BILOXI--A crowd of 2,418 witnessed the reliable bullpen of the Biloxi Shuckers catch a snag on Friday night at MGM Park, as the staff labored through an eight-run eighth inning en route to an 8-3 loss to the Tennessee Smokies. The eight runs are the most surrendered in an inning in the history of the team.
The loss is the first time the Shuckers have dropped a game at MGM Park since a 9-3 loss to the Mobile BayBears on April 12, snapping a five-game winning streak at MGM Park. The club is 10-4 at home this season and maintain the top record in the Southern League.
Biloxi (15-6) led 1-0 going into the fateful frame before four straight batters reached to start the eighth for Tennessee (12-10) against reliever Jed Bradley (2-1) on one hit, two walks and a hit batter to drive in the tying run. The southpaw did not record an out before being pulled with the bases loaded.
Hobbs Johnson (2 IP, 4 R, 4 H, 2 BB, 2 SO) allowed a single and walked a batter, bringing in two more runs for the Smokies and increasing the Shuckers' deficit to two. Kelly Dugan lifted a sacrifice fly to center for the fourth run of the inning.
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Opposing relief pitcher Brad Markey bounced into a run-scoring fielder's choice, scoring Victor Caratini, Jacob Hannemann drove in Bijan Rademacher, and Chesny Young drove in the final two runs with a single to center for the seventh and eighth runs of the frame.
Jorge Ortega left in line for his first win of the season with the one run lead. In five innings of work, the native of Venezuela allowed four hits and struck out four. In four starts in 2016, the right-hander has not issued a walk over 22.2 innings, and has struck out 13 batters.
Tennessee threatened early against Biloxi's starter with two men on and two out in the first, but Victor Caratini struck out swinging to end the inning.
Two more Smokies reached in the third against Ortega after back-to-back, one-out singles by Jacob Hannemann and Chesny Young, but the righty eluded danger with a pop out by Jeimer Candelario and a groundout from Billy McKinney to strand the runners.
Biloxi plated the first run of the game in the second against Duane Underwood, Jr. to grab the early advantage.
Nick Ramirez (3x5, 2 R, 2B, HR, RBI) slammed a double to right to start things off and moved to third on a single up the middle off the bat of Victor Roache (1x3, BB). Javier Betancourt (0x4, RBI) plated the runner from third on a fielder's choice for the 1-0 lead.
The 20-year-old shortstop did not reach base safely for the first time in 14 games, and saw his seven-game hitting streak come to a halt.
Manager Mike Guerrero went to lefty Steve Peterson (2 IP, H, 2 SO) out of the bullpen to fill in for Ortega to start the sixth, and the southpaw kept his team in the lead with two shutout innings with just one hit allowed.
Ramirez would add his second home run of the season in the eighth to pull the Shuckers within six, and Jacob Notingham (1x4, RBI, BB) drove in Nick Shaw (0x3, R, BB) with a single in the ninth for Biloxi's third run of the game.
The Shuckers had a chance to add insurance in the seventh with the bases loaded and two outs, but Brett Phillips (0x5, 2 SO) struck out swinging to leave the runners on base.
A funny moment occurred at MGM Park during the top of the ninth as an opossum appeared along the outfield wall. After the top of the ninth inning, centerfield Brett Phillips shooed the rodent out of the left field gate.
The series marches on to game three at 7:10 p.m. Saturday night at MGM Park. LHP Josh Hader (0-0, 0.53) seeks out his first win of the 2016 season for Biloxi, while RHP Paul Blackburn (3-0, 0.35) puts his perfect record on the line for Tennessee.