Maybe the muggy July air was to blame for Ian Dawkins’ rolling throw from left field. He took the ball out of his glove while standing in shallow left and fired a throw to home plate. A decent throw would have made easy pickings out of Brian Rey. Instead of a bullet, his soft toss came up short and rolled several yards into the catcher’s mitt. By the time the ball got to its destination, Rey was already safe.
It was a bright spot in what was a rough day for the Lookouts, who ended their series with their fifth loss in their six game series with the Birmingham Barons.
The Lookouts fell 0-0 and are now trailing the Barons for the top spot in the Double-A South standings.
Lefty Connor Curlis is one of the “other guys” on the Lookouts staff, which has boasted the services of high-profile prospects like Nick Lodolo, Graham Ashcraft, and Hunter Greene. He looked every bit like an ace in the first inning, getting two Barons to fly out and another to strike out swinging. Opposing him was another lefthanded man of the same name with a slightly different spelling.
Konnor Pilkington appeared to have a quick 1-2-3 inning, but centerfielder Lorenzo Cedrola beat out a bad Mitch Roman throw to first to keep the inning alive. Cedrola showed some great elusiveness a few seconds later. Trapped in an apparent rundown, he juked toward first, then second, then back to first, before jetting to the top of the diamond again. His slick moves must have psyched first baseman Jameson Fisher out, who (literally) dropped the ball on an exchange and allowed Cedrola to steal second. Unfortunately for the Lookouts, Drew Mount stranded his teammate by whiffing for strike three.
The Lookouts’ first baseman showed a much surer glove at the corner in the top of the second. With a runner taking off from first, left fielder Ian Dawkins lined a sharp grounder in his direction. Yanqui gracefully sidestepped to take the ball in, turned and lasered a throw to second to get the force-out, and then retreated back to first base and caught the return throw for an inning-ending double play. Yanqui later had to leave the game because of an apparent injury and was replaced by Jay Schuyler.
While Curlis didn’t get battered around like a few of his teammates have the last few days, he still put runners on base in the first few innings. He plunked JJ Muno with a ball, and then walked power-hitting second baseman Romy Gonzalez after getting it to a full count. He got out of the inning unscathed, striking out designated hitter Carlos Perez on a high fastball.
Catching for Curlis was newcomer Jose Tello, who roped his first hit as a Lookout into left field on a well-struck single. Second baseman Brian Rey grounded a ball into center-right field and put two runners on the basepaths with only one out and the heart of the lineup coming up. Their chances of scoring only got better when a wild Pilkington pitch went between Xavier Fernandez’s legs and moved the runners up to third and second. Lorenzo Cedrola, as he often does, came through with runners in scoring position. His line drive double got past a diving Roman brought in both runners and gave Chattanooga a 2-0 lead.
After three hitless innings, things finally unraveled for the Lookouts starter in the fourth. After walking Fernandez and allowing Fisher to single, Dawkins took Curlis deep to left field to erase that two-run lead. The Lookouts trailed 3-2 entering their side of the fourth. Third baseman Robbie Tenerowicz saw a single turn into a double play, with second baseman Gonzalez flipping a backhanded toss to Muno to start a slick double play.
Curlis continued to wilt in the heat during the top of the fifth, when Joel Booker singled and Gonzalez hit a double to deep right with no outs. After a team-meeting featuring pitching coach Rob Wooten, Curlis stayed in the game………and then gave up another run on a wild pitch that actually went behind the right-handed Perez. Out came Curlis, and in came Randy Wynne, who promptly gave up a run on a single to left. The score sat at 6-2 after four and a half innings.
Joel Booker hustled his way to another run in the top of the sixth. He started on first, and when centerfielder Cedrola dove and missed on a tough Perez-induced flyball, he ripped around third and then slid around the Tello’s tag for the Barons’ seventh run of the day. Wilson Garcia got that run back in the bottom of the sixth when he drove home Lorenzo Cedrola line drive to left.
Tenerowicz cut the lead to only one run with one swing of the bat on his trip up to the batters’ box. He unloaded on a Peter Tago pitch and dumped it over the wall in right field, bringing in three runs and making the score 7-6. Roman struck back in the next inning, driving home Fernandez and Dawkins on a single to right and pushing the score to 9-6.
As the game wore on, the Lookouts brought out a recent call-up from Dayton named Braxton Roxby. Fisher welcomed the team’s newest pitcher by slamming a two-run bomb off the 22-year old in the eighth. That was it for the scoring, as the Lookouts were unable to make an impressive rally in the last two innings.
The Barons (39-32) now hold a small lead over the Lookouts (37-32) in the Double A-South north division standings. Both teams sit behind Mississippi (40-31) and Montgomery (37-30) in the overall standings. The Lookouts take their talents on the road and close out the month with a series against the Smokies.
BIRMINGHAM: 000 331 220 - 11-13-2
CHATTANOOGA: 002 004 000 - 6-10-2
Pilkington, Tago (6), Ledo (7), Muckenhirn (9) and Fernandez; Curlis, Wynne (5), Baker (7), Roxby (8), Figueroa (9) and Tello
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