(HUNTSVILLE) - Second baseman Mike Bell carried the Huntsville Stars to an important 3-1 victory over the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx in the first of a five-game series between the Southern League's Northern division rivals, vying for the first half title with 9 games left to play.
Bell belted the game-winning solo home run, his 5th of the year off Diamond Jaxx starter Ryan Ketchner (4-2), in the 6th inning to break a 1-1 tie as Steve Hammond worked 6 2/3 strong innings for his 6th win of the year. Hammond has three losses.
Hammond worked out of a jam with runners at first and second and nobody out in the 1st as Mark Kiger hit into a double play. He proceeded to walk Michael Wilson, but got a ground out to end the inning.
Angel Salome doubled in Mat Gamel to give the Stars a 1-0 lead in the bottom half, but Hammond allowed the Diamond Jaxx to tie the game in the top of the 2nd on a one-out single by Jeffrey Dominguez that scored Matt Mangini.
Hammond settled down after that, and with the help of relievers Joe Bateman and Omar Aguilar, allowed West Tennessee just 2 hits the rest of the way. Bateman has given up just two earned runs in his last 19 2/3 innings. Aguilar earned his 2nd save since joining the Stars from Class A-West Virginia (SAL) last week.
Bell homered over the left field wall in the 6th on a 3-2 pitch before scoring the insurance run in the 8th on a sacrifice fly by Alcides Escobar.
The Stars (37-24), now with a game lead in the North, sends southpaw Derek Miller (5-1, 3.49)to the mound Friday night against Diamond Jaxx right-hander Doug Fister (5-4, 3.27).