. – Down 9-5 entering the bottom of the ninth, the Jacksonville Suns rallied for seven runs, capped by Marcell Ozuna's walk off home run, to beat the Chattanooga Lookouts 12-9.
"The guys showed a lot of heart, a lot of determination," manager Andy Barkett said following the game. "I was really impressed."
In one of the wilder games that Bragan Field at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville has seen, the two teams combined for 24 hits and 11 ninth inning runs. Christian Yelich twice tied the game in the final two innings with two-run doubles, and Ozuna's walk off shot off Greg Infante was his second of the game.
"Ozuna's been in a groove since he got here," Barkett said. "Got the head of the bat out a couple of times and got us a couple of big homers, obviously with the last one being the biggest."
The game also began in peculiar fashion, with the Suns plating a first inning run off Chattanooga starter Onelki Garcia courtesy of a balk by Garcia. The Lookouts right-hander would also surrender Ozuna's first home run in the third inning and was lifted before that frame ended, trailing 3-0.
C.J. Retherford brought the Lookouts closer with a two-run home run of his own in the fifth inning off Suns starter Adam Conley. The Jacksonville left-hander was otherwise very effective, giving up just the two runs over five innings pitched, with four hits allowed, four strikeouts and no walks in a no decision.
"He got into some trouble, but made pitches and found a way to get out," Barkett said of Conley. "His breaking ball was good, his changeup was solid. I thought he threw the ball great.
Meanwhile, the Suns' bats were stifled by Chattanooga reliever Aaron Miller, who struck out eight batters over four and a third innings out of the bullpen. Miller stood a chance to be the winning pitcher after the Lookouts rallied for two runs in the top of the seventh to take a 4-3 lead.
After Chattanooga added a run in the top of the eighth to pull ahead 5-3, the Suns rallied for the first time in the bottom half. Christian Yelich tied the game at five with a two run double into the left-center field gap to even the score, picking up his first two Southern League RBI's in the process.
The two squads saved the craziest inning for last, as Chattanooga retook the lead on Miguel Rojas' three-run home run in the top of the ninth off Michael Brady to give the Lookouts an 8-5 advantage. Blake Smith then hit the second of back-to-back home runs, making the score 9-5 entering the bottom of the ninth.
The Suns began their comeback when J.T. Realmuto singled to lead off the frame against Ryan Acosta. After a flyout, the only out Chattanooga would get in the inning, Acosta hit Jake Smolinski with a pitch. Realmuto scored on Audy Ciriaco's ensuing single, and Chris Gutierrez's line drive into left loaded the bases. Aaron Dudley walked against new pitcher Greg Infante (0-1) to force in a run and make the score 9-7.
Yelich then hit his second two-run double to again tie the score at nine. Ozuna's walk off shot over the left-center field fence came moments later. The comeback made a winner of Brady (1-0) despite his four runs allowed in the ninth.
The Suns finished the series with an 11-8 record and a hold on first place on the Southern League South division as they prepare to begin a five-game home set with the Mobile BayBears at Bragan Field on Thursday. The first game of the series is set for a 7:05 p.m. start, with Sam Dyson (0-1, 1.88) and Michael Bolsinger (0-0, 1.93) scheudled to start for the Suns and BayBears, respectively.
Suns fans can listen to Thursday's game on the Suns Baseball Network, 94.1 WSOS-FM, or through jaxsuns.com
, MiLB.com or the Suns iPhone or Android app, beginning at 6:50 p.m. with the UF and Shands Suns Pre-Game Show.