SEVIERVILLE - Tennessee scored seven runs over the game's first three innings, but it was CF Trey Martin's home run-robbing catch with two outs in the ninth that sealed the Smokies' 8-7 victory over the Birmingham Barons in the team's home finale on Wednesday night in front of 3,987 fans at Smokies Stadium.
With the win, Tennessee captured their final home series of the year and improves to 29-35 on the second half and 57-77 in total. Birmingham's loss drops them to 20-45 in the second leg of the campaign and 49-86 overall.
After recording the first two outs of the ninth on two pitches and down to the game's final strike, LF Courtney Hawkins (0-5, 3 SO) launched a towering fly ball into deep right-center. Martin (0-3, R, SO) traced it back to the fence and leaped to rob a potential game-tying long ball and end the game.
Initially behind 1-0 on a solo home run by RF Keenyn Walker (2-5, 2 R, HR, RBI) - his third of the season - the Smokies rallied back to score runs in each of the first three innings.
In the first, Tennessee was aided by a pair of defensive miscues. LF Chesny Young (3-5, R, 2B, 2 RBI) reached on an error to start the inning and moved to second on sacrifice bunt. RF Kelly Dugan (1-5, R, 2B, RBI) followed with a run-scoring double in to left-center to tie it at one. After another error allowed 1B David Freitas (2-5, 2 R) to reach, Dugan came across to score on a wild pitch, putting the Smokies in front, 2-1. DH Ian Happ (2-5, R, 2 2B, RBI) proceeded to drive in the man at second with a two-bagger of his own to increase the lead to 3-1.
SS Carlos Penalver (2-3, R, 2B, RBI) started the second with a double to left and moved to third on another sacrifice bunt. With two away, 2B Daniel Lockhart (1-3, RBI, BB) laid down a perfect bunt for a single - scoring Penalver - and extending the advantage to 4-1 Smokies.
Birmingham pulled to within 4-2 on a RBI single by 3B Marcus Lemon (2-4, R, RBI, BB) in the third before Tennessee erupted for three more runs in the bottom half of the frame. The Smokies would start the inning with a Freitas single and a Happ double before another wild pitch brought home the lead runner, making it a 5-2 contest. Back-to-back walks to 3B Jason Vosler (2-4, R, 2B, BB, SO) and C Gioskar Amaya (0-3, BB, 2 SO) loaded the bases for Penalver. The shortstop ripped a liner into the gap that was run down, but Happ scored on the sacrifice fly to put Tennessee ahead, 6-2. After a fielder's choice, Young slapped a squibber for an infield single - bringing home Vosler - stretching the advantage to 7-2.
SS Trey Michalczewski (2-4, R, 3B, HR, 3 RBI, SO) added a solo home run in the fourth - the 10th of his campaign - making it a 7-3 affair. Martin (0-3, R, SO) and the Smokies responded in the fifth, as the 23-year-old reached on an error and proceeded to swipe second and third before scoring on a Young double to left-center.
Up 8-3, the Barons rallied to pull within a run, but that was as close as they would get. 2B Joey DeMichele (1-4, R, HR, 2 RBI, 2 SO) clocked a two-run shot to left - his 11th of the year - to make it 8-5 in the sixth, while Michalczewski rapped a two-run triple to right-center in the seventh.
RHP Jonathan Martinez (5.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, BB, 8 SO) tied a season-high with eight strikeouts in his Double-A debut. The 22-year-old surrendered just three runs on five innings to earn his first Double-A win and his 13th of the season. Barons' RHP Thaddius Lowry (3.0 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 4 ER, 2 BB) was pummeled for seven runs (four earned) in three innings, suffering his second loss at the Double-A level. RHP James Farris (2.0 IP, 2 SO) recorded the game's final six outs for his fifth save with the Smokies.
The Smokies open up their final series of the 2016 regular season tomorrow night as they travel to take on the Montgomery Biscuits, the Double-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays. RHP Zach Hedges (3-2, 2.23 ERA) is expected to toe the slab for Tennessee in the lid-lifter. LHP Chris Kirsch (6-7, 3.38 ERA) is projected to grab the ball in the opener for Montgomery.
The Pilot Pre-Game Show will kick off the broadcast at 7:50 p.m. ET, leading up to the 8:05 p.m. ET start from Riverwalk Stadium. Thursday night's contest can be heard exclusviely on SmokiesBaseball.com or via the TuneIn Radio or MiLB First Pitch apps.
The Smokies open their 2017 campaign at home schedule on Wednesday, April 12, starting a five-game series against the Mississippi Braves, the Double-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves. The entire 2017 schedule, in addition to season ticket information, can be found online at smokiesbaseball.com.
The Tennessee Smokies Charity of Choice for the 2016 season is Alzheimer's Tennessee. Alzheimer's Tennessee's mission is to serve those facing Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, to promote brain health through education, and to champion global prevention and treatment efforts. For more information on how to join the Tennessee Smokies in helping Alzheimer's Tennessee achieve their mission, please visit http://www.alztennessee.org/smokies/.
ABOUT THE TENNESSEE SMOKIES
The Tennessee Smokies are the Double-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. Members of the ten-team Southern League, Smokies baseball has been entertaining families and fans of America's national pastime in the East Tennessee region for over 100 years. To learn more about the Tennessee Smokies, visit www.smokiesbaseball.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.