Kodak, TN – Entering Monday night's first half finale, the Mississippi Braves needed a win over the Tennessee Smokies and a Mobile BayBears loss to Pensacola to win the first half title.
As it turned out, they got neither.
An infield single gone awry for Smokies' leftfielder Pin-Chieh Chen resulted in two runs, one unearned, in the sixth inning to give Tennessee a 2-1 lead and eventual win at Smokies Park.
With the bases loaded with Smokies and Mississippi (38-32) leading 1-0, Chen bounced a ground ball to first, pulling Christian Marrero off the line. Marrero spun and threw to his pitcher Aaron Northcraft covering, but the ball dropped and two runs scored. They ruled it a hit for Chen and an error on the pitcher.
That was all the Smokies (34-35) needed, as the bats fell silent for the Braves in the close loss. Mississippi managed just five hits, and all of them came with two outs.
The Braves scored their lone run in the fifth inning. After Smokies' left-hander Eric Jokisch retired the first two batters of the frame, Mycal Jones singled and Northcraft drew a walk to put two on and two out. Second baseman Phil Gosselin came through with an RBI single to center, giving the Braves a 1-0 lead.
Northcraft (2-5) pitched well, but suffered the loss. He allowed just the one earned run on ten hits in 5 2/3 innings. Juan Jaime came on in relief and held the Smokies in check with 2 1/3 scoreless frames, striking out five in an impressive outing.
Jokisch (5-6) earned the win for Tennessee, allowing just a run on three hits over six frames in the start. Frank Batista picked up his ninth save in 10 tries this season, holding the Braves to just a hit in the ninth.
Jaime Pedroza led the way at the plate with two of Mississippi's hits, including a double.
The loss officially ended the Braves' first-half winning hopes, but they can still make the playoffs with a division win in the second half of the season. At the time of writing, Mobile and Pensacola were still in progress, with the BayBears leading 10-1 in the top of the eighth.
The Braves will start fresh on Wednesday after an off day, opening the second half of the season with the Birmingham Barons, winners of the North's first half. First pitch for game one is set for 7:00 PM CT from Trustmark Park, pitting right-hander Mitch Atkins (0-1, 3.09) against left-hander Scott Snodgress (7-5, 5.02).
Mississippi Braves (38-32) 1 R 5 H 4 E
Tennessee Smokies (34-35) 2 R 12 H 0 E
W – Jokisch (5-6)
L – Northcraft (2-5)
S – Batista (9)
Time – 2:30
Attendance – 3,093
1820 TV Road
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