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Bullpen falters in Shuckers' loss to Smokies

KODAK, TN. - The ever reliable bullpen of the Biloxi Shuckers was handed a six-run lead in the seventh inning, but the Tennessee Smokies scored nine runs over the seventh and eighth innings, rallying for a 10-9 victory on Saturday night at Smokies Stadium.

Biloxi has dropped five of its first seven games during its 13-game road trip, but remain in a first place ti with Pensacola, atop the Southern League South Division.

The Shuckers extended their lead from 3-1 to 7-1, by scoring four in the top of the seventh inning. Omar Garcia (1x1, 2 R) singled on a bunt down the third base side with one out and moved up to second on a walk to Kyle Wren (2x3, 2 R, and advanced to third when Jacob Nottingham (1x4, R) was hit by a pitch. A free pass to Victor Roache (1x4, R, 2B, 3 RBI, BB) brought home Garcia for the first run of the frame. With Nick Ramirez (2x4, R, HR, 3 RBI, BB) at the plate, an errant pickoff throw to second sailed into center field, allowing Wren to score and Nottingham to move up to third. The Shuckers' first baseman cleared the bases with a double to center and give the road team a six-run lead.

Tennessee (20-22) struck back with four runs of its own in the home half of the inning against a combination of Tristan Archer and Steve Peterson. Stephen Bruno tripled to right center to start the inning and scored on Ben Carhart's single to right. Chesny Young followed with a single in front of Jacob Hannemann's fly out to right. A wild pitch by Archer to Mark Zagunis plated Carhart and moved Young to second before Zagunis eventually drew a walk ended the first reliever's night. Jeimer Candelario doubled to center to bring home both base runners and bring the Shuckers' lead back to two.

Biloxi got a run back in the eighth on an RBI single to center by Wren to plate Garcia and push the lead back to three.

Tyler Spurlin was called upon to start the eighth and walked the first man he faced in Carlos Penalver, but the runner was picked off while Bruno was at the dish. Bruno then struck out for the second out of the inning, but back-to-back singles from Carhart and Young were followed by a free pass to Hannemann to load the bases and end the night for the righty.

Stephen Kohlscheen (1-1) came on to try to escape the jam, but a wild pitch to Zagunis moved up the runners, including Carhart from third to cut the Shuckers' lead to one. Zagunis drew a walk, setting up Candelario's grand slam off the foul pole in right to put Biloxi down by two at 10-8.

The Shuckers got a run back in the ninth off of Miguel Mejia (SV, 1) on Nick Shaw's (1x5, 2B, RBI) RBI double down the line in right, scoring Chris McFarland (1x5, R), but Brandon Macias (0x4, R BB) popped out to second to end the game.

Tennessee jumped out to an early lead with a two-out rally in the first against Biloxi's starter Adrian Houser. Zagunis hustled out an infield single and scored on Candelario's double down the right field line to put the Shuckers in a 1-0 hole at the end of the first.

The deficit would not last long as Ramirez started the second with a rocket over the wall in right for his third home run of the season to knot the score at one apiece.

Biloxi (24-17) put up a two-spot in the fifth to take the lead over Tennessee as Macias drew a leadoff walk and moved up to second on a sacrifice bunt by Houser. A free pass to Wren preceded Nottingham's lineout to center, setting up Roache's two-run double to left to plate the base runners and give the Shuckers a 3-1 advantage.

Houser left the game after six innings of one-run ball, as the right-hander allowed hits, two walks and two strikeouts with 88 pitches - 52 strikes. The Oklahoma native earned his second quality start in his last three outings.

David Berg (1-0) earned his first win of the season out of the Smokies' bullpen despite allowing a run on two hits and a walk in the eighth.

The Shuckers will look to avoid dropping their second consecutive series for the first time this season with a doubleheader on Sunday afternoon from Smokies Stadium. Game one features a matchup of RHP Jorge Ortega (0-4, 3.72) for Biloxi, while Tennessee sends out RHP Paul Blackburn (3-1, 1.08). Game two will see LHP Josh Hader (1-1, 0.89) for the Shuckers go up against Smokies' RHP Tyler Skulina (2-2, 3.76). First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m.