CHATTANOOGA, Ten. - Jonathan Rodriguez' walk-off two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth won the Southern League Championship for the Chattanooga Lookouts in a dramatic, unforgettable 3-2 victory over the Biscuits on Sunday night at AT&T Field. The Lookouts are co-champions in 2017 with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos with the Championship Series being canceled due to Hurricane Irma.
The Biscuits entered Sunday night having forced a winner-take-all Game 5 in their 2-0 victory in Saturday night's Game 4, and sent Benton Moss to the mound against Minnesota Twins rehabber Dietrich Enns. In the top of the first, in a repeat of the series opener, Biscuits left fielder Joe McCarthy opened the scoring with a lead-off solo homer in the first at-bat of the game over the right field wall to put Montgomery up, 1-0.
After Moss worked a scoreless first, Andy Wilkins stepped up and crushed a game-tying solo shot, also over the right field wall, to make it 1-1. Enns would settle down after allowing the McCarthy blast, keeping the Biscuits off the board through the second and third innings. But in the fourth, after retiring the first two batters, the left-hander would allow an opposite-field double to Dalton Kelly-the first hit of the series for the Biscuits first baseman.
Next up was Biscuits catcher Nick Ciuffo, who swung at a 3-0 pitch and dumped a broken-bat, jam-shot single into left field to score Kelly and put the Biscuits back in front at 2-1. Michael Russell was the next batter, and the third baseman stroked a double into left as Ciuffo was waved home. But the relay throw to the plate by Lookouts shortstop Nick Gordon was in time to get the Biscuits backstop and keep it 2-1.
Moss would end up going 5.2 innings of one-run ball, surrendering just five hits, no walks, and four strikeouts in a no-decision, and Enns went four innings, allowing those two runs on five hits, no walks, and four strikeouts in another no-decision.
The Biscuits would use three relievers including Travis Ott, who made his Biscuits debut, Edwin Fierro, and Kyle Bird to preserve their one-run advantage, as the Lookouts countered with three of their own in Randy LeBlanc, Todd Van Steensel, and Anthony McIver (1-0), each of whom kept Montgomery scoreless the rest of the game.
With the Biscuits up 2-1, and with tensions at an all-time high, the game moved into the bottom of the ninth where Montgomery skipper Brady Williams brought on closer Ian Gibaut (0-1) to slam the door and give Butter and Blue their first Southern League Championship since 2007.
But LaMonte Wade would single to start the bottom of the ninth, and then Rodriguez, who had destroyed the Biscuits all season with a .349 batting average against them in the regular season, swung at the first pitch he saw from Gibaut and hammered a two-run homer over the field wall to send the Lookouts into a frenzy as they walked off as Southern League Champions for the second time in three years in an astounding 3-2 victory.
The defeat was the Biscuits first-ever in a Game 5, their only other Game 5 coming in a title-clinching win over Huntsville in the Championship Series back in 2007. The Biscuits still finished the 2017 campaign with the second-best record in the Southern League (76-64) behind Chattanooga (91-49), and were three outs away from winning their third-ever title in team history. The Biscuits still made the playoffs for a third-consecutive season, and should have a another strong team going into 2018.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.