BILOXI – Mobile right-hander A.J. Schugel handcuffed Biloxi early and the Shuckers' rally came up short late in a 4-3 victory for the BayBears Wednesday night at MGM Park.
The BayBears took the series finale, but the Shuckers claimed the five-game series with three wins to help their cause in the Southern League South.
First-place Biloxi managed to pick up ground in its pursuit of the Southern League South first-half title thanks to Montgomery's doubleheader sweep of the Mississippi Braves on Wednesday.
The Shuckers (36-23) hold a 4.5-game lead on the second-place M-Braves with 10 games remaining before the all-star break. Biloxi can clinch the first-half title with six more wins.
If Biloxi claims the first half title in the South, it will earn a spot in the Southern League playoffs.
The Shuckers have a chance to build on their lead when they start a five-game series at 7 p.m. Thursday at Pearl against the M-Braves.
“Being able to play against them directly puts us in a good position,” Shuckers manager Carlos Subero said. “Hopefully, we can go there and take care of business.”
The crowd for Wednesday's game was 3,198, bringing the total attendance for the five-game series to 17,146.
“(The five games in Biloxi) were fun,” Shuckers center fielder Tyrone Taylor said. “The fan base was exciting. We had our walk-up music tonight so that got us going a little. We're looking forward to coming back here.”
The average crowd for the games at MGM Park was 3,429, a number that would top three other teams in average attendance in the 10-team Southern League – Mississippi (3,245), Mobile (1,656) and Jackson, Tenn., (2,355). Birmingham leads the Southern League in average attendance at 6,468.
Taylor hit his second home run in as many nights with a two-run blast to left field with two out in the bottom of the seventh to cut the Mobile lead to 4-3.
Taylor started the series with no homers on the season, but he became the first Shucker to ever hit homers on back-to-back nights.
He also had multiple extra base hits on back-to-back nights by adding a double Wednesday. He went 2-for-3 at the plate with two runs scored and two RBIs.
“I feel real confident,” Taylor said of his improved performance at the plate. “We played well as a team out there. That was a tough one today, but we got a series win. We'll stay positive and take it into Mississippi.”
Schugel held Biloxi scoreless through 4 2/3 innings before Taylor ripped a two-out double to left in the bottom of the fifth.
The next batter up, catcher Parker Berberet, beat out a grounder to second for an infield single, allowing Taylor to score from third.
Schugel (3-1) allowed three runs on five hits in seven innings. He struck out four and walked one.
“I think lefties before the game were hitting .370 (against Schugel),” Subero said. “We stacked lefties in (the lineup). For whatever reason, his changeup was working. He was able to mix pitches.”
Gerson Montilla had a nice night at the plate, going 3-for-4 with an RBI to lead the nine-hit attack by the BayBears (30-29).
A solo home run by Sean Jamieson in the sixth set the score at 4-1 and proved to be the decisive moment in the game. It was also the first homer hit by an opponent in MGM Park history.
Brent Suter (3-2) took the loss for Biloxi, allowing three runs (one earned) on six hits in five innings. He struck out seven and walked four.
“Suter struggled with his command early on and that led to runs,” Subero said. “Other than that, it was a good game.”
Biloxi managed just five hits in the game as Mobile relievers Keith Hessler and Silvino Bracho kept the Shuckers scoreless in the eighth and ninth innings.
“Their two relievers in the eighth and ninth didn't really give us an opportunity,” Subero said. “They shut the door pretty good.”
Right-hander Tyler Wagner (5-1, 1.93), who was named a Southern League All-Star Wednesday, will get the start for Biloxi against the M-Braves today.