Sunday afternoon's game at AT&T Field was delayed more than an hour by rain in the third inning, but Kyle Heckathorn's homecoming had already been drenched.
The former Ringgold High School pitcher was tagged for seven runs on seven hits and lasted just two innings as his Huntsville Stars were thumped 7-3 by the Chattanooga Lookouts. Heckathorn performed in front of family, friends and several children who take pitching lessons from him during the offseason.
"Nerves are always a factor," Heckathorn said. "I didn't want to disappoint anyone, but that's how it turned out. They're a good-hitting team. I had a bad day, and they made me pay for it."
The 6-foot-6, 249-pound right-hander entered his first game in Chattanooga as a professional with a 2-2 record and a 4.17 earned run average, but the quick stint swelled his totals to 2-3 and 5.32.
After getting Lookouts leadoff batter Nick Buss to ground out, Heckathorn walked Jake Lemmerman, allowed a single to left by J.T. Wise and gave up a three-run home run to right by Blake Smith. The homer by Smith was one at-bat too late for the cycle after he singled, doubled twice and tripled during Chattanooga's 5-4 win Saturday night in 10 innings.
Smith has driven in four runs each of the past two games.
"Our offense has just really gotten hot recently," Smith said. "Their pitcher has great stuff, and we remembered him having great stuff when we faced him before [May 4 in Huntsville]. He's got live arm, but he just got in a little trouble getting behind. He left some pitches up, and once you leave a pitch up, it can lead to a couple of runs.
"He had a couple of two-strike hits, and once that gets rolling, it's hard to stop."
Sunday's romp clinched the series for the Lookouts, who improved to 21-23 and have won consecutive series for the first time this season.
Heckathorn's second inning began with a ground out by Griff Erickson, but then he allowed a walk to Lookouts starter Nathan Eovaldi and singles to Buss and Lemmerman to load the bases. An infield hit by Wise and a sacrifice to left by Smith made it 5-0, and then Travis Denker doubled to center to extend the lead to 7-0.
In his first eight starts for the Stars this season, Heckathorn racked up 40 strikeouts and only seven walks. The 23-year-old did not tally any strikeouts against the Lookouts and walked two.
"We were able to attack early, and we were able to hit some hard balls off of him," Lookouts manager Carlos Subero said. "We just had a good game early."
Said Heckathorn: "I've got to pack this in and go get them the next time. I'll get another shot at them, and hopefully it will turn out different."
Ethan Martin (5-0, 3.28) is scheduled to start tonight's 7:15 series finale for the Lookouts, with Hiram Burgos (0-1, 6.00) scheduled for the Stars.
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 ...