Johnson Outduels Stephenson, Wahoos in 4-1 Win


KODAK – Smokies right-hander Pierce Johnson took a no-hitter into the sixth and retired all but one of the first 18 batters faced to outduel top Reds prospect and Pensacola starter Robert Stephenson, while Tennessee shortstop Addison Russell smashed a two-run homer to beat the Blue Wahoos 4-1 on Sunday afternoon at Smokies Stadium.

The win sets up a winner-takes-all rubber match for Monday evening, and improved the Smokies’ second half record to 22-22, while Pensacola fell to 17-27. Tennessee’s victory keeps the Smokies at worst within just a game and a half behind the Birmingham Barons for first place in the North Division standings.

In a matchup of two of Baseball America’s top 100 prospects, it was Johnson who got the better of Blue Wahoos right-hander Robert Stephenson in the win to earn his fourth victory of the 2014 campaign. Stephenson (6.0 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 7 SO)suffered the loss despite a strong showing, at one point retiring 14 consecutive batters that included four full innings.

The 23-year-old Johnson set down 17 of the first 18 batters he faced until yielding a two-out base knock to his adversary Stephenson on a single through the left side of the infield in the sixth. Prior to that point, the lone blemish on the Colorado native’s resume was a second-inning free to Wahoos LF Kyle Waldrop, who would subsequently be picked off at first by Johnson.

The victory continued a solid stretch for the Colorado native in his last seven starts over the course of the second half of 2014. Over that time frame, the 23-year-old has posted a 3-3 record and 1.59 ERA (7 ER in 39.2 IP), adding 41 strikeouts in that span. Entering action today, Johnson ranked second among all Southern League pitchers in strikeouts dating back to July 2.

Smokies relievers Andrew McKirahan (2.0 IP, 1 H, 1 SO) and Frank Batista (1.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER) went the rest of the way to preserve the victory, while Pensacola relief men Scott Maine (1.0 IP, 1 SO) and Drew Hayes (1.0 IP, 1 H, 2 SO) joined forces to combine for the last two scoreless frames.

Johnson and Tennessee would get all the offense they would need in the first frame thanks to Russell’s roundtripper. After CF Albert Almora reached on a force out, Russell ripped his eighth homer since joining the Smokies with a two-run blast over the roof of Calhoun’s At The Yard, to give the Smokies a 2-0 lead in the first.

Russell has been red-hot at the plate over his last 11 games with the club, and has recorded at least one hit in all but one of those contests. In that span dating back to July 24, the 20-year-old infielder has accumulated a .378 average (17-45), adding nine runs, two doubles, five homers and ten RBI.

The Smokies’ advantage then doubled to four courtesy of a two-run two-bagger in the sixth. Almora was hit by a pitch, while Russell reached via a base on balls to bring up LF Lars Anderson, who laced a double down the right field line to plate both Almora and Russell and increase the margin to 4-0.

Tennessee’s shutout thoughts would end in the final frame, with Pensacola plating a tally in the ninth. CF Yorman Rodriguez reached on a single to left, moved to second on defensive indifference and third on SS Brodie Greene’s base knock to right, before coming across on C Rossmel Perez’s run-scoring single to right.

Greene (2-4) was the only player from either side to record a multi-hit effort in the contest, while Russell and Anderson each drove in two runs for the Smokies. With his ninth-inning RBI single, Perez has now driven in a total of seven runs over four games against Tennessee with the series finale remaining Monday evening.

That contest will be a rubber match and decide the series, with first pitch scheduled for 7:15 p.m. at Smokies Stadium. Tennessee is anticipated to give the ball to RHP Eduardo Figueroa (2-1, 4.53), while Pensacola is expected to counter with RHP Michael Lorenzen (4-5, 2.57).

It’s McGhee Tyson Airport Low Fare Monday in Kodak for the final game of the five-game set, with fans truly getting the bang for their buck at the ballpark. Hot dogs, popcorn, small Pepsi products and programs will all be available for only one dollar each.

Tickets for that game and the remainder of the Smokies’ 2014 home schedule are still available and can be purchased online at, or by calling the Smokies Ticket Office at 286-2300.

Listen to Manager Buddy Bailey’s post-game press conference below:

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Categories: Game Recap


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