The Biloxi Shuckers entered Thursday night’s contest verse the Mississippi Braves looking for their sixth straight victory. This became a game of halves, as neither team could plate a run through the first five innings, but the second half of the game proved to be a slugfest. Twice Mississippi took the lead, only to see Biloxi battle back thanks to Corey Ray and his 5 RBI, which enabled the Shuckers to win 6-5.
Touki Toussaint started for Mississippi and was absolutely dominant. Through five innings of work, the right-hander allowed 3 hits and 3 walks while striking out 9. Biloxi had no answers for the Braves starter.
Zach Brown was pitching just as well for the Shuckers. He, too, was blanking his opponent, allowing just 3 hits through the first five innings of the game. His biggest challenge came in the fourth when he gave up a one-out triple to Alex Jackson, yet catcher Tyler Heineman picked off Jackson at third before Brown was able to retire the final batter of the inning.
In the sixth, the Mississippi Braves would finally get on the board. After Brown retired the first batter of the frame, Michael Reed drew a walk before Alay Lago singled to center field. That brought Austin Riley to the plate, who crushed the Brown offering over the left field wall for his first home run of the season.
Corbin Clouse came on in the sixth and retired Biloxi in order but, in the seventh, he would find himself in all kinds of trouble. Heineman walked to start the inning before Jake Hager doubled into right field to put runners at second and third. Clouse struck out the next batter, bringing Corey Ray to the plate. Mississippi imposed a shift, moving the second baseman into short right field, and that proved to be costly. Ray grounded a ball into centerfield where the second baseman should have been positioned, allowing both runners to score. Troy Stokes, Jr. followed with a double down the line in left field that brought Ray all the way around to score and the game
The game did not stay tied for long. In the top of the eighth, Reed walked with one down. Two batters later, Riley crushed his second home run of the game to make it a 5-3 Braves lead.
The Biloxi Shuckers were trailing, but would rally once again. Jake Gatewood singled to start the bottom of the eighth before pitcher Nick Ramirez drew a walk to put first and second and nobody out. A base hit by Heineman loaded the bases, but Luis Valenzuela was able to retire the next two batters, giving the impression he was going get out of the inning unscathed. However, disaster occurred when Ray lined a ball into left field. The left fielder initially stepped in, then realized the ball was going to be over his head. He raced back, only to see the ball deflect off of his glove and toward the wall. All three runners came around to score and the Shuckers led for the first time in the game, 6-5.
In the ninth, Nate Griep came on looking for his fourth save the season. He struck out the first batter of the inning, but a walk and a two-out base hit put runners at first and second with two down. That brought Lago to the plate, who grounded down to third baseman Lucas Erceg, throwing over the first to end the ballgame.
Corey Ray was 3-4 with a run, double, and single-game high of 5 RBI. He now has hits in seven straight games to begin the season. Tyler Heineman finished 2-3 with 2 runs and Jake Hager was 2-4 with a run and a double. Nick Ramirez (3-0) earned his third victory in relief this season.
The top of the order had a big night for Mississippi. The top four hitters in the lineup were a combined 8-16 with 5 runs and 5 RBI. Austin Riley finished 2-4 with 2 homers and he drove in all 5 runs.
Game 3 between these two teams is tomorrow as the Biloxi Shuckers are looking for their seventh straight win. Adrian Houser returns from the Milwaukee Brewers to make the start. He will be opposed by Max Fried.
By Robert Pannier