(HUNTSVILLE) - Cole Gillespie belted a dramatic home run leading off in the bottom of the 10th to lift the Huntsville Stars to a dramatic 2-1 win over Birmingham Friday night in front of a season-high 9,444 at Joe Davis Stadium.
The Stars won their 50th game of the season, improving to 9-8 in the second half with their 2nd straight win. They move to within two games of North Division-leading Tennessee, who were shutout by Carolina, 6-0. The Barons slipped to 10-7.
Barons' reliever Fernando Hernandez (5-3) came in to relieve starter Justin Cassel in the 8th and retired the first six batters he faced before Gillespie drove an 0-1 fast ball over the wall to the right of straight away center field for his 2nd home run in as many nights, his 12th of the season, and his first at home since May 16.
The Stars are 2-6 in extra-inning contests.
Resilient defense and one sparkling catch by Mike Bell of a line drive by Robert Valido in the 3rd punctuated the early innings and kept the game scoreless until Stefan Gartrell homered to lead off the 4th, giving Birmingham a 1-0 lead.
A dropped foul ball by Gartrell, however, set up the Stars' 1st run in the bottom of the 5th. Matt LaPorta singled after the error. He went to third on a double into the right field corner by J.R. Hopf, who arrived Friday from Nashville when Guilder Rodriguez was placed on the disabled list. With Mike Bell batting, a passed ball on an 0-2 pitch by Erick San Pedro scored LaPorta, the subject of recent trade rumors with the Cleveland Indians.
Huntsville starter Troy Cate lasted 7 2/3 innings in his 2nd start for the Stars. Cate left a runner on third in the 8th inning for reliever David Johnson, who struck out Javier Colina to end the threat. Johnson continued on to stretch his scoreless string over his last 7 appearances to 9 consecutive innings.
Colina came to the plate again in the 10th with runners on 1st and 3rd, but was retired on a ground ball after Juan Sandoval came on to relieve Johnson.
Sandoval (2-3) picked up the win after Gillespie homered the in the bottom half.
The series continues Saturday night with right-hander Mike Jones (0-2, 6.87) taking the hill against Barons' right-hander Dewon Day (0-2, 11.57).