Pitchers tend to have the edge over hitters at the dawn of every Southern League season, but Saturday night was finally different for the Chattanooga Lookouts.
Bolstered by six consecutive hits that opened a nine-run sixth inning, Chattanooga rolled to a 10-2 win over the Tennessee Smokies before an announced crowd of 5,430 at AT&T Field. The Lookouts entered the game with a grisly .177 batting average, which actually was higher than those of two other league teams.
"The pitchers come out of spring training ready to go," Lookouts hitting coach Franklin Stubbs said. "You will see some hitters have good starts, but usually pitchers start out ahead and then the hitters catch up because pitchers get a little tired and hitters get a little stronger as the season goes on.
"It kind of balances itself out, but in this league you get good pitching every night, so if you don't bring it they will make you look kind of silly."
Chattanooga sent 15 batters to the plate in the sixth, with J.T. Wise, Kyle Russell, Travis Denker and Blake Smith each reaching twice in the inning.
Russell, who struck out four times during Chattanooga's two opening losses, went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles to left-center field. Russell's first double scored Nick Buss and Wise in the third inning to give the Lookouts a 2-1 lead, but the Smokies successfully appealed that Wise never touched third base, so the score was changed to 1-1.
Tennessee took a 2-1 lead in the top of the sixth, but Russell's second double scored Wise to tie the game. After Denker followed Russell with a single to right to put runners on the corners, a Smith single to left gave the Lookouts their first lead of the season.
Smith had been 0-for-9 in the series before collecting his first career Double-A hit.
"Some of these kids I haven't had before, so I'm kind of seeing what they like and what they don't like," said Stubbs, whose Lookouts led the league last season in runs, total bases and slugging percentage. "It's a new crew with a new personality, and that's the beauty of this. We're getting to work with some new guys who have some talent, and what you want is for the talent to mesh with the league they're playing in so they can perform at the level you want them to perform at."
Matt Magill is scheduled to start today's 2:15 game on the mound for the Lookouts, with Dae-Eun Rhee scheduled for the Smokies.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...