JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Suns’ (27-17, 61-50) 11-game winning streak came to an emphatic end on Tuesday, as Eric Jokisch fired a no-hitter for the Tennessee Smokies (25-19, 59-54) in a 10-0 Tennessee victory.
Jokisch’s no-no is the first in the Southern League since Matt Moore’s gem for the Montgomery Biscuits in 2011. The left-hander, who celebrated his 24th birthday a week ago Monday, got Suns’ pitcher Pete Andrelczyk to ground out to third base to finish off the masterpiece.
“I barely remember [the final out],” Jokisch said, drenched in his dugout’s supply of Gatorade. “I think I slammed my glove. I don’t even know. It was unbelievable. I cannot have imagined anything better.”
Jokisch issued four walks but struck out eight, including five of the first six batters he faced. The Virginia, Ill. native also received several outstanding plays behind him, including shortstop Javier Baez’s diving catch for the second out in the ninth inning.
“The plays behind me were unbelievable,” Jokisch said. “That kid [Baez] is a freak of nature. I thought that there was absolutely no way anybody could get to that. And the play he made was just fantastic. Everybody came to play today. It was awesome.”
The Smokies’ left-hander also displayed a strong balance in his distribution of the 27 outs. In addition to his eight strikeouts, Jokisch induced nine ground ball outs and ten flyouts or lineouts to complete the no-hitter.
“I felt good from the get-go”, Jokisch said. “In the sixth and seventh innings I thought ‘Man, they still have none’. It was tough not to think about it.”
The Suns, meanwhile, fell behind early as starter Andrew Heaney could not duplicate his stellar Double-A debut from earlier in the week. The Smokies jumped on the left-hander for five runs in three innings and led 10-0 after five frames. It was only then that the focus switched to Jokisch.
“He pitched great,” Suns manager Andy Barkett said of Jokisch. “What can you say? He kept us off balance all night. It’s a first for me as a manager. But hey, things happen. It’s good for the kid. We still won four out of five in the series.”
On the offensive side of the diamond, the Smokies’ Baez also enjoyed a tremendous overall game. Before his no-hitter-saving catch, the number one Chicago Cubs prospect rapped four hits in six at-bats, including two doubles, while driving in three runs.
The Suns will attempt to begin a new winning streak on Wednesday as they begin a five-game road series against the Pensacola Blue Wahoos at Pensacola Bayfront Stadium. Jacksonville will send right-hander Anthony DeSclafani (3-2, 4.36) to the mound in the series opener, while Pensacola counters with right-hander Jon Moscot (0-0, 21.00). First pitch is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. ET.