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McKinney, Smokies Walk Off With 6-5 Win

Contreras Records Three Hits, Raises League-Best Average To .342
August 7, 2015

Smokies right fielder Billy McKinney slapped a walk-off run-scoring single in the bottom of the ninth after Jackson erased an early five-run deficit, while center fielder Albert Almora Jr. and catcher Willson Contreras each recorded three hits and three relievers combined for 3.2 shutout frames in Tennessee's 6-5 walk-off win over the Generals on Friday night in front of 5,767 fans at Smokies Stadium.

The victory moved the Smokies to 19-21 in the second half of the 2015 campaign, as well a a 58-51 overall record. The Generals, meanwhile, dropped to 13-27 since the midpoint of the season, while also falling to 42-66 over the entire year. The large crowd continues a banner year for Tennessee in attendance, having welcomed an average of over 4,300 fans, putting the organization on pace to set a new franchise record in that category.

Entering the bottom of the ninth tied at five runs apiece, Contreras led off the frame by ripping a double down the left field line to set the scene for McKinney, who had already recorded one walk-off knock this year. The 20-year-old laced a line drive into center field, with Contreras racing around third and diving headfirst just in front of the relay throw to end the contest and cue the celebration.

The walk-off win was the fifth of the year for the Smokies, with the most recent coming in the second game of a doubleheader on July 21 against the Birmingham Barons on former infielder Bryant Flete's two-run home run. McKinney earlier this year slammed a game-ending RBI single on July 3 against the Montgomery Biscuits in a 6-5 win.

McKinney (2-4, 2B, 2 RBI, BB) was one of four Smokies to record a multi-hit effort, including three-hit outings from Almora Jr. (3-4, R, 2B, BB) and Contreras (3-5, 2 R, 2B), as well as two base knocks from 1B Wes Darvill (2-3, RBI, BB). Contreras extended his hitting streak to 11 and also raised his Southern League leading batting average to .342 over the course of the 2015 campaign, batting .545 (24-44) with ten runs, five doubles, one homer and 13 RBI since the streak began on July 28. In addition to leading the circuit in batting average, the backstop also entered play today ranked second in on-base percentage, third in hits, RBI and doubles, fourth in total bases and fifth in slugging percentage.

The Smokies got off to a hot start, plating a five-spot in the initial frame. LF Bijan Rademacher began the last of the first with a double to right-center, and then advanced to third on Almora Jr.'s perfectly placed infield bunt single down the third base line, before coming across on a Generals error to get Tennessee on the board.

After 3B Tommy La Stella's walk and Contreras' base knock filled the bases, DH Jeimer Candelario and McKinney drew back-to-back free passes to force in two to extend the lead to 3-0. Contreras then came plateward when 2B Stephen Bruno reached on a fielder's choice, while Darvill capped the frame with a run-scoring single up the middle, giving the Smokies an early 5-0 advantage.

Jackson would soon cut into the deficit with single tallies in the next three innings. C Marcus Littlewood led off the second with a solo home run to right, his fifth roundtripper of the season, to put the Generals on the board, before CF Ian Miller doubled in the very next inning and scored via 1B Dan Paolini's RBI base knock to narrow the margin to three. Consecutive two-baggers in the fifth down the left field line from DH Anderlin Rodriguez and LF Jabari Henry then sliced the Smokies' lead to 5-3.

The Generals would complete the comeback two innings later with a pair of runs in the sixth. Rodriguez began the frame with a base on balls, advanced to second on RF Zach Shank's base hit and third on a wild pitch, before being brought home thanks to an RBI groundout, cutting Tennessee's lead to one. Following Miller's walk, Shank scored when SS Tyler Smith roped a single to left, drawing the contest even at 5-5, which would remain the score until the ninth.

Smokies relievers Juan Paniagua (0.2 IP, H, 2 BB, SO), Corey Black (2.0 IP, 2 BB, 4 SO) and Starling Peralta (1.0 IP, 2 BB, 2 SO) combined for the final 3.2 shutout innings of one-hit ball, with Peralta earning his first Double-A victory, while Generals relief man Paul Fry (0.1 IP, 2 H, R, ER) suffered the defeat. Neither team's starter, Tennessee's Andres Santiago (5.1 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 5 BB, 4 SO) nor Jackson's Misael Siverio (0.1 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 0 SO), factored in the final decisions.

The Smokies and Generals are set to face off Saturday evening in the second game of their five-game series with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. at Smokies Stadium. Tennessee is expected to give the ball to RHP Pierce Johnson (5-0, 1.65), while Jackson is slated to counter with RHP Moises Hernandez (3-8, 4.53).

Fans will want to arrive early, as the first 1,000 kids age 14 and under will receive a Smokies Youth Jersey, with gates open at 5:45 pm. It's also the second night of the "Geekend" themed weekend with Harry Potter Night at the ballpark. Fans are encouraged to dress up like their favorite characters, while there will also be specially themed on-field games, music and videoboard graphics tailored to the movies as part of the festivities.

Tickets for all remaining home contests at Smokies Stadium are still available and can be purchased online at, or by calling the Smokies Ticket Office at 865-286-2300.