2017 Second Half Highlights

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Victor Reyes finished the season with a 13-for-19 series at Tennessee. He will play in the Arizona Fall League. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

LINK TO 2017 FIRST HALF HIGHLIGHTS

At 71-69 overall, the 2017 Jackson Generals finished their second straight year with an above- .500 winning percentage in the Southern League, compiling a 34-36 record in the Second Half. The Generals’ offense ended the season leading the league in eight different categories, though roster upheaval in July and August made it tough on manager J.R. House and hitting coach Jason Camilli to sustain Jackson’s early dominance. Pitching coach Doug Drabek’s corps of arms gained some traction down the stretch, as an improved starting rotation helped Jackson to a league- best 16 shutout victories. The Generals missed the playoffs by a few games, though they weren’t eliminated officially until the season’s final week. These are some of their highlights:

(NOTE: These memorable moments from the Second Half are by no means comprehensive—feel free to chip in your own thoughts in the comments below, or Tweet @JacksonGenerals on Twitter with your best memories of the 20th season of pro baseball in West Tennessee! There will also be a “2017 By The Numbers” post coming out soon that highlights many of the interesting statistics and figures from the year.)

SATURDAY, JUNE 17TH AT BIRMINGHAM (A First-Half Leftover)

Saturday Night’s Alright for Five-ing

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Kevin Medrano hit in a league-high 16 straight games during his remarkable June. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

After hitting .232 in May, Generals infielder Kevin Medrano rebounded with an outstanding June. Looking to tie Jonathan Rodriguez for the Southern League’s longest hitting streak, Medrano erupted for five hits at Birmingham on Saturday night, driving in a season-high four runs. The five-hit game was the first for a General since Tyler Bortnick in 2015, and it put Medrano in elite company as one of only seven Southern Leaguers to accomplish the feat this season. The five-hit night was the masterstroke on Medrano’s June canvas, wherein he painted a .371 batting average en route to Southern League Player of the Month honors.

SUNDAY, JUNE 25th VS. JACKSONVILLE

Dealing a Dozen

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Ivan Pineyro struck out 12 Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp on June 25, tying Taylor Clarke for the Generals’ 2017 season-high single-game mark. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

Inserted into the starting rotation to begin the Second Half, veteran right-hander Ivan Pineyro faced a former team in his first series and did not disappoint. In trying to even the Jacksonville series at 2-2, Pineyro struck out 12 Jumbo Shrimp hitters in seven scoreless innings, tying teammate Taylor Clarke for the Generals’ best single-game strikeout mark in 2017. Pineyro retired 19 straight hitters in his best stretch, and he came away with the narrowest of 1-0 victories after catcher B.J. Lopez scored from third base on a wild pitch in the bottom of the seventh. Joey Krehbiel and Gabriel Moya threw perfect eighth and ninth innings, as Moya recorded his 12th save overall and his third in four nights. Pineyro did not walk a batter. Pineyro was honored as the Southern League Pitcher of the Week, his first weekly honor in a seven-year career.

MONDAY, JULY 3rd AT TENNESSEE

Westbrook Whacks A Homer, Generals Avoid Sweep

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Jamie Westbrook hit safely in 24 of 29 games in July. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

Jamie Westbrook spent the whole month of June on the disabled list, and he came off it wanting to make up for lost time. Westbrook’s solo home run at Tennessee on July 3rd helped propel the Generals to a 4-1 victory, and it bore signs of what was to come in July. Westbrook had hits in 24 of 29 July games, including a 2017 personal-best streak of 10 straight games with a hit. He finished the month with a .320 batting average and 19 RBI, earning internal Double-A Player of the Month honors from the Diamondbacks’ front office. Westbrook also scored his first career outfield assist on July 7th in a 9-6 win over Birmingham. Jamie finished 2017 with his 4th straight season of at least 100 games played and at least 100 hits, one of only seven Generals position players who were on both the Opening Day roster and the 2017 finale roster.

 

TUESDAY, JULY 4th VS. BIRMINGHAM

Won on the Fourth of July

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Brad Keller and the Generals got the win on the Fourth of July. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

Hosting a home contest on Independence Day for the first time in eight years, the Generals bested eventual SL Pitcher of the Year Michael Kopech and the Birmingham Barons, 8-2, in front of 4,270. The rain-shortened contest nonetheless featured 11 hits from the Jackson offense, including multiple hits from Kevin Cron, Dawel Lugo, Evan Marzilli, and Galli Cribbs. Brad Keller earned the victory, while the Generals climbed a game ahead of the Barons with the help of Jared Miller’s second save of the year. The Generals finished 2017 with a 7-3 mark against the Barons at The Ballpark at Jackson, the best against any of their North Division opponents.

FRIDAY, JULY 21st AT BIRMINGHAM

A Southpaw Snaps the Skid

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Alex Young pitched to a 3.05 ERA in the Second Half. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

After being shut out on back-to-back nights at Regions Field, the Generals offense appeared severely handcuffed by the recent losses of third baseman Dawel Lugo (trade), shortstop Domingo Leyba (injury), and second baseman Kevin Medrano (promotion) in quick succession. In dire need of a win, Alex Young helped Jackson snap a five-game skid. The lefty delivered six scoreless innings, allowing only two hits and one walk while recording a season-high eight strikeouts in a 2-1 Jackson victory. The win was Young’s third in a row and third in the month of July, his best month in 2017. Young threw no fewer than five innings in any of his final ten starts, pitching to an ERA of 2.49 while striking out twice as many batters as he walked. His 2.51 road ERA was the best by any Jackson pitcher with at least 10 games started in 2017.

SATURDAY, JULY 29th VS MOBILE

Atkinson Beats BayBears

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Ryan Atkinson led all Diamondbacks minor leaguers with 167 strikeouts in 2017. He will pitch in the Arizona Fall League. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

Wearing a slick black-and-blue jersey in appreciation of Shark Week, right-hander Ryan Atkinson struck out six batters in 5.1 innings and allowed one run, good enough to win his Double-A debut vs. Mobile. The victory gave the Generals the series win and continued an unexpectedly successful season for Atkinson, an undrafted free agent who took 13 months off from baseball before being signed by the Diamondbacks in July 2016. In his first full season as a pro, Atkinson struck out 167 batters, more than any other Diamondbacks minor leaguer. With the Generals, he pitched to a 3.22 ERA in seven starts, earning an invitation to play in the prestigious Arizona Fall League in October along with Michael Perez and Victor Reyes.

THURSDAY, AUGUST 3rd VS. TENNESSEE

Payamps Dominates Tennessee Completely

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Joel Payamps threw a complete game shutout on August 3rd, Jackson’s only CG of the year. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

Though Jackson avoided playing any home double-headers through the season’s first four months, rain finally forced the Generals and Tennessee Smokies to play a twin-bill in early August. Right-hander Joel Payamps started the opener, and he made lightning-quick work of a stout Tennessee lineup. Using 84 pitches and a solid mix of fastball, slider, and changeup, Payamps threw Jackson’s first and only complete game of 2017, shutting out the Smokies 4-0 in seven innings while allowing only one hit. Payamps’ CG earned him his first Southern League Pitcher of the Week award, and it kicked off an awesome August, featuring a 2.32 ERA across five games with a 1.00 WHIP and an opponents’ batting average of just. 216.

 

FRIDAY, AUGUST 4th AT CHATTANOOGA

Perez Breaks Moya’s Earned Run Streak

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Michael Perez hit .298 with an .835 OPS in 50 Second Half games at Jackson. He will play in the Arizona Fall League. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

Facing his former team for the first time since a July 27th trade from Arizona to Minnesota, Chattanooga closer Gabriel Moya earned the save in a 3-1 victory over the Generals. However, Moya’s outing included a solo home run allowed to Jackson catcher Michael Perez, the first earned run allowed by Moya in over three months. Moya, having already earned Relief Pitcher of the Month honors for June and Midseason All-Star accolades as well, would go on to be named a Postseason Southern League All-Star, converting all 24 of his regular season save opportunities (17 with Jackson, 7 with Chattanooga). For Perez, the moment punctuated a rise from the Opening Day backup role to starter, featuring an OPS of .835 in 50 Second Half games with Jackson. Perez would also win “Best Defensive Catcher” recognition in a survey of Southern League coaches by Baseball America, solidifying his best season to date as a 25-year-old minor leaguer.

FRIDAY, AUGUST 18th VS. BILOXI

Duncan Nearly No-Hits Shuckers

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Frank Duncan narrowly missed becoming the second pitcher in franchise history to throw a no-hitter. (Photo credit: Tyler Springs)

An August addition to the Generals’ rotation, right-hander Frank Duncan stuck to his strengths, and his second start at Jackson very nearly made history. Duncan held a 2-0 lead while carrying a no-hitter into the ninth inning, striking out five Biloxi batters while collecting 12 groundball outs and stroking a single on offense. An infield single and a double in the ninth brought Biloxi within a run and chased Duncan, but Joey Krehbiel preserved the win with a two-out save. Duncan pitched five or more innings in each of his five starts with the Generals, earning an ERA under 4.00 and a groundout/flyout ratio of almost 2:1 (1.92). The near-miss allowed Dave Manning’s July 22, 1999 no-hitter to remain as the only no-hit game in franchise history.

FRIDAY, AUGUST 25th AT PENSACOLA

Herum’s Homer Evens Season Series with Wahoos

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Marty Herum held his own at third base, hitting .284 in 43 games after a promotion from High-A Visalia in mid-July. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

Jackson failed to score more than four runs in any of their 10 games against Pensacola in 2017, but they did enough to finish the season series 5-5 against the Blue Wahoos. The final meeting was a 0-0 Friday night chess match all the way into the ninth inning. Marty Herum, having gone more than two months without a home run, broke out the big stick with a two-out, two-strike mash to left field that put the Generals ahead 1-0. Herum’s first home run at Double-A proved to be enough for the Generals’ victory, and it revealed the power stroke that may be flashed again next season at Jackson. The 25-year-old third baseman hit .284 in 43 games with the Generals, drilling a team-leading nine doubles in August with a team-high .337 batting average during that time. Herum’s offensive numbers aren’t far from the pace set by Dawel Lugo, who manned third base for Jackson before being traded from Arizona to Detroit in mid-July.

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 30th VS. CHATTANOOGA

Kevin Cron Wins MVP, Generals Beat Chattanooga

He raised his batting average 61 points from last season. He hit 25+ home runs for the second straight year. He played in a league-high (and franchise record) 138 games, going over four months without a day off to end the year. He is Kevin Cron, and he earned the 2017 Southern League Most Valuable Player award just before the Generals took their second series from Chattanooga in August with 4-0 series finale shutout. (Notably, Cron recorded the walk-off RBI single in the Generals’ 5-4 victory over Chattanooga two nights before.) Cron anchored an offense that led the league in dingers and doubles, and he demolished his previous career high by recording 56 walks, almost twice his 2016 mark. He also led the league in assists at first base (69).

 

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Kevin Cron and Jamie Westbrook celebrate Cron’s 25th home run of the year at Tennessee. Cron led the league in home runs, assists at first base, and games played. (Photo credit: Extra Innings UK)

In tandem with 2016 MVP Tyler O’Neill, Cron becomes a part of the first tandem of players to win back-to-back MVPs for the same franchise in the 21st century. He’s the first to lead the Southern League in home runs in consecutive seasons in more than 40 years, since Jim Obradovich did so in 1975 & 1976. Cron joins Jake Lamb (2014) and Paul Goldschmidt (2011) as the third Diamondbacks minor leaguer to win Southern League MVP in the last seven seasons. The list of Southern League MVPs who are current Major Leaguers also includes Max Kepler (MIN), Marcus Semien (OAK), Evan Longoria (TB), and Joey Votto (CIN).

THURSDAY, AUGUST 31st AT TENNESSEE

Lockhart’s Last Stand

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Daniel Lockhart’s 11-pitch at-bat with two outs in the ninth inning kept Jackson alive in an eventual 8-7 win at Tennessee on August 31. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

In 52 previous 2017 games when trailing after eight innings, the Generals were 0-52. Staring at a 5-2 deficit to begin the ninth inning, they still did not flinch, scoring a run to pull within 5-3 with two outs and men on the corners. Daniel Lockhart, a former Tennessee Smokie himself, fell behind 0-2 against Smokies closer Craig Brooks, but he wouldn’t go down. Lockhart fouled off five straight pitches before Brooks threw two balls, evening the count. After another foul to stay alive, Lockhart lined the 11th pitch of the at-bat into left field for an RBI single, drawing Jackson within 5-4. The Lockhart-Brooks duel catalyzed the Generals’ offense, which scored six runs across the final three frames in an eventual 8-7 victory in 11 innings. Starter Tyler Badamo did not factor in the decision, giving up five runs over six innings while striking out 10 Tennessee hitters in what would be his only Double-A start of the year.

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 4th AT TENNESSEE

A Finale You Could Feel

In the season finale, the Generals watched a duel unfold on the mound, as Jackson’s Ryan Atkinson tried to keep Tennessee’s Duane Underwood Jr. from winning his league-best 14th game of the year. Scoreless through three innings, the Generals drew first blood, as Victor Reyes smashed his fourth home run of the year over the right field wall for a 2-0 lead. Having held Tennessee down through six innings, Atkinson belted a two-out, two-run double off the left-center field wall in the seventh, recording his first professional hit in dramatic fashion. The Generals plated two more runs in the eighth, helped by Reyes’ fifth triple of the year and a sacrifice fly by Marty Herum.

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Victor Reyes tallied a team high 11 outfield assists in 2017, playing in over 120 games and hitting at least .290 for the third straight season. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

Entering the bottom of the eighth with a 6-1 lead, Jackson looked momentarily shaky, as a bases-clearing three-run double by Tennessee’s Yasiel Balaguert brought the Smokies within 6-4. However, Kirby Bellow bore down for the inning’s final two outs, and Josh Taylor finished the game with a scoreless ninth inning. Taylor stranded a pair of leadoff hits by getting three consecutive outs, ending the game with the tying run on base and the winning run at the plate. The save was Taylor’s first of the year, and the win clinched an above-.500 winning percentage for the Generals for the second straight year. Reyes finished with nine total bases in the game, falling a single shy of the cycle. His 13-for-19 effort in the Tennessee series propelled him to being honored as Jackson’s third Southern League Player of the Week in 2017.

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Travis Denker (center, with mitt) is greeted by J.R. House (center-left, with forward-facing helmet) after being removed from Game #140 in the bottom of the eighth inning. The 32-year-old Denker homered in his last at-bat of the season in the top of the eighth. (Photo credit: Extra Innings UK)

A special mid-afternoon moment came in the eighth inning, when 32-year-old infielder Travis Denker led off with a solo home run to right field. Denker’s 7th dinger of the year came in his 1,267 professional game between MLB and the minors, giving him 147 jacks in his career. After the Generals took the field for the bottom of the eighth inning, Denker was removed from the game by manager J.R. House, applauded by the Tennessee crowd and hugged by his teammates and coaches. Denker is not officially retired and can still hit, as shown by his .867 OPS in 186 at-bats this season. That said, it was cool to watch Denker—who has never hit a walk-off home run—walk off after a home run in his final at-bat of the season.

 

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So long for now! Opening Night 2018 will be Thursday, April 5, 2018 at 6:05 pm vs. Jacksonville. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

Before we turn our backs on 2017, we’d like to say thank you to all the people that have given us feedback and shown interest in the team this year. We’re glad you got to share in the magic of minor league baseball once more! We look forward to seeing you at The Ballpark at Jackson in 2018 or interacting with you online if you can’t make it!

Best,
Tyler Springs and Brandon Liebhaber

 

[Photo credits for Kevin Cron mosaic: Cody Cunningham and Kate Lentz)

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2017 First Half Highlights

As we prepare for the Second Half of the 2017 Southern League season, we thought it’d be timely (and fun) to look back on some of the highlights from the First Half. This is not a complete list – we encourage you to comment below on what moments you enjoyed, and you are more than welcome to Tweet at us (@JacksonGenerals) or email us (JacksonGeneralsBroadcast@gmail.com) with memories of your own.

*=Generals player voted into the 2017 Southern League Mid-Season All-Star Game

FRIDAY, APRIL 7th VS. BIRMINGHAM

Reyes Makes The Hippos HappyReyes HR 480

Generals outfielder Victor Reyes made a difference in his second Double-A game, playing a key role in a 3-2 victory over the Barons. Reyes hit the Generals’ first home run of the year over the right field fence, a solo shot that proved to be the difference in the game. Birmingham put the tying run on base in the ninth inning, but Reyes and infielder Dawel Lugo combined for a fantastic game-ending relay to home plate that gunned down the runner as he tried to score on a single to deep right-center field. The win was the first for the Generals as their Friday night alter-ego, the Hub City Hippos.

SATURDAY, APRIL 8th VS. BIRMINGHAM

Return of the Home Run KingKevin Cron

In the third game of the year, Generals first baseman Kevin Cron* blasted three home runs out of The Ballpark at Jackson, joining Steven Proscia, Carlos Peguero, and Charlton Jimerson as the only Generals players to accomplish that feat in the past decade. Cron’s first bomb, off highly touted right-hander Michael Kopech, came on a 98-mph fastball and ended up 450 feet over the fence in left-center. His third jack of the game tied the score in the bottom of the ninth, pushing the Generals and Birmingham Barons into their first extra-innings game of the year. Cron, the 2016 Southern League leader in home runs, led the league in dingers through May.

SUNDAY, APRIL 9th VS. BIRMINGHAM

20-Run Fun

Stinging from an 8-7 extra-innings loss the night before, the Jackson offense unloaded on Birmingham in a 20-5 blowout on Sunday afternoon. Led by multiple homers from both Dawel Lugo and Stewart Ijames, Jackson did all of its scoring in the first seven innings, tallying 18 RBI and 22 hits, 12 of which went for extra bases. The Generals’ six home runs fell one bomb shy of the Southern League record. Jackson recorded their highest run total since August 7, 2009, when the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx took down Carolina, 20-9. The 22 hits from J.R. House’s squad is the highest hit total for a Generals team since May 10, 2006, a 25-hit effort in a 15-1 drubbing of Mississippi.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 19th VS. MONTGOMERY

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Facing a 7-3 deficit with six outs to go, the Generals mounted an improbable comeback, scoring five runs in the last two innings for an 8-7 walk-off win. Generals outfielder Kelly Dugan started the four-run eighth inning with a sacrifice fly, and he finished the game with a two-out ninth-inning broken-bat double into the right field corner that scored catcher Michael Perez from first base.

SATURDAY, APRIL 22nd AT BILOXI

Gabe, The New Babe

Batting for the second time as a minor leaguer, Generals left-handed pitcher Gabe Speier used his first swing as a professional to crank an opposite-field solo home run in Biloxi. The April 22nd dinger was the first by a Jackson pitcher since August 9, 2006, when reliever Bobby Brownlie homered in the 11th inning of a 7-3 West Tenn Diamond Jaxx victory over Jacksonville. Speier out-did Brownlie, too: both men got the win in their respctive games, but Speier threw 3.1 scoreless innings of relief, while Brownlie only notched 3.0 innings.

MONDAY, APRIL 24th AT BILOXI

Westbrook’s Triple-DoubleJamie Westbrook 4

After starting in a 6-for-50 rut, Generals second baseman Jamie Westbrook erupted on April 24th with a slump-busting 4-for-5 night at Biloxi. Westbrook’s first two at-bats consisted of an RBI double to left and a two-run triple to center field, but he wasn’t finished. In the fifth inning, the Chandler, Ariz. native doubled to right, marking his first game with three or more hits on the season. In the sixth, Biloxi retired the first two batters before Rudy Flores* and Victor Reyes connected on consecutive doubles. Westbrook, batting next, doubled again to right, scoring Reyes. The double was Westbrook’s third of the night and the third in a row in that inning. Westbrook’s rebound from the slump was a week-long fast-break: he won Southern League Player of the Week honors on May 1st after a 13-for-27 week at the plate. He celebrated that afternoon by hitting his first homer of the season, taking Chattanooga’s Felix Jorge deep in a 12-pitch at-bat.

SATURDAY, MAY 13th VS. PENSACOLA

Keller Beats Mahle

Facing Pensacola ace right-hander Tyler Mahle, the Generals came up with an impressive 3-0 victory in front of a big Saturday night crowd. Mahle, less than one month removed from throwing a perfect game, allowed a solo home run to Rudy Flores* in seven innings of work. Jackson right-hander Brad Keller out-dueled him, holding the Blue Wahoos scoreless over six innings. Kevin Cron* and Dawel Lugo also added solo home runs in the eighth and ninth innings to put the victory on ice, handing Mahle his first defeat of the year.

FRIDAY, MAY 19th AT MONTGOMERY

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After an 11-6 victory the night before, the Generals offense ate up the Montgomery Biscuits in a 17-5 feast, garnering two grand slams in the process. Generals outfielder Kelly Dugan and designated hitter Rudy Flores* each hit home runs with the bases loaded, marking the first time a team had slammed twice in the same game since current Houston Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick hit two grand slams by himself in an 11-2 Jacksonville victory at Pensacola on May 30, 2013.

 

SATURDAY, MAY 27th AT JACKSONVILLE

20-K Comrades

Generals hurlers Taylor Clarke*, Joey Krehbiel*, and Gabriel Moya* combined to retire 20 Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp on strikes in a 4-2 nine-inning comeback victory. Clarke set a career high with 12 punchouts, while Krehbiel added five, a season-high among Generals relievers at that point. The 20-K effort fell two strikeouts shy of the Southern League record (22), which was most recently tied by Jackson in a victory over Chattanooga on April 21st, 2014. Moya had the chance to tie the record, but the final two outs of the ninth inning were recorded via groundout and flyout. Jacksonville led 2-0 until the eighth inning, but the Generals rallied with five hits in the final two frames to overtake the Jumbo Shrimp.

 

FRIDAY, JUNE 2nd VS. MISSISSIPPI

Walking TallColin Walsh 3

Generals second baseman Colin Walsh* reached base safely in a team-best 22nd straight game, making his streak that began on May 10th one of the three longest tears in the Southern League at that time. Walsh went 18-for-63 with five extra base hits and a wondrous 31 walks. Walsh’s walk total (55 through June 2) led all players in the affiliated minor leagues and Major League Baseball. Walsh won the Southern League’s first Player of the Week honor in 2017 by hitting .371 over the first nine games of the year, recording two home runs and seven doubles in that span.

 

FRIDAY, JUNE 3rd VS. MISSISSIPPI

The Force Is Strong With Fans

Wearing Star Wars-themed jerseys adorned with movie character Admiral Ackbar, the Generals played a riveting series finale against the Mississippi Braves in front of a season-high 6,224 fans. The Generals dropped a 4-3 contest, but the crowd was treated to a rousing post-game fireworks show and lots of promotional segments that paid homage to the famous sci-fi film franchise.

 

TUESDAY, JUNE 6th AT CHATTANOOGA

Nine Shutout Innings (Of Relief)Joey Krehbiel pitching 2

In the longest game of the year to date, the Generals bested the Lookouts 4-2 with the help of nine scoreless innings from their bullpen. Right-hander Joel Payamps allowed just two runs in his five-inning start, but a five-man relief corps of Miller Diaz, Joey Krehbiel*, Jared Miller, Gabriel Moya*, and Yuhei Nakaushiro held Chattanooga scoreless thereafter. A sacrifice fly from Dawel Lugo and an RBI single by Kelly Dugan helped the Generals pull ahead in the top of the 14th inning. Nakaushiro got the final three outs just before midnight in a four-hour, 17-minute contest.

Series Preview: Montgomery visits the league-leading Generals

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Generals reliever Yuhei Nakaushiro threw 4.1 innings in relief over the Generals’ trip to Mobile, earning a win and a save in the process. Jackson leads the Southern League North Division at 8-2. (Photo credits for this article: Cody Cunningham)

Did somebody say “Biscuits”, or was that my stomach growling? Either way, it’s breakfast time, and we’re here to bring you a first look at the Generals’ second home series of the year!

After ten games in 2017, the Jackson Generals (8-2) hold the high ground in the Southern League’s North Division as they await the arrival of the Montgomery Biscuits (5-5). New manager J.R. House has found multiple ways to coax wins out of his team so far, and that’s in part because the roster has already changed.

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