Stars Burn Smokies 9-8

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Huntsville Al, -In a game where they led by four runs at one point and then three runs on two separate occasions, the Huntsville Stars held on for a 9-8 victory against the Tennessee Smokies on Friday night at Joe Davis Stadium.

Much like the previous night, the Stars got off to their early lead in the first inning against the Smokies. Against starting pitcher A.J Morris, Huntsville broke out to a 4-0 advantage led by a RBI single from first basemen Jason Rogers and a two-run single from second baseman Eric Patterson. The other run of the inning came via an error from Smokies third basemen Christian Villanueva.

However, Villanueva would be able to make up for his earlier miscue. In the top of the second inning, his solo homer against Stars starting pitcher Ariel Pena put the Smokies on the board. Later in the inning, Tennessee catcher Rafael Lopez hit a two-run homer well over the right-field wall to cut the Stars lead to one.

After the Stars got a two-run homer of their own from outfielder Brock Kjeldgaard in the third inning to push their lead back up to three, a solo homer from Smokies first basemen Justin Bour and a sacrifice fly from pinch-hitter Nate Samson made the score 6-5 after just four frames.

One inning later, Stars catcher Shawn Zarraga began putting the finishing touches on a big night at the plate. Already 2-for-2 with two singles, the 24-year-old catcher came through with a two-run double against Smokies reliever Yepier Castillo to put the Stars on top by a score of 8-5.

Unfortunately for the Stars, the Smokies would not go down without a fight. With a pair on RBI doubles from Lopez and second basemen Airesmendy Alcantara as well as a RBI single by outfielder Matt Szczur, Tennessee tacked on three runs in the sixth inning off Pena to tie the game at 8-8.

Pena earned a no-decision after giving up a season-high eight runs on eight hits in 5.1 innings of work.

The score remained tied until the bottom of the seventh inning where Zarraga struck again. After Kjeldgaard drew a walk against Smokies reliever Kevin Rhoderick to begin the frame and then advanced to second on a sac bunt from Patterson, Zarraga delivered a RBI single that ultimately plated the game-winning run.

For Zarraga, his 4-for-4 night at the plate marks the fifth Stars player to have four hits in a game this season. He also reached base five times for the game, joining outfielder Chadwin Stang as the only Stars player to do that this season. Rogers and third basemen Mike Walker each had two hits as well.

Aside from Pena on the pitching side of things, righty Kevin Shackelford improved to 1-0 on the year with 1.2 innings of scoreless relief. Closer Greg Holle ensured the win for Shackelford and the Stars with two innings of hitless baseball for his team-leading 10th save of the season.

The Stars will play game rubbermatch of a five-game series at Joe Davis Stadium against the Tennessee Smokies on Saturday. Huntsville will send RHP Brooks Hall (0-3, 5.76 ERA) to the bump to try to win the series while Tennessee will counter with RHP Kyle Hendricks (9-3, 1.91 ERA). First pitch is 6:43 PM.

Saturday will be the last time the Stars and Smokies play each other this season.

Courtesy: Stars Media Relations