Hammond Blanks Suns on Two Hits as Stars Win Opener, 5-0

(JACKSONVILLE, Fla.) - Steve Hammond held the Suns to just 2 hits over 6 2/3 scoreless innings while Jacksonville native Mat Gamel collected his minor league-leading 100th hit and Southern League-leading 60th RBI as the Huntsville Stars won the opening game of their last series of the first half, 5-0, at the Baseball Grounds.

The Stars retained their one-game lead in the Northern Division. West Tennessee kep pace by beating Chattanooga, 3-1, Wednesday night.

The Stars improve to 40-26 on the season, their first 40-win first half since 2003.

The Stars have won all six meetings thus far against Jacksonville. It was just their 2nd win in 11 games at Jacksonville since 2006.

Former Birmingham Baron pitcher B.J. LaMura retired the first nine hitters he faced for the Suns before Michael Brantley and Alcides Escobar opened the 4th with singles. Gamel then followed with a base hit to center to score Brantley and give the Stars a 1-0 lead.

With his 100th hit, Gamel has reached that milestone faster than any other player in Stars' history. D.T. Cromer in 1997 did not pick up his 100th hit until June 25. He's the only other Huntsville Star to pick up his 100th hit in June.

Escobar moved to third on Gamel's hit, then scored to make it 2-0 on a sacrifice fly by Angel Salome. He reached base in the 6th on a throwing error by his Jacksonville counterpart Ivan DeJesus, Jr., stole second, went to third on a grounder, and scored along with Gamel on a double to deep left-center by Matt LaPorta, doubling the Stars' lead to 4-0.

Cole Gillespie capped the scoring in the 6th with a single into right field to drive in LaPorta.

LaMura was tagged with the loss after yielding 5 runs, 2 earned, on 6 hits over 6 innings. He struck out 5 and walked 2.

Hammond improves to 7-3 on the season. He struck out just three hitters, but remains the strikeout leader in the Southern League with 76 -- five over Diamond Jaxx pitcher Rich Dorman. Hammond allowed up a two-out double to Jamie Hoffman in the 1st and a one-out single to DeJesus, Jr. in the 3rd.

The Suns mounted their best scoring threat in the 9th inning when they loaded the bases against reliever Omar Aguilar, but he struck out Matt Berezay to end the game, completing the Stars' 5th shutout of the season.

The series continues Thursday night with left-hander Derek Miller (5-1, 3.98) taking the hill against Suns' southpaw Cody White, making his second Double-A start.