By Adam Kline / Tennessee Smokies
KODAK, Tenn. – In arguably his best start to-date this season, Nick Struck fanned nine in six innings leading the Tennessee Smokies to a thrilling 3-2 win over the Huntsville Stars at Smokies Park. With the win, the Smokies improved to 22-30 on the season. The Stars drop to 28-23.
For the second consecutive game the Smokies scored in the bottom of the first to take an early lead. Junior Lake led off by reaching on a bunt single and moved to second on a Jae-Hoon Ha single. Two batters later with the bases loaded, Rebel Ridling hit into a force out at second that allowed Lake to scamper home to make it 1-0.
Tennessee extended their lead to 3-0 in the bottom of the fifth. Lake smoked a double to right to get the inning started and advanced to third on a Logan Watkins single. Lake scored easily as Huntsville starter Evan Anundsen (3-2) threw an errant pickoff attempt to first. Watkins came around to score as Justin Bour singled him home for his league leading 37th RBI.
Struck (5-5) scattered three hits over his six innings of work, and would hand the ball off to the Smokies bullpen.
Huntsville, now trailing the Smokies 3-1, created suspense in the top of the eighth. Hunter Morris hit an RBI double off of reliever Alberto Cabrera to make it a 3-2 ballgame. Kevin Rhoderick came into the game with one out and intentionally walked Kentrail Davis to load the bases, but was able to get out of the inning as Anderson De La Rosa grounded out.
After surrendering a lead-off single, Rhoderick shut the door on Huntsville by getting the next three batters out to earn his sixth save of the season, tying Frank Batista for the team lead.
Lake and Ha led the Smokies offense each going 2-for-4 on the night.
Tennessee and Huntsville will face-off in Game 3 of their five-game series on Wednesday night at 7:15 at Smokies Park. The Smokies will start RHP Dallas Beeler(1-4, 3.93) and the Stars will counter with RHP Tyler Thornburg (6-0, 2.28). Fans will be treated to Buck Night on Wednesday, all hot dogs, small popcorn and small fountain sodas are just $1 each.
LISTEN TO GAME HIGHLIGHTS: May 29, 2012 Stars 2 Smokies 3