Max Meyer dazzled as usual. JJ Bleday wowed again.
Peyton Burdick returned to recent form.
And the Blue Wahoos won again.
Three of the team’s most acclaimed players were part of an impressive display in a 4-1 victory Saturday night against the Mississippi Braves, delighting an overflow crowd at Blue Wahoos Stadium before post-game fireworks lit the bayfront sky.
“It’s a fun team,” said Meyer, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 Major League Baseball draft by the Miami Marlins, after allowing just three hits in six innings for his longest start in pro ball.
“Even if you are up or down, we’re still going to play how we play,” said Meyer, who improved his record to 3-1 and lowered his earned run average to 1.86. “All these guys are rooting for each other.”
Amid a game played in just two hours, 15 minutes -- this may have been the Blue Wahoos best overall home game experience this season.
And that’s saying a lot.
The spectators included Miami Marlins general manager Kim Ng, the first woman in history to serve as general manager of a team in any of the big four North American sports leagues – MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL.
She watched the Blue Wahoos up-close for the first time and saw a team that has combined stellar pitching, sound defense and timely hits into an 18-11 record.
“The leadership on this team has been great,” said Bleday, whose two-out, two-run homer in the sixth inning broke a tie game. “If one guy doesn’t get the job done he hands it off the next dude and he is able to get it done and get it started.
“Our pitchers and relievers have just done a tremendous job of keeping us in the game.”
That played out again Saturday with Meyer dueling with Mississippi Braves’ righthander Jose Rodriguez, signed as a free agent by the Atlanta Braves on April 21.
Meyer matched his pro career high Saturday with nine strikeouts, yielded just one walk and threw 60 strikes in his 82 pitches.
The only dent in a stellar pitching line was a home run by Greyson Jenista off a 93-mph fastball from Meyer to begin the third inning.
After that, Meyer retired the next six batters he faced. He finished his outing by striking out the side in the sixth inning.
“That one home run, I went down and in, and I was trying to go down and up a little bit,” Meyer said. “He put a good swing on it and stuff like that happens.
“I went around the whole order. I mixed up how I threw to guys every at bat, so I feel like I was keeping them off balance a little bit.”
Meyer, the former University of Minnesota star, kept the capacity crowd (5,038) enthralled by how fast he works and how often he records outs. It was the first time he started on a Saturday night home game.
“Honestly, when I’m pitching I don’t really notice how big the crowd is. I am just dialed in,” Meyer said. “It’s just me and the catcher, but a little more adrenalin and it’s always fun pitching to a packed crowd.”
With the game tied 1-1, Bleday bombed a changeup from Rodriguez into the crowd of kids sitting on the grass berm beyond the right field wall. Total distance was 393 feet.
His two-run homer was his third home run this season, second in three days. All three have been in this ballpark. He scored Burdick, who led off the inning with a triple.
“It felt great, because I missed the changeups in the previous two at-bats,” said Bleday, the Marlins’ No. 1 pick in 2019 out of Vanderbilt and former Panama City Mosley High star.
“I was right on ‘em, but I was just a tick early pulling off a bit and getting a little antsy with it,” Bleday said. “But he came back and he hung one middle away and I put a good swing on it.”
The Blue Wahoos got their first run on Demetrius Sims’ RBI single to score catcher Nick Fortes. In their first four hits, the Blue Wahoos went double, single, triple, home run, for a team cycle.
Burdick, who went 2-for-4 after a hitless start in the series, added insurance with his RBI single in the eighth inning.
The series and homestand will conclude Sunday with a 4:05 game. Following the game, the Blue Wahoos will travel on Monday to Chattanooga, Tenn. to face the Chattanooga Lookouts – the Cincinnati Reds Double-A affiliate, in a six-game series beginning June 8.
BLUE WAHOOS HOMESTAND FINALE
WHO: Mississippi Braves vs. Blue Wahoos
WHERE: Blue Wahoos Stadium.
WHEN: Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
RADIO: ESPN-Pensacola (Chris Garagiola on play-by-play) on 99.1 FM, 1330 AM.
PROMOTIONS: Military Discount Sunday and Kids Run The Bases, plus Family Toss after game, sponsored by WKRG News 5 and Covenant Care.
COVID-19 VACCINES: Fans attending Sunday’s game will be able to get a free COVID-19 vaccine. Ages 12-up are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine. Single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccines will be available for ages 18-up as well.
TICKETS: Tickets available at www.bluewahoos.com or visit the stadium box office, which opens at Noon on Sunday.