Noel Cuevas hit a two-run homer to give the Lookouts an early 2-0 lead.
photo by Tim Evearitt
Tennessee outfielders Rubi Silva and Jonathan Mota slammed back-to-back home runs in the fourth, while catcher Charlie Cutler drew a bases-loaded walk-off base on balls in the eleventh inning to give the Smokies a 5-4 victory over the Chattanooga Lookouts on Friday night in front of 5,493 fans at Smokies Stadium.
The win is third consecutive walk-off victory for the Smokies, who improved their second half record to 2-0 and are in position to clinch a series win Saturday evening. The loss drops the Lookouts to 0-2 in the second half, in addition to a 26-36 overall clip.
After both teams were held silent the first extra frame, Tennessee won it in the 11th after loading the bases.
CF Jae-Hoon Ha started the final inning with an infield single, and then moved to second on 2B Stephen Bruno's base knock to center, with both then taking an extra base on an error on the play. The Lookouts would then intentional walk 3B Christian Villanueva to load the bags full for Cutler, who worked a nine-pitch at-bat, taking ball four to end the contest and cue the celebration.
The Smokies had walked off the previous night in regulation thanks to Villanueva's run-scoring single to center, while SS Elliot Soto recorded a walk-off base knock in the 11th inning in the club's first half finale on June 15 versus Mississippi. Overall, it was the fifth time Tennessee won a game in their last at bat.
For the second straight evening it was Chattanooga who got out in front early, once again thanks to the big fly. 2B Darnell Sweeney began the frame with a triple off the center field wall, and then came home when CF Noel Cuevas exited the yard with a two-run blast to left, putting the Lookouts ahead 2-0.
The Smokies, however, would answer back with their back-to-back jacks with to snag the 3-2 advantage. After Cutler drew a free pass, Silva smacked his second homer in as many nights with an opposite field two-run shot to left, evening the tally at 2-2, while Mota followed with a solo shot off the left field foul pole to put Tennessee ahead. It marked the second time this year the Smokies hit homers in consecutive at bats after doing so on April 13 versus Chattanooga.
Two innings later, the Lookouts would take back the lead with a two-run sixth. After LF Scott Schebler doubled to right, C Chris O'Brien immediately followed with a two-bagger of his own off the right field wall to nod the game even. O'Brien would then come across thanks to a Smokies miscue after SS Angel Sanchez reached on a force out to give Chattanooga their second lead.
That margin did not last long however, as Tennessee came right back to tie the contest at 4-4 in the next half inning. Cutler reached base on his second walk of the evening, and then moved on to third on an error, before coming across on another Chattanooga error to draw the game even and force extra innings.
Bruno (2-6) and Silva (2-5, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI) each recorded two base knocks in the Smokies win, while O'Brien (2-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB) and Cuevas (2-6, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI) recorded multi-hit efforts for the Lookouts. In addition, both Villanueva and Cutler each drew three walks, with Villanueva reaching base four times on the evening.
Neither starting pitcher figured in the final decisions, with Tennessee RHP Matt Loosen (5.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 SO) allowing two earned runs on three hits, adding five strikeouts in five frames, while Chattanooga RHP Matt Shelton (4.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO) yielded three runs on four hits in four frames. Smokies relief man Jeff Lorick (1.0 IP) earned the victory with a perfect 11thh inning to improve to 2-2, while Juan Noriega (0.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB) suffered the defeat.
Tennessee and Chattanooga are set to square off again Saturday night for the third game of their series, with first pitch scheduled for 6:15 p.m. The Smokies are set to give the nod to RHP Corey Black (2-4, 3.25), while LHP Chris Reed is slated to take the hill for the Lookouts.