It’s the final day of the year for the Iowa Cubs.
Smokies go first today, since they’re in the playoffs.
The Tennessee Smokies reeled in the Pensacola Blue Wahoos (Marlins), 8-4 to win game one of the best-of-three Southern League Championship Series.
Brandon Birdsell gave the Smokies a strong start and got the win after giving up just one run on four hits over five innings. Birdsell struck out five and walked one.
Meanwhile, the Smokies scored twice in the bottom of the first, one run in the second inning and five in the third. Second baseman Matt Shaw opened the bottom of the first with a hit-by-pitch and the next batter up, third baseman BJ Murray Jr. doubled him home before an out could be recorded. A single by right fielder Owen Caissie put runners on the corners and then the Smokies got a second run after DH Haydn McGeary grounded into a double play.
The Smokies made it 3-0 when catcher Pablo Aliendo opened the second inning with a walk and then left fielder Ezequiel Pagan doubled him home. Pagan was thrown out trying to stretch it to a triple.
Shaw walked to open up the third inning and after a single by Murray, Shaw scored on a double by McGeary. First baseman Moises Ballesteros was hit by a pitch and then Aliendo walked with the bases loaded to make it 5-1.
A sacrifice fly by Pagan and a pair of two-out RBI singles by center fielder Kevin Alcántara and shortstop Andy Weber made it 8-1.
The Smokies wouldn’t score again, but they wouldn’t need to. Frankie Scalzo Jr. gave up a run in the eighth and Zac Leigh allowed a two-out, two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth to end the scoring.
Everyone in the Smokies lineup had one hit except BJ Murray, who was 2 for 4 with two runs scored; and Matt Shaw, who was 0 for 3 but scored twice after being hit by a pitch and a walk. Shaw also stole a base.
McGeary’s ground-rule double.
Here’s Smokies broadcaster Mick Gillispie calling the final out of the game.
WHADD'YA SAY! Smokies take game one of the Southern League Championship Series by a final of 8-4. Here is how it sounded from @BroadcasterMick. #BestYearEver #SmokiesBaseball pic.twitter.com/70165irmfN— Tennessee Smokies (@smokiesbaseball) September 25, 2023
Game two of the Southern League Championship Series will be Tuesday night in Pensacola and game three, if necessary, will be played there on Wednesday.
The Smokies have not won an undisputed Southern League title since they were the Knoxville Sox in 1978. They were named co-champions in 2004 when the title series was cancelled because of Hurricane Ivan. The last time a Cubs affiliate won a title in Double-A was the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx, who won the Southern League in 2000.
Game one started yesterday and was suspended after six innings because of a power outage. But Shane Greene started yesterday and pitched three scoreless innings, giving up three hits. Greene walked two, hit one and struck out two.
After Tyler Duffey threw a perfect fourth inning, striking out two, Ben Brown came out to pitch the fifth inning and he got battered around and had to be bailed out by Michael Rucker. Brown took the loss after he allowed three runs on four hits over just two-thirds of an inning. Brown struck out two and walked one.
Iowa only had one hit in game one, a sixth inning single by David Bote. He was 1 for 4.
Samuel Reyes started the regularly-scheduled game and pitched four no-hit, scoreless innings. Reyes walked two and struck out four.
Scott Kobos took over for Reyes in the fifth inning and got the loss after he was knocked around for two runs on one hit and two walks over two-thirds of an inning. Kobos did not have a strikeout.
Louisville blew it open with a six-run bottom of the eighth inning. All six runs were charged to Chris Clarke, who failed to retired a single batter. He allowed four hits, he walked one and he hit one batter.
Iowa trailed this game 8-1 in the top of the ninth and they actually managed to get the tying run to the plate, but Levi Jordan ended the game with a grounder to short.
Center fielder Cole Roederer was 3 for 5 with an RBI double and a stolen base in this game.
Left fielder Yonathan Perlaza was 2 for 4 with a walk and two runs scored.
Second baseman Luis Vazquez was 2 for 4 and scored a run in the ninth inning.
This ends the season for the Iowa Cubs, who finished with an overall record of 82-65. That was good for fifth place overall in the International League. They finished 39-35 in the second half.