By Cody Chrusciel / Smokies Radio Network
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – After battling back from an early 5-0 deficit, the Tennessee Smokies tied the game in the sixth inning but fell to the Huntsville Stars, 9-7, on Thursday night in the finale of a five-game series at Joe Davis Stadium.
Tennessee third baseman Nate Samson finished 4-for-4 with a home run, two doubles, and three RBIs, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Smokies from dropping four of five games in the series.
Trailing 5-0 after two innings, the Smokies broke through when Samson crushed a solo homer to left in the top of the third. The Smokies plated a pair of runs in the fourth on a Justin Bour RBI single and a Mike Burgess sacrifice fly to cut their deficit to 5-3. Ty Wright’s fifth-inning RBI double following a Huntsville error earlier in the frame pushed across an unearned run and made it a 5-4 contest. Tennessee tied the score, 5-5, in the sixth when Samson ripped an RBI double down the left field line.
The Stars regained a 7-5 lead in the seventh on a two-out, two-run double into the right field corner by Andy Gonzalez.
In the top of the eighth, pinch hitter Jae-Hoon Ha lifted a sacrifice fly to center to pull Tennessee within one at 7-6, but Huntsville tacked on a pair of runs in the bottom of the frame on a two-run single by Scooter Gennett to make it a 9-6 contest.
In the top of the ninth, the Smokies drew a pair of one-out walks and, with two outs, Samson singled home a run to pull the Smokies within two at 9-7, but Stars reliever Bradley Blanks got Ha to line out to the left field warning track to end the rally.
Tennessee starter Dae-Eun Rhee allowed five runs on six hits over five innings with two walks and four strikeouts, but didn’t’ factor in the decision. Huntsville reliever Josh Stinson (3-0) earned the win, yielding three runs (two earned) in four innings of work. Dan Berlind (0-2) took the loss, surrendering two runs in two innings out of the Tennessee Bullpen.
The Smokies return home to Smokies Park on Friday night to open up a five-game series against the Chattanooga Lookouts. First pitch of the series opener is slated for 7:15 p.m. with Tennessee scheduled to send southpaw Brooks Raley (1-0, 2.70 ERA) to the mound against Chattanooga right-hander Allen Webster (1-2, 4.70 ERA).
NOTES: Samson entered the night with three hits in 23 at-bats this season… The Smokies matched a season high with 11 runners left on base.
LISTEN TO GAME HIGHLIGHTS: April 19, 2012 Smokies 7 Stars 9