KODAK — Montgomery won the first half of the Southern League schedule baseball schedule, the first time the Biscuits had accomplished that feat. They opened the second half of the league schedule Friday night with a doubleheader against the Tennessee Smokies looking to build on that momentum.
After dropping game one to the Biscuits 7-0, the Smokies bounced back in the nightcap behind the strong pitching performance of starter Luis Lugo and reliever Jordan Minch to claim a 3-2 victory over Montgomery.
The Biscuits took advantage of several Smokies’ mistakes in game one as they blanked Tennessee 7-0. The home team wasn’t able to figure out Montgomery starting pitcher Riley O’Brien, who pitched the entire seven innings in the first game of the doubleheader and scattered six hits. O’Brien moves to 4-4 on the season.
Tennessee’s Justin Steele took the loss even though he gave up only one run in three innings to go along with his two strikeouts. He is still in search of his first win of the season as he fell to 0-6 on the year despite the fact he has 20 strikeouts in his last four outings.
On the bright side for the Smokies, Vimael Machin continued his hot streak during June. He came into Friday’s game with a .314 batting average in June and saw that number increase as he was a perfect 3-for-3 at the plate against the Biscuits in game one but failed to get a hit in the second contest.
Montgomery struck first when Miles Mastrobuoni singled and later came around to score in the top of the first inning. Things were quite until the fourth when the Biscuits made Tennessee pay for errors and walks by scoring four runs. Kevin Padlo drew the lead off base on balls and was followed by Tristan Gray’s single. Robbie Tenerowicz had an RBI single to center and Gray scored on a Smokies’ error. Mastrobuoni reached on a fielders’ choice that brought a run home and Jesus Sanchez notched an RBI as he drew a bases-loaded walk to extend the Biscuits lead to 5-0.
The Alabama visitors added two insurance runs in the top of the fifth. Gray was plunked by a pitch and Lucius Fox followed with a double to left field. Brett Sullivan had a sacrifice fly to center to score a run and David Rodriguez doubled in Tenerowicz to produce the 7-0 final.
“It’s unfortunate because sometimes balls that aren’t hit that hard just find gaps,” Smokies manager Jimmy Gonzalez said of Steele’s tough luck on the mound. “We hit the ball hard and (Montgomery’s) guys just made catches. That’s just part of the game as sometimes you are going to hit some hard ones that get caught and sometimes you hit some soft ones that land. That’s what they did and that was just unfortunate for Steele.”
In game two, Lugo fanned four Biscuits in five innings to pick up his second win of the season and Minch got the save as he threw two innings to round things out as the Smokies prevailed 3-2.
Just as they did in the first game, the Biscuits struck first when Josh Lowe tripled to right field and then scored on a wild pitch to put Montgomery up 1-0 early on. Gioskar Amaya singled in the bottom of the second for Tennessee and was followed by a walk issued to Christian Donahue. Both runners came home when Connor Myers slapped a triple to deep right field to put the home team up 2-1.
PJ Higgins roped a single to right field and reached home when Jesse Hodges scorched a double down the right field line. The Biscuits responded in a big way, however, as Jermaine Palacios plastered a solo homer to left to make it 3-2 in the fifth. They couldn’t get any closer as Minch closed things out with three straight outs in the seventh.
“Having Minch come in there for two quality innings and shut the door was big,” Gonzalez said of his relief pitcher. He was also happy with the way his team hit the ball as Hodges had a doubles and Myers had a triple. “We have guys who can come through at any given time up and down the lineup and today, it was the guys in the bottom half of the lineup. To come through and do what they did was awesome.”