— Ryan Fisher hit a two-out, two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning to give the Jacksonville Suns (26-17) a 5-3 victory over the Birmingham Barons (28-18) in game one of a five-game set at Bragan Field.
Fisher’s blast came after J.T. Realmuto doubled with two down off Barons reliever Ryan Kussmaul to keep what proved to be the winning rally alive. Fisher then stepped to the plate and launched a Kussmaul curveball over the wall in right to the delight of 5,830 fans at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.
“[Fisher] got it real good,” Suns manager Andy Barkett said following his team’s 26th win of the season. “It was a breaking ball up, out over the plate. I had a real good look at it from the dugout, and he caught it out front real nice. It was a no-doubter.”
Birmingham entered the contest with the best record in the Southern League but could not touch Suns starter Jay Jackson through the first three innings. Jackson retired the first ten batters he faced before running into trouble in the fourth. The Barons loaded the bases for Andy Wilkins who hit a bouncing ball that skipped by first baseman Mark Canha for a two-run error, putting Birmingham up 2-0.
Jacksonville erased the deficit one inning later. Fisher doubled to lead off the bottom of the fifth and scored with two outs on Christian Yelich’s RBI double. Down 2-1, the Suns quickly took the lead one batter later when Jake Marisnick launched a pitch from Stephen McCray to the palm trees in left field to give the Suns a 3-2 advantage.
“[Marisnick] just got a good pitch to hit and hit it out,” Barkett said. “He’s just trying to have a good at-bat [in that situation].”
Marisnick’s fourth home run of the season would prove to only be the second biggest blast of the night for Jacksonville, as the Barons tied the score in the seventh on Michael Earley’s solo home run to right off Scott McGough (4-0). Jackson had been lifted after six innings of work, surrendering just one hit and one earned run, and would not earn his third victory.
“I think [Jackson] pitched good…he kept us in the ballgame,” Barkett said. “He kept us in the ballgame when he had to.”
Tied at three into the eighth, Jacksonville used a two-out rally to take the lead for good, capped by Fisher’s dramatic missile to right. Michael Brady came on for the top of the ninth and allowed just one hit before closing the contest and earning his ninth save.
“It’s always nice to get back in front of your home crowd,” Barkett said. “A loud crowd behind us rooting the team on…they’ve got great fans here in Jacksonville, always have.”
The Suns will look to make it two in a row over the Barons in game two of the five-game series on Friday. Jacksonville turns to right-hander Sam Dyson (1-3, 2.54), while Birmingham counters with southpaw Spencer Arroyo (3-2, 2.10) First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. ET.
Suns fans can listen to Friday’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. ET with the UF and Shands Suns Pre-Game Show.
Friday night at Bragan Field is Family Faith Night with a post-game concert with Francesca Battistelli, Elvis Himselvis, Blood Alliance Blood Drive & NAPA Friday Family Fireworks. It's a Night of Faith, Fellowship and our National Pastime with a post-game Christian concert with 2011 Dove Awards Best Artist Francesca Battistelli, courtesy of 91.7 The Promise. Elvis Himselvis will be back for an encore performance singing all of your favorite Elvis songs, courtesy of Process Master and 107.3 Jack-FM.
The Blood Alliance Bloodmobile will also be at Bragan Field and the Suns encourage all fans to donate blood. The first 25 donors receive two tickets to the game, a hot dog and soda voucher and a special Suns gift. Also check out the hottest rides from your Southern Ford Dealers, which will be on hand. Stay after the game and before the concert as the Suns light up the skies with the NAPA Friday Family Fireworks, presented by your NAPA AutoCare center dealers.