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Despite walking 12 batters and striking out 13 times on offense, the Huntsville Stars hurlers combined to one-hit the Birmingham Barons en route to a 5-3 victory on Sunday afternoon at Regions Field.
For the second straight game, the Stars got out to a quick start against the Barons. After third basemen Shea Vucinich drew a walk, a RBI triple from first basemen Jason Rogers put the Stars on the board. Following a two-out walk from right fielder Brock Kjeldgaard, a RBI single from designated hitter Robinzon Diaz and an accompanying error by Barons left fielder Jared Mitchell allowed Rogers and Kjeldgaard to score to give the Stars a 3-0 lead.
In the fifth inning, with the score still intact, the Stars bats equaled that same output. To begin the inning, second basemen Nick Shaw drew a walk against Barons starter Spencer Arroyo (L, 1-1) that chased him from the game. Then, after Barons reliever Taylor Thompson gave up a single to right fielder Kentrail Davis to begin his outing, a 2-run double down the right-field line from Kjeldgaard scored Shaw and Davis to give Huntsville a five-run lead. Later in the inning, Kjeldgaard scored on another RBI single by Diaz to make the score 6-0.
That run support was plenty for Stars starting pitcher Ariel Pena, who earned his first victory in 11 starts in a Stars uniform on Sunday to improve to 1-2 on the season. The 24-year-old righty gave up a single to Barons catcher Michael Blanke as the only hit of the ballgame with two outs in the fifth inning. Pena finished the day by going five innings while striking out four batters and walking seven.
Pena was tabbed for two earned runs when he walked the first two batters of the sixth inning before leaving the ballgame. His replacement, righty Mark Williams, ultimately gave up three straight bases-loaded walks to allow the Barons to cut their deficit in half by the end of the inning. In his Double-A debut, the 24-year-old hurler threw an inning, giving up one run while walking four batters after being transferred to the Stars from Brevard County (A+) early Sunday morning.
In the ninth inning, Huntsville put the game out of reach with two more runs. After Barons righty Ryan Kussmaul walked Vucinich and gave up a single to Davis to begin the inning, Rogers smoked a RBI double down the left-field line to plate Vucinich. Davis later scored on a wild pitch from Kussmaul to make the score 8-3.
On the pitching side, Stars got two innings of scoreless relief from righty R.J Seidel and righty Casey Medlen sent the Barons down in order to finish the game in the ninth inning.
For Huntsville, the victory was their second in a row and now gives the Stars a 6-1 record away from Joe Davis Stadium in 2013. The combined one-hitter was the second of the sorts this year for Huntsville, despite the 12 walks issued being a season-high for the Stars hurlers.
The Stars and Barons will play game three of their five-game series at Regions Field on Monday morning. Huntsville will send RHP Taylor Jungmann (1-2, 7.62 ERA) to the bump to square off against Birmingham RHP Erik Johnson (1-0, 1.47 ERA). The pitching matchup features a pair of top-five prospects per MLB.com in each organization with Jungmann (2nd) for the Brewers and Johnson (4th) for the White Sox. First pitch is at 11:30 AM.