The combination of clutch hitting and quality pitching led the Tennessee Smokies to a 6-3 win over the Birmingham Barons (29-38) in front of 5,807 fans at Smokies Park on Friday night. With the win, the Smokies improve to 34-34 on the season with two games remaining in the first half.
Tennessee jumped on the scoreboard in the first inning off Birmingham starter Brandon Kloess (2-3). Logan Watkins started the inning with a single and moved to second on Junior Lake's single. Justin Bour walked to load the bases and Rebel Ridling brought home Watkins and Lake with a two-RBI double and Bour would later come in on a ground out by Jim Adduci to give the Smokies an early 3-0 lead after the first inning.
Smokies starter Dallas Beeler allowed a single run to score in the second. Tennessee took advantage of two Birmingham errors to answer right back. Nate Samson reached on a fielding error by third baseman Corey Smith. Watkins singled Samson to third and on a throwing error by center fielder Jared Mitchell, Samson would come in to score to give Tennessee a 4-1 lead.
The Barons would narrow the gap to 4-3, but the Smokies added another run in the fifth. Lake singled and stole second and third to get into scoring position for Ridling, who lifted a sacrifice fly to right-center that allowed Lake to score and pad the lead to 5-3.
Dallas Beeler (2-5) pitched well for the Smokies, yielding three runs on seven hits yielded three runs, striking out one in five innings of work.
Tennessee added to their lead with a run in the seventh. Reaching on an error, Ridling would advance to second on a Jim Adduci sacrifice bunt and to third on a passed ball. Mike Brenly laced a single to right-center to score Ridling, and give the Smokies an insurance run and a 6-3 lead.
The Smokies bullpen, once again denied any chances for a Barons comeback. Ty'Relle Harris, fresh off coming back to Tennessee from Triple-A Iowa, was dominant in relief. The former Tennessee Volunteer pitcher threw a perfect three innings and added a strike out on his night. Brian Schlitter allowed two runners to reach in the ninth, but got the final out for his second save of the season.
The Smokies and Barons will meet for Game 4 of their five-game series on Saturday at 6:15 at Smokies Park. Tennessee will send LHP Eric Jokisch (3-0, 1.40) to the mound and Birmingham will counter with RHP Andre Rienzo (0-0, 0.00). Saturday will be the Smokies' annual Pink Ribbon Survivor Night as well as the first appearance of Myron Noodleman. For tickets and more information visit www.smokiesbaseball.com or call (865) 286-2300.