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Pair Of Big Blasts, Post-Game Baptism, Highlight Day As Blue Wahoos Take Series Against M-Braves 

J.D. Orr (17) is congratulated by teammates after scoring on Thomas Jones' 2-run homer in the fourth inning Sunday to help key a 7-4 win in series finale against M-Braves. (Nino Mendez)
July 31, 2022

The Blue Wahoos finished a homestand Sunday that was filled with notable moments and special events in the right kind of way. There was no comeback needed this time, after the Blue Wahoo staked a 7-0 lead into the seventh inning and beat the Mississippi Braves 7-4 to take the

The Blue Wahoos finished a homestand Sunday that was filled with notable moments and special events in the right kind of way.

There was no comeback needed this time, after the Blue Wahoo staked a 7-0 lead into the seventh inning and beat the Mississippi Braves 7-4 to take the series against a team they may face in post-season.

In winning four of the six games at Blue Wahoos Stadium, it lifted the Blue Wahoos (49-42 overall) second-half record (14-13) above .500 for the first time and provided confidence against the Southern League’s top second-half team. The teams will play once more this season in mid-August at the M-Braves ballpark.

“Yeah, that’s huge going forward. You want to keep the momentum going in the second half,” said Blue Wahoos outfielder J.D. Orr. “I know we have already clinched the playoffs , but you don’t want to lose that fire that we had as a team to go out there and grind out every at-bat, every pitch until the game is over .

“Every time you’re going up against a team, it’s not only to compete, but you are getting more and more information about these guys for further games. Obviously, in this league, you play each other a lot, so you’re storing stuff in the back of your mind for the future.”

Sunday also brought another first at Blue Wahoos Stadium.

Blue Wahoos catcher Paul McIntosh is greeted by a member of Marcus Pointe Baptist church, after he was baptized Sunday following the Blue Wahoos game. Nino Mendez

Following the game, the Blue Wahoos staff set up an area on the third base side for a baptism service conducted by Marcus Pointe Baptist Church. Those getting baptized included Blue Wahoos catcher Paul McIntosh and retired, former Blue Wahoos president Bruce Baldwin, along with J.C. Griffith, young son of team president Jonathan Griffith.

A portable baptismal pool was rolled out with a couple steps to ease entry. It was something the stadium had never hosted.

Prior to the service, children ran a lap around the bases as part of Family Sunday sponsored by Step One Automotive and WKRG News-5. Several families remained after the baptismal service to toss baseballs in the outfield for Family Toss.

It was all part of a game experience in a week that included a Wednesday visit by Miami Marlins majority owner Bruce Sherman and top minority investor David Ott, plus a Saturday reunion of the Pensacola Pelicans to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Independent League team’s first season. There were also two post-game fireworks shows, a beach towel giveaway Friday, a marriage proposal and celebration of Latin American Heritage on Saturday.

A crowd of 4,765 Sunday watched Blue Wahoos starter A.J. Ladwig toss six scoreless innings in his strongest start of the season. He gave up three runs in the seventh, then relievers Andrew McInvale (8th inning) and Sean Reynolds (9th inning) sealed the win.

“Mississippi started out strong the second half,” said Blue Wahoos infielder Ray-Patrick Didder. “We’ve known they have a good team, they have a good rotation, good bullpen. We had to prove we can play well against them.”

Griffin Conine, who led the way in Saturday’s win, started Sunday with a solo homer in the first inning. In the third inning, Jose Devers and Victor Mesa began with singles. With Devers on third, Mesa stole second and forced a throwing error to score Devers. Conine followed with a sacrifice fly RBI. Mesa continued to improve his batting average with a pair of hits and two stolen bases.

His average has been raised more than 30 points since earlier in the season.

“I haven’t done much that is really different,” said Mesa, a Cuba native, speaking through Didder as interpreter. “I’ve just tried to keep the same mindset, same approach and just kept working. I am trying to keep working hard, keep doing my stuff and now the results are showing up.”

Earlier in the week, Mesa made a special experience for a 10-year-old boy, Hudson Furness, who visited batting practice with his terminally ill mother and got to meet his favorite player and see him practice.

Former Blue Wahoos president Bruce Baldwin is lifted after being briefly submerged while baptized Sunday by members of Marcus Pointe Baptist Church during a post-game baptism service. Nino Mendez

Orr factored Sunday into Blue Wahoos runs in the fourth and sixth innings to expand the lead. He singled and scored on Thomas Jones’ booming home run that likely reached the water behind the left field fence. He hit a sacrifice fly to score William Banfield in the sixth, after Banfield’s triple scored Cobie Fletcher-Vance.

“I feel really good. It’s been a battle all year with me feeling completely comfortable up there,” Orr said. “It feels like I might finally be in a spot where I can string everything all together.

“I was never a big draft (pick) guy, so I’ve always had that little extra chip on my shoulder. I’m not only playing for myself, I’m playing for my two kids and it’s not just a game anymore. It is about providing for my family and it kind of gives me a little extra incentive to do anything to the best of my ability.”

GAME NOTABLES

--- Orr’s stolen base Sunday gives him 33 for the season, which is now 18 shy of the Blue Wahoos single-season record set by Billy Hamilton in the inaugural 2012 season.

“I’m not thinking about anything (record), but I’m trying to do anything that helps the team win,” Orr said. “I think stolen bases is something that does that. I’m trying to have quality at-bats. You can’t steal bases without being on base, so that is the first thing.”

--- More than 20 people took part in the Marcus Pointe Baptist Church baptismal service. Former Blue Wahoos president Bruce Baldwin went into the pool in his game attire with long-sleeve shirt, dress pants.

As he did so, pro golf star Bubba Watson had tears welling as he took video of Baldwin getting baptized. Marcus Pointe Baptist puts on a special Easter morning sunrise service for all denominations that fills Blue Wahoos Stadium. The church has been a partner with the Blue Wahoos since the first season.

--- Three Blue Wahoos interns, Prosser Crow, Taylor Rouchon and Harrison Grant were among a group throwing out a ceremonial first pitch Sunday on their final day of summer internship with the team before heading back to separate colleges.

Also throwing a first pitch was Alex Sides, the Blue Wahoos vice president of sales for the past four years, who has accepted a job as group sales director for the Miami Heat. Sunday was his final day as well.

--- Immanuel Baptist Church in Pace, First Baptist Church of Loxley, Alabama and Hillcrest Church Nine Mile in Pensacola were among the Sunday groups in attendance.

WHAT’S NEXT?

WHO: Blue Wahoos vs. Montgomery Biscuits

WHEN: Tuesday through Sunday (Aug. 7).

WHERE: Riverwalk Stadium, Montgomery, Alabama.

RADIO: ESPN-Pensacola (99.1 FM and 1330 AM and WYCT 98.7 HD4).

TV: YurView (check provider) and MILB.tv (streaming) through www.milb.com/live-stream-games with subscription discount using BLUE WAHOOS.

NEXT HOMESTAND: Aug. 9-14 vs. Birmingham Barons