Things could not have started much worse for Chattanooga starting pitcher Andres Santiago in Friday's Southern League baseball game at AT&T Field. But for the Lookouts, things couldn't have ended any better.
Santiago surrendered singles to the first three Pensacola batters, but a popout and back-to-back strikeouts enabled him to escape with a scoreless first inning. A three-run third allowed Chattanooga to take a lead it would never relinquish, and the Lookouts defeated the Blue Wahoos 7-3 in front of a crowd of 6,195.
After the first inning, Santiago (2-4) limited Pensacola to three hits over the next four innings. He walked one, hit one and had five strikeouts.
Chattanooga, now 5-4 in the second half of the season, used a walk and three extra-base hits in taking a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the third. Noel Cuevas's two-RBI triple with one out highlighted the rally, and Daniel Mayora doubled him in.
O'Koyea Dickson's sacrifice fly in the fifth increased the Lookouts' lead to three runs before Pensacola got single runs in the sixth and seventh -- the latter unearned -- to get back within 4-3.
But the Lookouts responded in the bottom of the inning, starting with Darnell Sweeney's one-out, line-drive single up the middle to extend his hitting streak to 13 games. He also had a team-best 13-game hitting streak from April 20 through May 3.
Mayora, who finished 3-for-5, advanced Sweeney to third with a hit-and-run single through the right side of the infield. Sweeney, who also walked twice, then scored one of his three runs on a wild pitch ahead of an RBI double by Dickson.
The Blue Wahoos threatened in the eighth, loading the bases with two outs. But reliever Blake Smith came on and got cleanup batter Travis Mattair to fly to center and end the uprising. A double play in the ninth helped him earn his first save on the season.
Cuevas ended up 3-for-4 and in the eighth inning picked up his third RBI with his second triple of the night.
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.