KODAK, Tenn., - The Pensacola Blue Wahoos two-out, ninth inning rally Friday against the Tennessee Smokies fell one run short at Smokies Stadium in the opening game of a five-game series.
Tennessee edged Pensacola, 5-4, thanks to both the bat and arm of Smokies right hander Duane Underwood Jr., who went 2-3 and knocked in two runs.
Not only that, Underwood also earned his 11th win to tie for the Southern League lead by giving up two runs on four hits, no walks and striking out seven over seven innings.
Trailing, 5-2, entering the ninth Pensacola center fielder Gabriel Guerrero walked and third baseman Nick Senzel singled to right to put base runners on first and second with two outs. That's when second baseman Josh VanMeter stepped to the plate and lined a single to center that scored Guerrero. VanMeter is 18-47, or batting .382 with two outs and runners in scoring position and has 24 RBIs.
The Blue Wahoos pulled within, 5-4, when Aristides Aquino smashed a sizzling ground ball to center for his third hit of the game and drove in Senzel.
Aquino, the Cincinnati Reds No. 6 prospect according to MLB.Pipeline.com, crushed a solo homer to left field in the second inning, ripped a double and smacked the single to go 3-4 in Thursday's game with two runs scored and two RBIs. He broke a 1-24 slump and now leads Pensacola with 12 home runs and 43 RBIs.
Pensacola fell to 19-19 in one-run games and dropped to 20-21 in the second half in the Southern League South Division. Pensacola is 60-51 overall and won the first half title. Tennessee improved to 21-20 in the North Division and 57-53 overall.
Pensacola scored first to take a 1-0 lead when right fielder Aquino clubbed his solo shot in the second inning.
However, Tennessee wasted little time in taking the lead when they scored three runs in the bottom of the second to go up, 3-1. Smokies catcher Erick Castillo singled to left field to score both first baseman Yasiel Balaguert and center fielder Trey Martin to go ahead, 2-1. Tennessee right fielder Daniel Spingola then scored making it a, 3-1, game when second baseman Andrew Ely grounded out into a double play.
Tennessee tacked on another run when Underwood, the pitcher, grounded up the middle to centerfield to drive in Spingola for a, 4-1, Smokies lead.
Blue Wahoos catcher Chad Tromp doubled in Aquino, who had smacked his 15th double of the year, in the fifth inning to pull Pensacola within, 4-2.
The Smokies' Underwood blasted a line drive to center field to drive in his second run of the game when Castillo crossed the plate to take a, 5-2, lead in the sixth inning. The 23-year-old Underwood, who has four hits and is batting .190 this year, went 2-3 with two RBIs -- his first runs driven in during his six-year professional career.
Tickets to the 2017 playoffs are now on sale! Purchase tickets online at bluewahoos.com, visiting the Box Office or calling 850-934-8444. The Pensacola Blue Wahoos are the Double-A Affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds and a member of the Southern League. Follow the Pensacola Blue Wahoos at BlueWahoos.com, facebook.com/PensacolaBlueWahoos and twitter.com/BlueWahoosBBall.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.