(HUNTSVILLE) - Timing is everything.
For the Huntsville Stars, who were once 29-11 and 5 games in front in the Southern League's Northern Division, the sweep hand started to go on May 15, the day after finishing a 5-game sweep of the Tennessee Smokies to make Don Money became the winningest manager in Stars history.
Finishing 12-19 down the stretch and hitting .208 in their last 8 games of the half after hitting .300 as a team most of the season, the clock stopped on the Huntsville Stars Tuesday night as their first half title dream ended with a 5-1 loss to the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx in a necessitated playoff game at Joe Davis Stadium.
Mike Wilson doubled in two runs in the 1st inning and Luis Valbuena drove in two more to back Ryan Ketchner's impressive 7 1/3 innings for the victory. Ketchner (6-2) scatterred just four hits -- all singles.
The Diamond Jaxx, who won a first-half playoff game against the Stars in 1999, and the Stars were not separated by more than one game over the final 25 games of the half after the Diamond Jaxx pulled into a first place tie on May 22.
Brent Johnson opened the game with a single, then moved into scoring position after starter Steve Hammond threw away Mike Saunders' ground ball as he threw to second trying to get the lead runner. Mark Kiger moved both runners into scoring position before Wilson's double over the head of Michael Brantley gave West Tenn a lead that would become permanent.
Prior to that time, Hammond (7-4) had not been scored on in the first inning over his last 10 starts dating back to April 19 at Mississippi.
The Stars scored their only run in the bottom of the 2nd on a sacrifice fly by Chris Errecart, scoring Angel Salome.
Adam Moore made it a 3-1 West Tenn lead with a base hit to right field to drive in his 12th run of the season against the Stars.
Hammond's wild pitch in the 6th set up a 2-run single by Valbuena to complete the scoring.
Joe Bateman finished for Hammond, retiring all 10 hitters he faced in his longest outing of the season.
Shawn Kelley, who began the year in the Midwest League, took over for Ketchner in the 8th and got Cole Gillespie to hit into a game-ending double play to earn him his first Double-A save.
The six-game series continues at 7:05 Wednesday night with lefty Derek Miller (5-2, 4.62) taking the hill against West Tenn right-hander Doug Fister (5-5, 3.83).