The Biloxi Shuckers held onto a two run lead for nearly half of Sunday evenings contest, only to see the Birmingham Barons put up three in the fifth to take the lead. However, demonstrating the art of the response, the Shuckers responded with three runs of their own in the top of the sixth on their way to a 5-4 victory. Jake Hager had the big hit in the inning, doubling in two runs and Zach Brown earned his first victory of the season.
Neither team would score through the first two frames, but Biloxi finally got on the board with two in the top of the third. Clint Coulter started the inning with a double and moved to third when Dustin Houle followed with a base hit up the middle. Next up was Wendell Rijo, who blooped a single into center, bringing in Coulter to make it 1-0. A force out put runners at the corners’ and Houle came home to score when Troy Stokes, Jr. reached on an error.
The Barons looked like they would respond in the bottom half of the inning. Ryan Brett started the frame with a base hit up the middle, but he was erased on a double-play. Tito Polo then followed with a double down the third base line that was just under the glove of Lucas Erceg. Zack Collins then delivered a ball into left-center that looked like it would drop in for a base hit, but Stokes came from out of nowhere to make a great catch to preserve the two run lead.
In the fifth, Birmingham would take the lead. Coulter started the inning by reaching on an error and he moved to second on a base hit by Brett. Brown retired the next two batters, but Eloy Jimenez followed with his second three-run homer in as many nights, a shot that easily cleared the wall in left for his fourth homer of the year.
The Biloxi Shuckers responded in their very next trip to the plate to retake the lead. Stokes started the inning with a base hit and moved to third when Erceg lined a base hit into shallow center field. Birmingham starter Jordan Guerrero struck out Jake Gatewood before he the Barons called for a pitching change.
Connor Walsh came on and was greeted by a Dylan Moore double that scored Stokes to tie the score. That brought Jake Hager to the plate who drilled his ninth double of the season down the line in left. Both runners came around to score, putting the Shuckers back on top 5-3.
The Barons got one of those runs back in the bottom half of the sixth. Matt Rose started the inning with his third home run of the season, cutting the deficit to one. Birmingham would have a runner reach third, but reliever Jon Olczak struck out Polo to end the threat.
Zack Brown (1-0) pitched 5.1 innings, allowing 7 hits and 4 runs, but just one was earned. He struck out 6. Olczak pitched 1.2 innings of scoreless relief, followed by Quintin Torres-Costa, who preserved the lead through the eighth. Nate Griep came on in the ninth looking to close it out and, despite giving up a two out hit, he would earn his eighth save of the season.
Jake Hager had the lone double, but drove in 2. Dylan Moore, Dustin Houle, and Wendell Rijo were each 2-4 in the contest. Matt Rose finished 2-3 with a run, homer, and RBI for Birmingham.
The rubber match of the five game series is a late morning affair tomorrow. Adrian House (0-0, 5.40) is scheduled to go for Biloxi. Ian Clarkin (2-2, 4.57) will go for the Barons. First pitch is scheduled for 11:00 AM.
By Robert Pannier