Darnell Sweeney rode an emotional roller-coaster for the better part of the last week. But when the Chattanooga Lookouts' leadoff man woke up Sunday morning he found himself the owner of a .300 average and a new position.
Even though Sweeney's hot bat was little help Sunday night, the newly reconverted shortstop added three more hits as the Lookouts' bright spot in a 15-2 hammering by the visiting Mississippi Braves.
Sweeney converted to second base from shortstop for 2014, but the abrupt promotion of Erisbel Arruebarrena to Los Angeles two days after the trade of Ozzie Martinez left the Lookouts down two shortstops. Lookouts manager Razor Shines' best and most obvious choice was Sweeney, despite making 34 errors at the position in 2013. But after making three errors in his first two games back at the position, the 23-year-old infielder has settled back into a defensive groove while his bat has caught fire.
"Shortstop is where I want to be," he admitted. "Whatever I can do to stay on that side of the diamond, I want to do it, but if I have to play second base to be in the lineup, then that's what I'll do."
In the final four games of the Mississippi series, Sweeney raised his average to .213 by going 11-for-16 against the Braves with three doubles, a home run and his first triple of the season. The Florida native had 16 triples in 2013, leading the California League.
"It's a two-sided game, and I'm disappointed in myself that in that first game. I took my mistakes with me to the plate," Sweeney said. "I've taken ground balls at both positions all season just in case, so it doesn't matter to me so long as I'm in the lineup. I even played outfield when I was younger."
But the M-Braves did all the damage Sunday, giving Lookouts starter Garrett Gould his earliest shower of the season.
Gould (1-5) lasted just 1 1/3 innings, allowing eight earned runs, including a two-run Barrett Kleinknecht homer off the foul pole in the first inning. However, Gould's line wasn't helped any when Raydel Sanchez came on in the second with two men on and promptly allowed Seth Loman to hit a three-run shot off the scoreboard.
Loman, a veteran Southern League player, finished a triple short of the cycle, driving in five runs and scoring four runs. Kyle Kubitza was the next-biggest run producer, driving in three runs on three hits, including two doubles.
Aaron Northcraft, yet another promising Braves starter, took advantage of the big early lead and scattered six hits over 5 2/3 innings for his fifth win. The Lookouts had baserunners in every inning against the lanky right-hander, but only managed a pair of third-inning runs.
Sweeney and new starting second baseman Ryan Adams, the top two hitters in the Chattanooga lineup, combined for five of the Lookouts' six hits.
The Lookouts hit the road starting today, when they will open a five-game series at Birminham at 8:05 EDT.