Biloxi, Miss. - In the biggest game of the Wahoos season, one of the Reds best pitching prospects turned in his best performance of the season. Vladimir Gutierrez (W, 1-0) turned in seven strong innings and drove in two as the Wahoos defeated the Shuckers 4-1 Thursday night to even the Southern League South Division Series.
Before Gutierrez ever toed the rubber, the Wahoos had the lead. Jose Siri doubled off the first pitch from Thomas Jankins (L, 0-1) and after a bunt single from TJ Friedl, Mitch Nay delivered an RBI groundout to put the Wahoos up 1-0. After a single from Gavin LaValley, the Wahoos doubled their lead behind Shed Long's sac fly to make it 2-0.
Irrespective of Pensacola's quick start, Thursday night was all about Gutierrez. Corey Ray led off the home half of the first with a shallow fly ball to center field that escaped past a diving Siri. Instead of taking the double, Ray tried to take third base but was thrown out after a beautiful relay throw by Taylor Featherston for the first out. After that play, Gutierrez retired 19 of the next 20 Shuckers that came to the plate, including 12 straight.
In the top of the seventh inning, the Wahoos manufactured a pair of runs thanks to solid execution and a little bit of good fortune. With Miguel Sanchez in the game and LaValley down in the count 0-2, the Wahoos first baseman managed to draw a leadoff walk. After a wild pitch moved LaValley to second, Taylor Featherston struck out but reached after the pitch escaped catcher Tyler Heineman for another wild pitch. After Chris Okey struck out for the first, Featherston advanced to second on Sanchez's third wild pitch of the inning. Gutierrez hit for himself and laced a double to right-center for his first professional RBI's to give the Wahoos a 4-1 lead.
After picking up two quick outs in the bottom of the inning, Troy Stokes Jr singled and stole second base. He later scored on a double from Lucas Erceg to cut Pensacola's lead down to 4-1. However, Biloxi would get no closer in game two. After finding the first out in the eighth, Jody Davis went to the bullpen and brought in Carlos Navas (S, 1), who retired the final five outs of the game to give Pensacola a critical win in the series. The victory snaps a six-game losing streak to the Shuckers and it is Pensacola's first ever playoff win in four tries against Biloxi.
Game three of the South Division Series will begin Friday night at Blue Wahoos Stadium at 6:35. Because Biloxi won both halves, this is the only game in the series that will be played in Pensacola. RHP Tony Santillan will have the chance to give the Wahoos a 2-1 series lead and he will be opposed by RHP Trey Supak. Friday's playoff coverage can be heard on 97.1 The Ticket/1490 AM Milton, and www.bluewahoos.com, with live television coverage presented by CST.
- Pensacola Blue Wahoos -
The Pensacola Blue Wahoos are the Double-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. The 2018 season is coming to a close, but single-game playoff tickets are now available. For postseason ticket packages or 2019 season-ticket plans, call (850) 934-8444 or online. Follow the Blue Wahoos at bluewahoos.com, facebook.com/PensacolaBlueWahoos, and twitter.com/BlueWahoosBBall
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.