JACKSONVILLE - The Biloxi Shuckers first half title hopes came to an end after dropping Sunday's doubleheader opener, 2-1, to the Jacksonville Suns at Bragan Field.
Biloxi closed the half on a high note as Jorge Ortega earned his first win of the season in the Shuckers' 2-1 victory in Sunday's finale. The defeat in game one granted the Pensacola Blue Wahoos the first half championship in the Southern League South division.
Jacksonville put the pressure on Biloxi early with a two-out run in the first. Brandon Woodruff (2-4) retired Yefri Perez and J.T. Riddle on back-to-back groundouts to second to start the inning, but a free pass to Moises Sierra and a double to the gap in right-center off the bat of Brian Anderson plated the first run of the game for the Suns.
Another two-out run added insurance for the Suns in the fourth to put the Shuckers in a 2-0 hole. Chris Curley struck out with one out and Peter Mooney at first, but a wild pitch to Ronnie Mitchell allowed the base runner to advance to third. Mitchell stroked a single to right to score Mooney.
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Woodruff of Wheeler, Miss., surrendered both of Jacksonville's runs on two hits, three walks and three strikeouts.
Biloxi cut the lead in half the following half inning. With one out, Gabriel Noriega (0x1, R) was hit by a pitch before Brandon Macias (1x2, BB) drew a walk to put two men on base. Pinch hitter Javier Betancourt (0x1) struck out looking, setting up Tyrone Taylor's (1x3, RBI) popup, infield single, scoring Noriega from second for the Shuckers' first run of the game.
Nick Ramirez (0x3) drove a ball the warning track in right with Brett Phillips (1x3) on first in the sixth, but the wind knocked halted the flight of the ball, allowing Sierra made the catch to end the inning.
Manager Mike Guerrero used a combination of Steve Peterson (0.1 IP), Brett Lee (0.2 IP, 2 H) and Tyler Spurlin (1.1 IP ,2 SO) to work the final 2.1 innings.
The Shuckers had one last chance to tie the game in the seventh and keep their playoff chances alive, but Ryan Chaffee (SV, 1) set down the side in order to end the game.
Biloxi (39-30) used back-to-back singles in the second inning of game two to score the first run of the game. Garrett Cooper (2x3, R, 2B) doubled for the 18th time this season to start the frame and scored on Taylor's (1x3, RBI, R, 2B) double to left-center to give the Shuckers the early lead. Ortega followed four batters later with a bouncing ball up the middle that snuck through into center to score Taylor and give the Shuckers a 2-0 lead.
Jacksonville (30-40) answered with a run of its own in the bottom half of the inning. James Roberts singled with two outs and moved up to second on an errant pickoff attempt by Parker Berberet. Cam Maron singled the runner home with a line drive to center to cut the Shuckers' lead in half.
Ortega (1-6) earned his first win of the season in his 13th start, allowing an unearned run on four hit, a walk and two strikeouts. The right-hander was three outs away from becoming the first Shuckers' pitcher to toss a complete game, but was lifted with for Ramirez in the top of the sixth with two outs.
Stephen Kohlscheen (SV, 6) locked up his sixth save of the season with a scoreless ninth. The right-hander struck out Roberts looking to end the game.
Biloxi will take the next three days off for the Southern League All-Star break before returning to action Thursday, June 23 against the Montgomery Biscuits to start a five-game set at MGM Park.