Pensacola, Fla. - In a showdown of the defending Southern League champions, Pensacola used stellar pitching and timely hitting to squeak past the Lookouts in the Blue Wahoos home opener.
The celebrations started early throughout the stadium. Fans came early to watch the presentation of the championship rings to returning members of last year's winning team. Once the hardware was passed out, the Blue Wahoos raised their first ever championship banner beyond the center-field wall.
Once the players took the field, Daniel Wright (W, 1-1) made sure the applause didn't end there. The Memphis native bounced back from his Opening Day struggles and neutralized Chattanooga's bats through six innings. He held the defending North Division champs to just one run on three hits while striking out three. After running into a slight hiccup in the first inning, Wright was in total control retiring the next 11 Lookouts in-a-row.
Pensacola's offense turned in a total team effort, with four different Wahoos producing RBIs and six different fish scoring runs. Chadwick Tromp turned in a 2-for-4 performance for his first multi-RBI effort of the season and Gavin LaValley added his team-leading sixth RBI of the season.
The Wahoos used small ball to open the scoring in the third. Shed Long led off the inning with a single and then stole second base off Lookouts starter Zack Littell (L, 0-1). LaValley followed by poking a single into right to score Long.
Pensacola added two more in the fourth thanks to clutch hitting by Taylor Sparks and Tromp. After an O'Grady double, followed by a stolen base. On a 3-2 pitch, Sparks lined a single to left to double the Blue Wahoos advantage. That's when Tromp doubled down the left-field line to score Sparks for his first of two RBIs.
It appeared Pensacola put the game out of reach when Guerrero crushed his first home run of the season off Zack Jones in the seventh to make it a 6-1 lead. Last season, Guerrero didn't record his first homerun at Blue Wahoos Stadium until July 25.
The Lookouts saved their best for last with a furious ninth-inning rally that nearly ruined the Blue Wahoos party. Carlos Navas struggled out of the bullpen and issued walks to Chris Paul and Zander Wiel before surrendering a three-run home run to T.J. White to make it a 6-4 game.
Jody Davis opted for a change and called upon Robinson Leyer to record the final two outs of the game. Leyer's command was never in tune and he hit Wynston Sawyer with a pitch before walking Ryan Walker. Again, Davis went to the bullpen and this time brought in left-hander Brennan Bernardino to pitch to the left-handed hitting Nick Gordon.
Gordon singled into right field to bring home Sawyer, but as Walker tried to go first-to-third, right-fielder Aristides Aquino unleashed a spectacular throw to third base to throw out Walker. Bernardino then froze Tanner English to pick up an unexpected first save of the season.
Tomorrow these two teams continue their five-game series on the first Thirsty Thursday of the season at Blue Wahoos Stadium. Fans can enjoy drink specials throughout the stadium for every Thursday home game this season. RHP Keury Mella (1-0, 1.80) will toe the rubber for the fish while the Lookouts will send one of the Twins top pitching prospects in southpaw Stephen Gonsalves (1-0, 0.00). Tomorrow's contest will be broadcasted live on Cox Sports Television and as always can be heard on the radio at 97.1 The Ticket.
- Pensacola Blue Wahoos -
The Pensacola Blue Wahoos are the Double-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. The 2018 season is underway at beautiful Blue Wahoos Stadium on Pensacola Bay. Group packages, season tickets, mini plans and single-game tickets are available for the 2018 season by calling (850) 934-8444 or online. Follow the Blue Wahoos at bluewahoos.com, facebook.com/PensacolaBlueWahoos, andtwitter.com/BlueWahoosBBall.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.