(HUNTSVILLE) - Michael Brantley reached base in all five of his at-bats, and Matt LaPorta and Michael Bell hit decisive back-to-back triples as Stars fans braved a cold, windy 44° night to watch the Stars down Chattanooga 6-5 in the opener of a five-game series at Joe Davis Stadium, Monday night.
One of the smallest crowds in Joe Davis Stadium history -- 502 -- were there for the 3-hour ballgame, with a guarantee from General Manager Buck Rogers that if the temperature dropped below 40°, they would get in free to see a future game.
The Stars won their 6th straight home game to improve to 7-4 -- tying them for 2nd place behind Carolina. The Lookouts dropped to 5-6.
Brantley led off a two-run 1st inning for the Stars with an infield single and moved to 2nd base on Alcides Escobar's single to right. The two pulled off a double steal and a throwing error by catcher Craig Tatum on the play allowed Brantley to score.
Escobar then came in to score on a two-out single by LaPorta, who went 1-for-14 in the Stars' last series against West Tennessee.
Jose Castro's grounder in the 2nd and Michael Griffin's RBI double in the 3rd tied the game before the Stars tallied twice in the home 3rd to take the lead for good.
Brantley singled, Escobar and Mat Gamel walked to load the bases and Chris Errecart followed with a sacrifice fly that scored Brantley and moved the other runners. LaPorta was walked intentionally to reload the bases before Mike Bell singled to right to score Escobar to make it a 4-2 ballgame.
B.J. Szymanski's home run in the 4th trimmed the Stars' lead to 4-3.
The Lookouts had runners at first and second with one out in the 5th when starter Steve Hammond was taken out of the game. David Johnson then fanned Eric Eymann and the league's leading hitter, Szymanski to end the inning.
Johnson worked a scoreless 6th inning to grab his 2nd win of the season.
Hammond pitched unevenly, allowing four hits and walking five in 4 1/3 innings, but he fanned 8 in his third start.
LaPorta and Bell delivered what would turn out to be the decisive hits in this game -- back-to-back RBI triples to give the Stars a 6-3 lead after five.
Chattanooga starter Sam LeCure, who lost to the Stars in 3 of his 4 starts last year, took the loss, allowing all 6 runs on 8 hits, 4 walks and 2 hit batters over 5 innings.
Brantley singled three times, walked twice, stole three bases and extended his hitting streak to five straight games, raising his average to .368 -- 3rd best in the Southern League.
Szymanski's two-out, two-run double off E.J. Shanks in the 7th inning cut the Stars' lead to one, but Shanks retired the side in order in the 8th and Patrick Ryan worked a perfect 9th to record his first save.
The series continues Tuesday night with left-hander Derek Miller taking on Lookouts' right-hander Darryl Thompson.