KODAK – Blue Wahoos starter Ben Lively faced the minimum through seven innings and took a no-hitter into the eighth inning, while catcher Ross Perez drove in four runs as Pensacola held off a late Smokies comeback attempt to top Tennessee 6-4 in front of a crowd of 5,068 on Thursday evening at Smokies Stadium.
With the win, Pensacola upped their second half record to 16-25 in 2014, and have now won five of six meetings with the Smokies this season. Tennessee fell to 20-21 since the midpoint of the 2014 campaign, in addition to a 53-57 overall mark.
Lively (7.1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 SO) was nearly immaculate through his seven plus innings on the mound, retiring 21 of the first 22 batters faced. The lone blemish on the Pensacola native’s resume through the first seven frames was a third inning walk yielded to C Luis Flores, who was then eliminated as part of a double play to allow Lively to face the minimum through seven and one third innings.
The right-hander earned his first victory at the Double-A level with his strong outing after being promoted to Pensacola in late June, while Blue Wahoos reliever Ben Klimesh (0.1 IP, 1 H) received his second hold of the season and closer Shane Dyer (1.0 IP) notched his 13th save. Tennessee starting pitcher Felix Pena (4.0 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 4 SO) suffered the loss in his Double-A debut with the Smokies, while Matt Loosen (2.0 IP, 1 BB, 2 SO) tossed two scoreless frames in relief.
The Blue Wahoos’ bats got going early with a single tally in the opening frame. CF Yorman Rodriguez led off the contest with a double to left, and then moved to third on SS Brodie Greene’s infield bunt single before coming home on C Ross Perez’s RBI base knock to left to push Pensacola to a 1-0 lead.
Perez would then triple the margin to three two innings later. Pitcher Ben Lively began the frame with a free pass and Rodriguez reached on an infield single, with each advancing a base on a sacrifice bunt, prior to Perez’s two-run two-bagger to right to make it a 3-0 Blue Wahoos advantage.
Pensacola would subsequently use a pair of longballs to go up by five in the next inning. 3B Seth Mejoas-Brean and RF Juan Duran started the fourth with back-to-back homers to left, with Duran’s smashing off the scoreboard to increase the Smokies’ deficit to 5-0. It marked the first time since April 22 against the Birmingham Barons that Tennessee had yielded back-to-back jacks.
The Blue Wahoos would plate another tally thanks to Perez again in the seventh to extend the advantage to six. Rodriguez began the inning with a double to center, and advanced to third on a groundout, before coming home on Perez’s run-scoring base knock to center.
Lively’s no-hit bid would get broken up in the eighth, with the Smokies collecting six consecutive hits to cut into the deficit. After 3B Christian Villanueva reached with a single to left, 2B Jonathan Mota smacked a base hit up the middle to bring up C Luis Flores, who dropped a bloop single into right to plate Villanueva and end the shutout hopes.
1B Dustin Geiger would then immediately follow with a two-run double to center to send in Mota and Flores to make it a three-run game, while Geiger would be thrown out at home on pinch hitter Charlie Cutler’s single to left. The six-hit streak would be capped by RF Jae-Hoon Ha courtesy of his RBI single to left to bring the Smokies to within two at 6-4, with Klimesh breaking the stretch and Dyer firing a perfect final frame.
Perez (3-4, 1 2B, 4 RBI) and Rodriguez (3-5, 3 R, 2 2B) led the Pensacola batting order with three hits each, with Perez driving in four RBI, while no Smokies hitters recorded a multi-hit effort. Tennessee SS Addison Russell saw his seven-game hit streak come to an end after going hitless in four at bats.
The Smokies will look to even the series with the Blue Wahoos on Friday evening, with first pitch scheduled for 7:15 p.m.Tennessee is expected to give the nod to RHP Corey Black (5-6, 2.93), while Pensacola is slated to send RHP Daniel Corcino (9-9, 4.44) to the mound.
The force will be strong on Star Wars Night at Smokies Stadium on Friday evening, with Smokies players and coaches donning special Star Wars themed jerseys that will be auctioned and raffled off to benefit The United Way of Knox and Sevier County. Encouraged, fans are, to dress like their favorite Star Wars characters, while several characters will also be on hand to take in the festivities.
In addition, a post-game fireworks show presented by Coor’s Light, Pepsi, Knoxville News Sentinel, WVLT and WIVK will also take place with music from the movies. In addition, all Friday night Smokies home games are presented by Remote Area Medical.
Tickets for that game and the remainder of the Smokies’ 2014 home schedule are still available and can be purchased online at smokiesbaseball.com, or by calling the Smokies Ticket Office at 286-2300.
Listen to Manager Buddy Bailey’s post-game press conference below: