Pete Crow-Armstrong – Picture by Todd Johnson

When tonight began, it did not start well for the Tennessee Smokies as Rocket City showed why they have one of the best teams in the minor leagues they jumped out to a three run lead after two innings. By the time Riley Thompson left the game in the fifth inning, he’d given up seven runs and made a comeback almost impossible as Rocket City was throwing 2021 second round pick Ky Bush out of St. Mary’s. He was really good, striking out seven Smokies in five innings. Then the Trash Pandas brought in Ben Joyce. All of a sudden, the Smokies erupted for 3 runs in the sixth on a dinger by Cole Roederer, who has been cranking a lot of them the last two weeks. All of a sudden, a four run deficit did not look so large.

In the bottom of the seventh, Zach Davis singled, stole second, went to third on a single and scored on a groundout to cut the lead to three with two innings to go.

Meanwhile, for the South Bend Cubs, their game was pretty close the whole way. Unfortunately, no one could see it unless you were at the game on the other side of Cleveland as they do not have a TV feed for the game.

Lake County struck first in the first when Joe Naranjo scored on a sac fly. The Cubs would tie the game in the fourth after a Pablo Aliendo single brought in Luis Verdugo. Lake County bounced back in the bottom of the inning to take a 2-1 lead. The Cubs then tied it in the sixth again and took the lead after Owen Caissie doubled and then scored on a Luis Verdugo single. 

Jake Reindl shut down the Captain in the seventh and eighth to take it to the ninth.

In the top of the frame, PCA gave the Cubs an insurance run with a solo blast to make it 4-2!

Switching back to Tennessee, the Smokies held serve in the eighth as Dalton Stambaugh got the job done. It was up to the bats to see if they could get closer at this point. Cole Roederer flew out to left to begin the inning. After a Luis Vazquez groundout, Harrison Wenson singled but was stranded as Zach Davis struck out. It would be to the top of the Smokies’ lineup in the ninth.

For South Bend, Manager Lance Rymel went with Michael McAvene to close it out for the Cubs. The former University of Louisville closer is used to pressure situations, although it had been a few years. Still, he figured out a way! After putting the first two runners on via a walk and single, McAvene coaxed a flyout followed by a grounder and then got a pop out to clinch the win for the Cubs! He did give up a run, but he left the tying run at third!

The Cubs will take on Lake County tomorrow with Porter Hodge on the bump for South Bend. The last time Hodge faced the Captains, he struck out ten of them!

Getting back to Kodak and the Smokies, Blake Whitney could not hold the Trash Pandas as a two-run triple increased the lead to 9-4. Not insurmountable, but really tough.

It started off well when Yonathan Perlaza homered and then Jake Slaughter walked. Bryce Ball then struck out after an 8 pitch AB. Nelson Maldonado flew out and Chase Strumpf singled to bring up Cole Roederer as the next hope. A wild pitched then put men on second and third. Unfortunately, Cole grounded out to SS Zach Neto to end the rally at 9-5.

The Smokies now head to Huntsville for game 2 on Thursday. They have to win to force a deciding game three for Friday.

In Other News…

Owen Caissie and BJ Murray will be joining Brennen Davis and Matt Mervis in the Arizona Fall League along with Riley Martin, Bailey Horn, Sheldon Reed, and Zac Leigh. That’s exciting to see the 20 year outfielder from Canada get some more experience. For Murray, he’s really come on this year, especially in the second half for South Bend. The switch-hitting infielder has a mature plate approach and has been cranking out some dingers lately!

I will be back in the morning with a look at who could be next year’s Matt Mervis and tomorrow night with a South Bend recap!