PENSACOLA, Fla., - The Pensacola Blue Wahoos won its fifth consecutive game with more drama and suspense than the movie Titanic.
Pensacola was ahead, 3-1, against Jacksonville, gave up three runs in the eighth inning to fall behind, 5-3, then scored four runs of its own in the bottom of the eighth to pull out its fifth consecutive victory with a, 7-5, win Wednesday over the Jumbo Shrimp at Blue Wahoos Stadium.
The game was an "emotional roller coaster" for Pensacola second baseman Josh VanMeter on a night that the Double-A club team celebrated the 20th anniversary of the release of the tragic love story that tied records for number of Academy Award nominations with 14 and wins with 11, including a Best Director award for James Cameron.
The three-hour movie with its ups and downs was still faster than Wednesday's game that lasted three hours and 20 minutes.
For the second consecutive night, VanMeter came to the plate with the bases loaded. On a 3-2 count with two outs, he delivered a bases clearing single to right field to make up for two throwing errors. His overthrow in the eighth inning came on a tailor-made double play that instead allowed Jacksonville left fielder Jeremias Pineda to tie the score, 3-3.
"Up until tonight (Wednesday), my defense has been pretty darn good all year," he said. "I have to thank my teammates for picking me up and letting me have an opportunity to redeem myself."
Blue Wahoos manager Pat Kelly said the team is showing him a lot of grit by playing hard all nine innings.
"The eighth inning wasn't pretty for either club," Kelly said. "We gave up runs and fall behind. It was nice for VanMeter to get a redeemer there. He got with the bases loaded and got a clutch hit."
Early in Wednesday's game, Blue Wahoos starter Keury Mella returned to looking like a top pitching prospect in the Cincinnati Reds organization.
He's ranked the organization's 19th top prospect by both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline, but didn't look like it entering Wednesday's game 0-2 with a 10.80 ERA after lasting just 1.2 innings and giving up five runs in his last start against the Biloxi Shuckers.
Against Jacksonville, though, Mella allowed just one run on four hits and struck out seven in six innings of work. The 23-year-old left in the sixth inning with a 3-1 lead but his first win in Double-A was spoiled when Pensacola's normally reliable bullpen fell apart.
"He's young and had great stuff," Kelly said of Mella. "Young pitchers have to handle the ups and downs and the flow of the game and not get too emotionally involved. We've been working with him to stay even keeled."
Jacksonville shortstop Alex Yarbrough lined a single into center in the seventh off reliever Ariel Hernandez that scored catcher Austin Nola to pull within, 3-2.
In its next at bat in the eighth, the Jumbo Shrimp got three runs across on four singles off Pensacola relievers Brennan Bernardino and Alex Powers, who gave up four hits and a walk to the Jumbo Shrimp. They weren't helped by VanMeter committing his second throwing error that would have ended the inning on a double play with Jacksonville scoring just one run.
Jacksonville first baseman Taylor Ard lined single to center field that scored second baseman David Vidal to put the Jumbo Shrimp up, 5-3.
Blue Wahoos shortstop Blake Trahan drove in Brian O'Grady in the third inning with a single that took a hop that the Jacksonville's Vidal couldn't handle cleanly to knot the game, 1-1.
In the fourth inning, Pensacola went ahead, 2-1, when first baseman Eric Jagielo smashed a liner that caromed off the pitcher and shortstop into centerfield to score right fielder Aristides Aquino.
The Blue Wahoos tacked on another run to go up, 3-1, when third baseman Alex Blandino grounded out deep in the hole to the Jacksonville shortstop's right with the bases loaded to allow catcher Adrian Nieto to score.
The Pensacola Blue Wahoos and Miami Marlins Double-A affiliate Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp will play the fourth game of the five-game series at 6:35 p.m. Thursday, April 19 at Blue Wahoos Stadium. The Jumbo Shrimp are starting LHP Mike Kickham (1-0, 3.60 ERA) against the Blue Wahoos RHP Deck McGuire (0-0, 1.80 ERA).
The games are broadcast live on the Blue Wahoos flagship station 97.1 The Ticket. Listen for free at bluewahoos.com and by using the TuneIn Radio app on your mobile, desktop or home devices.
BIG FISH Second baseman Josh VanMeter made two throwing errors but hit a game-winning single that cleared the loaded bases in the eighth inning. He was 2-5 on the night and is batting .286…Shortstop Blake Trahan was 2-4, scored a run and drove in two runs…Gabriel Guerrero was 2-5 and raised his average to .377. He has eight multi-hit games in the 13 games he has played…First baseman Eric Jagielo was 2-4 with a double and drove in a run.
LIVELY BOYHOOD DREAM COMES TRUE Former Blue Wahoos pitcher Ben Lively got his wish Tuesday when the Philadelphia Phillies called him up to the Major Leagues.
Lively, the Phillies No. 25 ranked prospect and a Gulf Breeze product, tweeted a picture from the fifth grade that showed he always wanted to play for the ball club. "This picture has been stuck in my head my whole baseball career, and has kept me pushing myself. But today that wish becomes true!" he said.
Lively was 1-1 in two starts with 10 strikeouts in 11 innings for Triple-A Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs this year. Last season, the big righty recorded 18 wins between Double-A Reading Fightin Phils and Triple-A Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs last season, with a combined ERA of 2.69.
With the Blue Wahoos in 2014, he was 3-6 with a 3.88 ERA in 13 starts.
The Pensacola Blue Wahoos are home April 17th - 21st against the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp at Blue Wahoos Stadium. 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.