M-Braves drop series finale to Smokies

Published 6:35 pm Monday, April 9, 2018

PEARL — The Mississippi Braves wrapped up their first homestand of the season with a loss in a Monday matinee.

Jason Vosler homered, Trey Martin had two hits and two RBIs, and the Tennessee Smokies beat the M-Braves 5-4 in the series finale at Trustmark Park.

Mississippi (3-2) cut a four-run deficit to one, but a pair of unearned runs and an ill-timed line drive double play thwarted its comeback bid. After Tennessee took advantage of two errors in the top of the sixth inning to take a 5-1 lead, the M-Braves put runners at first and third with no outs in the bottom half. Tyler Neslony hit a sharp line drive that was snagged by first baseman Yasiel Balaguert right at the bag, and he easily doubled off Austin Riley.

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The M-Braves went on to score twice in the inning, and added one more in the seventh, but the missed opportunity for a big hit was a turning point in the game.

Smokies pitcher Craig Brooks worked around two hits and a walk over the last two innings to close out the game and earn his first save of the season. Brooks had three strikeouts, including one of Michael Snyder to end the game with runners on first and third.

The M-Braves outhit the Smokies 11-7, but also struck out 11 times and left 10 men on base. They were just 3-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

Daniel Lockhart was 2-for-3 with a solo home run, his first of the season, for Mississippi. Luis Valenzuela doubled and scored a run, and Jonathan Morales was 2-for-4 with an RBI.

Martin was 2-for-4 with two RBIs for the Smokies, who are the Double-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. Carlos Penalver singled and scored two runs, while Mississippi native Michael Rucker allowed one run in five innings to earn his first victory of the season. Rucker allowed three hits and one walk, and struck out six.

The M-Braves won three of the five games in the season-opening series, and will now go on the road for the next five. They’ll take a short trip to the Coast to begin a series with the Biloxi Shuckers Wednesday at 6:35 p.m.

The M-Braves return home April 16-20 for a series against Pensacola.

Monday’s game was one of four midweek day games on the schedule at Trustmark Park in April and May, and was attended by hundreds of schoolchildren.
The other weekday matinees on the schedule are April 18 against Pensacola, April 30 against Jackson, and May 9 vs. Mobile.

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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