Dobnak Provides Blue Wahoos Strong Start In 10-Inning Loss

Tennessee Smokies Scored Twice In 10th To Gain 4-3 Win

Randy Dobnak's return to Blue Wahoos results in his longest outing this season in eventual extra-inning loss to Smokies (Daniel Venn)

By Bill Vilona, Senior Writer / Pensacola Blue Wahoos | June 14, 2019 3:16 AM

Randy Dobnak figured he needed an additional pitch to his repertoire.

"I developed a sinker toward the end of last year," he said. "I started throwing it and this year, it's been my main pitch. And it's created a lot of ground balls."

That element showed up again Thursday night, as Dobnak produced his longest outing of the season during a time when the Pensacola Blue Wahoos needed it most. The righthander worked into the seventh inning of a game the Tennessee Smokies won 4-3 in 10 innings before a crowd of 4,350 at Blue Wahoos Stadium

Dobnak's strong start, allowing just one earned run, one walk, while scattering eight hits, enabled the Blue Wahoos' strained bullpen to get a needed rest. The loss officially eliminated the Blue Wahoos (37-30) from the Southern League South Division first half division race.

"Lately, the bullpen has been getting worn out," Dobnak said. "I think we had two guys (relievers) available and they both ended up pitching. I knew I had to go six. seven innings to give our team a chance to win and that's what I did."

Tennessee scored a pair of runs in the 10th inning. The Blue Wahoos had the tying run on second in the bottom of the 10th when hitting into a game-ending double play.

 The Biloxi Shuckers sealed the first half, playoff spot despite losing 5-4 Thursday against the Jackson Generals in Jackson, Tenn. The Shuckers have a three-game lead with three games left in the schedule, but also have the tiebreaker edge against Pensacola in a head-to-head record.

"It's tough for all the guys, but Biloxi is a really good team and they have shown that the last series," said Dobnak, referring to the Shuckers' five-game sweep against the Blue Wahoos. "Their team can hit, they can pitch, they can do it. But I think the way we stayed in it will help us in the second stay competitive."

Dobnak rejoined the Blue Wahoos earlier this week, after making four consecutive starts for the Rochester (N.Y.) Red Wings, the Minnesota Twins Triple-A affiliate. He may be part of the Blue Wahoos starting rotation again when the second half schedule begins June 20.

He's been a solid addition to the Twins' organization since being signed in August 2017 from an Independent League. This season, he's a combined 6-1 with a 1.88 earned run average after beginning the season in Fort Myers, the Twins' High-A affiliate, along with five starts in Pensacola, three in Rochester.

"Guys are not getting as good of contact as last year, which overall, has helped me out," Dobnak said. "Guys get on base and I get ground ball double players.. .I have developed a more consistent, better breaking ball.

"I know I'm not going to strike a bunch of guys out, so my defense has been lights out all year. So trusting those guys behind me is something I really like to do."

After Tennessee took a 1-0 lead in the second inning, threw four consecutive scoreless innings to keep the game tight. The Blue Wahoos tied the game in the fifth inning on an RBI groundout by Tanner English, scoring Joe Cronin, who reached on a walk.

In the seventh, the Blue Wahoos tied the game a second time on Jordan Gore's one-out single. Tanner English followed with a fielder's choice play, but Joe Cronin was out at home, then Travis Blankenhorn struck out to end the inning.

In the 10th, after Tennessee's Jesse Hodges was placed on second base in the MILB extra inning format, new Blue Wahoos reliever Tyler Palm, a 6-foot-10, righthander, gave up a perfect bunt single by Roberto Caro. He then intentionally walked the next batter to create a base-loaded force out situation.

Jared Young followed with a two-run single that proved decisive after Palm retired the next three batters.

In the Blue Wahoos' 10th, Gore's single scored Joe Cronin, who started the inning on second base. With one out, Blankenhorn hit an infield single to put runners on first and second. Reliever Bailey Clark got Jaylin Davis to hit a sharp grounder that became a game ending double play.

The Blue Wahoos will play their third game of the homestand Friday night in a Giveaway Friday promotion. The first 2,000 fans receive a drawstring bag provided by Woodlands Medical Specialists.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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