The Biloxi Shuckers entered a 5-game series against the Jacksonville Suns in a tie for first place in the Southern League with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. Unfortunately, the Shuckers only managed to win 2 of the 5 games and finished the first half of the season a game and a half behind the Wahoos.
Even though the Shuckers had a rough weekend, it was nice to see some of the Brewer prospects. Josh Hader had already been promoted to Colorado Springs, but Brett Phillips, Jacob Nottingham, Garrett Cooper, Nate Orf, Nick Ramirez, Tyrone Taylor, Adrian Houser, Tristan Archer, Stephen Peterson, and Wei-Chung Wang were there.
The first game of the series on Wednesday started out with the temperature at about 90 degrees with a few clouds in the sky. Left fielder Johnny Davis led off the game with an infield single and came around to score on a sacrifice fly by Nottingham to give the Shuckers a 1-0 lead.
Shucker pitcher Brandon Woodruff was not able to make it out of the first inning. The first 3 batters reached, including a 3-run home run by Austin Dean. Woodruff sandwiched a pair of walks around a pop out and was replaced by Brooks Hall with just one out. Hall was able to get out of the inning with no further damage and the Suns were up 3-1.
Suns right fielder Moises Sierra led off the bottom of the third with a home run to put the Suns up 4-1. The Suns scored 3 more runs on 5 hits in the fourth inning to go up by a score of 7-1.
The Shuckers got a few runs back in the fifth inning. Ramirez singled, but Davis hit into a fielder’s choice to erase Ramirez. Orf singled to put runners on first and second with one out. Phillips then hit a home run into the right field corner to bring the score to 7-4.
Unfortunately, it was too little too late as the Suns tacked on a run in the sixth inning and won the game 8-4.
Rain threatened to dampen the game, but it was gone well before the start. The storms actually cooled it down quite a bit, all the way down to 81 at game time.
Davis led off the game with a walk and advanced to second on a fielder’s choice. Phillips made the second out with a fly ball to center field. Cooper hit a single to right, but Suns right fielder Moises Sierra made a great throw to cut down Davis at the plate to end the first inning.
Houser pitched for the Shuckers in the second game of the series and gave up a two-out run in the bottom of the first and another two-out run in the third. He finished the night giving up 2 runs on 6 hits and 2 walks while striking out 4 in 6 innings.
Orf led off the sixth with a double and scored on Cooper’s one-out single. That would be all that the Shuckers would be able to push across the plate in a 3-1 loss. It could have been worse, as Phillips made an extraordinary catch on the first Suns hitter in the seventh and Tyler Spurlin was able to strand the bases loaded to keep the Suns to just one run in the inning.
The heat was back for the third game of the series. The temperature was 92 degrees when the first pitch was thrown, and the sun was out.
The game remained scoreless through the first three innings. Archer struck out 4 of first 5 batters he faced and finished his spot start with 3 shutout innings, giving up 2 hits and striking out 5.
Ramirez hit a 1-out solo home run to put the Shuckers on the board in the fourth inning. Phillips helped them keep the lead in the bottom of the inning. After Dean led off the inning by reaching on an error, Sierra was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second with nobody out. Brian Anderson hit a sinking line drive to center field that Phillips charged in on and made a spectacular diving catch.
The Suns did score a run in the fifth inning, but got Dean to ground into a double play to prevent any more runs from coming across.
Cooper came up in the eighth inning with the bases loaded and one out. He hit one the other way and it landed about 4 feet inside the line and bounced into the corner. All 3 runners scored, but Sierra made a strong throw to third to get Cooper out trying to stretch it into a double.
Games 4 and 5:
The fourth game was postponed due to rain, setting up a pair of 7-inning games on Sunday. The Shuckers started the day a game behind Pensacola and needed to sweep the Suns and have the Blue Wahoos lose their game in order to take over first place.
Woodruff was on the mound for the Shuckers again and he pitched better than he did on Wednesday. However, he gave up a pair of 2-out runs, one in the first and one in the fourth, and the Suns pitching made that stand.
The Shuckers added a 2-out run of their own in the fifth, but that was all they could muster and their hopes of finishing the first half in first died with the 2-1 loss in the opener.
Jorge Ortega took the mound for the Shuckers in the second game of the double header. After a scoreless first inning, Cooper and Tyrone Taylor hit back-to-back doubles in the second inning to put the Shuckers on the board. Ortega would help himself with a 2-out RBI single to give them a 2-0 lead going into the bottom of the second.
In the bottom of the inning, James Roberts reached on a 2-out single. Shucker catcher Parker Berberet tried to pick Roberts off, but threw the ball away and Roberts ended up on second and would score on a single.
That would be it for the scoring and the Shuckers held on to win the series and first half finale by a score of 2-1. Ortega went 6 innings, giving up just an unearned run on 4 hits and a walk while striking out 2.
The Shuckers finished the first half with a 39-30 record. Most of the team will have a few days off, but 5 will be playing in the mid-season All-Star Game on Tuesday.
Originally, the Shuckers had 6 All-Star selections: pitchers Hader and Peterson, catcher Nottingham, first baseman Cooper, and outfielders Phillips and Kyle Wren. Wren and Hader will not be able to make it due to being promoted to AAA Colorado Springs. Another late addition to the All-Star team was Archer, who picked up the win on Friday.