up a run on a hit and two walks, Rocky Roquet relieved Jones with two outs. He recorded the final four outs to get the save.
To take the first game of the best-of-5 series at Davis Municipal Stadium was crucial. The Smokies went 6-12 against the Stars in the regular season.
"[The win] was pretty big for us, without a doubt," Holliman said. "We really haven't played well against them all year, especially here at their place, so getting this win meant a lot for us."
Tennessee's Casey McGehee had an RBI single in the fourth and drove in another run in the ninth on a sacrifice fly.
Huntsville came within two runs of the visitors on Hernan Iribarren's RBI single in the eighth. Lou Palmisano and Steven Sollmann had run-scoring doubles in the fourth and seventh respectively.
Starter Sam Narron (0-1) surrendered five runs -- four earned -- on eight hits and two walks over four innings.