BILOXI--The Biloxi Shuckers became the first team to reach the 20-win mark in the Southern League after Wednesday night's victory over the Jacksonville Suns at MGM Park.
Shuckers starter and Milwaukee's top left-handed pitching prospect Josh Hader earned his first win of the season, as Biloxi took a 2-1 series lead in the five-game set.
Biloxi (20-12) struck quickly, using an RBI single to right off the bat of Jacob Nottingham (1x4, RBI) to grab the 1-0 lead. Brett Phillips (2x4, R, 2 RBI) set up the scoring play with a one-out single to left. The ball was misplayed by Austin Dean and rolled all the way to the wall, allowing Phillips to reach third on the play. Nottingham's knock gives the Biloxi catcher at least one hit in 11 of his last 12 games.
Jacksonville (14-19) knotted the game at one after Peter Mooney's one-out single to center preceded Sharif Othman's smash down the left-field line, scoring the runner from first. Mooney's base hit snapped a string of 19 consecutive left-handed hitters retired by Biloxi starter Hader to start the season.
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The Shuckers went back on top in the second with a two-spot. Nick Shaw (1x3, 2 R, BB) poked a single to right field to start the frame. Brandon Macias (1x2, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R) drew a free pass two batters later, and Hader followed with a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners. Kyle Wren (0x3, BB) worked the second walk of the inning to load the bases for Phillips, who shot a liner off of the glove of first baseman Brady Shoemaker, scoring Shaw and Macias for the 3-1 edge.
Biloxi was at it again in the third inning, as Tyrone Taylor (1x4, R) and Shaw reached with one out. After Javier Betancourt (0x3) popped out, Macias sent a drive over the wall in left to make it a five-run game. For Macias, it was the 27-year-old's second home run in as many games, and second long ball of the season, after not hitting any in his first 17 games, and becomes the first Shucker to homer in consecutive games in 2016.
The five-run lead would be more than enough for Hader (1-1), as the southpaw tied a season-high with six innings of work en route to his first victory of the season. The 22-year-old allowed one run on four hits, a walk and six strikeouts on 87 pitches - 54 strikes. Hader leads the league with 46 strikeouts on the year and has a 1.04 ERA after seven starts.
Steve Peterson (2 IP, H, BB, 2 SO) and Tyler Spurlin (IP, SO) shut down the Suns offense through the final three innings to preserve the victory.
Austin Brice (1-2) allowed the six runs through the first three innings for Jacksonville, but retired the final seven men he faced after the Macias home run in the third. Brice took the loss and finished with the six runs allowed - five earned - over five innings on six hits, two walks and three strikeouts on 81 pitches - 54 strikes. Brice, plus a pair of Suns' relievers retired the final 16 Shuckers batters to finish the game.
Biloxi will look for the series victory with a win at 6:40 p.m. Thursday night at MGM Park. RHP Javi Salas (2-1, 3.34) toes the rubber for the Shuckers, while RHP Patrick Johnson (1-1, 5.94) goes for the Suns. The Biloxi Shuckers and Jacksonville Suns will salute the Negro Baseball Leagues and recognize the Biloxi Dodgers, a member of the Gulf Coast Negro League. The Shuckers and Suns will wear retro Negro League uniforms representing many of the circuits clubs. Thursday is also another Double Play Thursday, featuring $2 hot dogs and regular soft drinks and $2 off select draft beer and reserved level tickets.