CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – Anthony Giansanti homered in the second and drove in the eventual game winning run in the fifth as the Smokies snapped a seven game losing streak, and put themselves into a tie for first, with a 6-5 win on Friday night in Chattanooga.
The Tennessee (66-70, 33-34) victory put them back into a tie for first with Chattanooga (58-77, 32-33) in the Second Half Standings with just three games remaining this season.
Smokies’ reliever Hunter Cervenka (4-4, 3.79) earned the win as he worked one and 2/3 scoreless innings. He was the second of five Tennessee relievers to appear in the game. Those five, comprised of Matt Loosen, Cervenka, Blake Cooper, Frank Batista and Andrew McKirahan, combined to shutout the Lookouts between the fourth and ninth innings.
Cooper and Batista each earned holds and McKirahan retired one in the ninth while collecting his second save of the season.
After not collecting a hit against Andres Santiago on Thursday night, the Smokies rallied for four hits and three runs off starter Nick Struck in the first inning on Friday night and took an early lead.
The rally started with a lead off double from Pin-Chieh Chen and continued with a one-out single to center from Addison Russell. Lars Anderson and Christian Villanueva both ripped back-to-back doubles, with Villanueva’s being a two-run knock that gave the Smokies a 3-0 lead.
Not to be outdone, Chattanooga leadoff man Darnell Sweeney doubled to start the Lookouts half of the first and later scored on a wild pitch.
Corey Black started for Tennessee and would see two balls get by his catcher Luis Flores in the inning. The first was a passed ball that allowed Sweeney to third and the second was a wild pitch that allowed the game’s first run.
Tennessee led 3-1 after one, but Giansanti changed that in the second when he led off the inning with a solo home run to left. It was his third homer of the season and came on a 3-1 pitch from his former teammate Struck.
Struck allowed two hits in the second, but just one run. Tennessee led 4-1 going into the last of the second, but that lead evaporated quickly as the Lookouts came back with three runs to tie the game.
Chris O’Brien led off the second with a home run, his second in as many games in the series and the lead was cut to 4-2. O’Koyea Dickson then singled and a double from Noel Cuevas scored him to make it a one run game. Later in the inning, Black would allow a sacrifice fly to Bobby Coyle to score Cuevas as the tying run.
It was 4-4 after two and would go to 5-5 in the third after the Smokies and Lookouts exchanged runs. A bases loaded walk issued by reliever Freddie Cabrera forced in Tennessee’s go ahead run in the third. That 5-4 advantage disappeared quickly when Daniel Mayora hit a solo home run to start the Lookouts third.
Cabrera (0-1, 2.70) replaced Struck in the third after Chattanooga’s starter pitched just two full innings. He wallowed four runs on six hits and walked one. Black, meanwhile, matched Struck with four runs earned run given up over the first three. He allowed one unearned run over the same span and also gave up six hits over the first few innings.
Black left the game after pitching three full innings and reliver Matt Loosen entered in his place. Loosen walked the first man he faced in the fourth, but would get out of the inning without allowing a run.
Cabrera, in the fifth, would not find the same fortune as he would give up two hits and one run in the fifth. Villanueva led off the fifth with a single and Giansanti brought him in with a two-out single to center. Giansanti would be caught trying to take second on the same play and the inning would end with the Smokies up 6-5.
Villanueva was 3-for-3 in the game with two doubles, two runs and two batted in. Russell was 1-for-5 with a RBI.
The Smokies scored six runs on 10 hits in the victory and left seven men on base.
Tennessee and Chattanooga are now tied atop the Southern League South second half standings with just three games remaining this season.
The two teams will play game three of the series on Saturday night with the first pitch at AT&T Field in Chattanooga scheduled for 7:15 PM.
C.J. Edwards (1-1, 2.25) is expected to start for Tennessee on Saturday night. Edwards will matched up opposite Matt Shelton (4-4, 4.19) who is scheduled to start for Chattanooga.