MADISON, Alabama – Time and time again in 2022, the Rocket City Trash Pandas have found a way to win. On Saturday night, despite the best attempts of the Chattanooga Lookouts and a late push by Mother Nature, the Trash Pandas rallied for three runs in the bottom of the
MADISON, Alabama – Time and time again in 2022, the Rocket City Trash Pandas have found a way to win. On Saturday night, despite the best attempts of the Chattanooga Lookouts and a late push by Mother Nature, the Trash Pandas rallied for three runs in the bottom of the ninth, with Preston Palmeiro’s walk-off home run securing a thrilling 8-7 win at Toyota Field.
After Ben Joyce fired a scoreless top of the ninth, the skies above Toyota Field caused a rain delay. As the grounds crew put the tarp on the field, Trash Pandas players and coaches offered a hand to make sure the game could be completed. When it resumed over an hour later following a fireworks spectacular, the Trash Pandas brought the fireworks to the plate.
Down 7-5 in the bottom of the ninth, Livan Soto got it started with a walk and Zach Neto was hit by a pitch to put two on with nobody out against Spencer Stockton (L, 1-2). Palmeiro fouled off a couple two strike pitches, then crushed the 2-2 pitch over the fence at right field, sending the Trash Pandas and the remaining fans into a frenzy with one of the most incredible wins in franchise history.
The game started nearly as well as it ended for the home team. Making the start a day after his 25th birthday, Rocket City righty Mason Erla was efficient early, needing just 25 pitches to get through the first three innings without allowing a baserunner. Mike Siani began the fourth with a double down the right field line, becoming the first Chattanooga player to reach against Erla. Siani would advance to third when Erla’s pickoff attempt sailed into center field for an error and score the first run of the night on Elly De La Cruz’ sacrifice fly.
Zach Humphreys kept the bottom of the inning alive with a two-out single to right off Lookouts starter Connor Phillips. Humphreys promptly swiped second for his eighth stolen base of the season. Kevin Maitan followed with a ground ball single through the right side of the infield, allowing Humphreys to dive home and beat the tag at home plate for the tying run.
In the sixth, the Lookouts restored the lead. Allan Cerda led off with a solo home run that just eluded the glove of Trash Pandas right fielder Ryan Aguilar to put the Lookouts ahead 2-1. James Free doubled and came around to score on Matt McLain’s fielder’s choice. Erla nearly got through the inning without further damage as De La Cruz grounded into a double play. But T.J. Hopkins broke the game open with a two-run homer to left, his 17th of the season, to make it a 5-1 game.
Erla finished his start by giving up five runs, four earned, on five hits without a walk or a strikeout over six innings. Humphreys got a run back for the Trash Pandas with a solo home run in the bottom of the sixth, his sixth homer of the season and first since May 5.
Brett Kerry was first out of the bullpen in the seventh and got off to a shaky start, issuing a walk before Nick Quintana’s two-run home run put the Lookouts up 7-2. Chattanooga looked to add on with the bases loaded and two outs. However, Kerry struck out Hopkins to end the inning.
Aguilar quickly got a pair of runs back with a two-run shot to left-center for his team-leading 15th home run of the season in the bottom of the inning, cutting the Rocket City deficit to 7-4. Later in the inning, Humphreys stepped to the plate as the tying run and lifted a fly ball to deep center. His bid for a game-tying three-run homer fell just short, as Siani made the catch on the warning track to end the frame.
The Lookouts nearly added on in the top of the eighth, as Alex McGarry’s fly ball to center off Aaron Hernandez hit off the wall and rolled away from center fielder Jordyn Adams. As McGarry circled the bases, Adams recovered and fired the ball to cutoff man Soto, who wheeled and fired home to get McGarry out at the plate trying for the inside-the-park home run.
Hernandez finished the eight without further trouble and Joyce struck out a pair in a scoreless ninth.
In the middle of the ninth, the delay brought play to a halt before the epic comeback. Joyce (W, 1-0) earned his first pro win with the scoreless ninth. Aaron Whitefield went 3-for-5 while Palmeiro’s walk-off homer was the first of his professional career.
The Trash Pandas (65-48, 24-20 second half) wrap up their series against the Lookouts (48-65, 14-30 second half) on Sunday afternoon. First pitch at Toyota Field is set for 2:35 p.m. Josh Caray will be on the call for 103.9 FM THE UMP and 730 AM SportsRadio. The game will also be televised locally on WAAY-31.6, This TV.
At Sunday’s game, 2,000 adults ages 18 and older will receive a special Trash Pandas Patriotic style T-Shirt, presented by KBR Inc. and KORD Technologies. All kids are invited to run the bases after the game, presented by The Yard Milkshake Bar.