5. Trash Pandas Clinch Second Half Title – September 15
With the first half title and a playoff berth already in the bag, the Trash Pandas could have coasted toward the playoffs in the second half of the season. Instead, they did exactly the opposite, dominating the second half from nearly start to finish. With four games remaining in the regular season, Rocket City had the chance to clinch the second half title with a win against Birmingham.
Wearing specialty Huntsville Stars throwback jerseys for the first time, the Trash Pandas got off to a strong start. RBI singles from Sonny DiChiara and Jordyn Adams opened the scoring in the second while Chase Silseth kept the Barons off the board early. Logan O’Hoppe crushed a solo home run and Aaron Whitefield hit a two-run blast off the foul pole in left, giving the Trash Pandas a 5-0 lead they wouldn’t give up.
Silseth threw six scoreless innings before Birmingham broke through against the Rocket City bullpen in the seventh. Ben Joyce and Luke Murphy each fired a scoreless inning to close it out, sending the Trash Pandas to their second champagne filled celebration of the year as both first and second half champions.
“We said it’s one thing to win a four-team division for a half, but it’s another to have the best record in the league for the entire year,” Manager Andy Schatzley said. “Any group that you’re involved in is only as good as the people in it. I’m extremely proud to be involved in this organization and this affiliate.”
“When you’re a part of a team that does this, it’s special,” Silseth said. “When you can grind out a season like this and do what we’ve done, it’s awesome to be a part of.”
4. Cabbage Slams Trash Pandas To 6-2 Win – May 6
Less than a month into the season, Trey Cabbage was proving himself as one of the best hitters in the Southern League. On this Friday night against Chattanooga in early May, he cemented himself as a Trash Pandas fan favorite with an all-time moment.
In the third inning, Cabbage shattered his bat but it paid off when his bloop hit fell in left-center for a two-run double, giving the Trash Pandas a 2-0 lead. The lead held until the ninth, when the Lookouts tied the game with a home run.
With extra innings looming, the Trash Pandas offense went to work in the bottom of the ninth. A walk and a pair of singles loaded the bases with two outs as rain showers began at Toyota Field. Cabbage stepped to the plate and quickly fell behind 0-2. After a few tough pitches worked the count back even at 2-2, Cabbage knew what came next.
“I chased a couple pitches early in the at-bat. I knew I was going to have to battle back,” Cabbage said. “When it got to 2-2 it was man on man, I knew he was going to throw a heater and I was going to see how far I could hit it.”
Cabbage hit Ricky Salinas’ fastball 413 feet off the batter’s eye in center field for a walk-off grand slam, sending the crowd at Toyota Field into a frenzy, a joyous celebration at home plate and giving the Trash Pandas a signature win early in the season.
“It’s euphoric. It’s the best feeling in the world,” Cabbage added. “It’s what you dream of. Bases loaded, two outs in the ninth, it’s what you dream of in the backyard, it’s amazing. A walk-off grand slam, you can’t beat that.”
3. Palmeiro’s Walk-Off Homer Caps Incredible Comeback In The Rain – August 20
Of all the ways possible to win a baseball game, this Saturday night in late August probably ranks among the most improbable to believe.
Chattanooga jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the middle innings, and eventually that lead was 7-2 at the seventh inning stretch. Ryan Aguilar’s two-run homer and a solo blast from Kevin Maitan cut the deficit to 7-5 heading to the ninth. There, Ben Joyce fired a scoreless top of the inning to give the Trash Pandas a chance with their last three outs.
However, it looked like that chance would never come. As the Trash Pandas walked off the field in the ninth, the skies above Toyota Field opened up. Umpire Dexter Kelley called for the tarp to cover the field, so the front office staff and grounds crew went to work. However, heavy rain made the tarp pull difficult. With the tarp getting heavier by the second, Trash Pandas players and coaches, as well as Manager Andy Schatzley, rushed out of the dugout to help with the tarp pull. Behind a tremendous effort from everyone involved, the tarp was able to cover the field before the rain intensified.
With the rain delay in the ninth, it appeared the game would end there as a 7-5 Chattanooga win, since more than five innings were played, making the game was official. Following the first ever rain delay fireworks in Trash Pandas history, the field was readied for play after a delay of over an hour.
Down to their last three outs, the Trash Pandas went to work as Livan Soto walked and Zach Neto was hit by a pitch to bring the winning run to the plate. On the radio broadcast of the game, Trash Pandas Director of Broadcasting Josh Caray echoed the thoughts of many at Toyota Field as Preston Palmeiro was at the plate.
“I thought they were going to call the game, but here we are,” Caray said. “You may as well win the darn thing.”
On the first pitch to Palmeiro, the Trash Pandas did just that. He crushed reliever Spencer Stockton’s 2-2 pitch over the fence in right for a walk-off three-run home run, sending the Trash Pandas players and remaining fans at Toyota Field into a frenzy with the 8-7 win.
“We just wanted our last three outs,” Schatzley said. “A huge thank you to everyone that helped us get a chance.”
“When we play at home, we have a huge advantage,” Palmerio said. “I think we knew in a two-run game with the top of the lineup coming up, we had a chance to come back. I figured if we could get back out there, we’d have a chance to walk it off.”
2. Trash Pandas Combine On First No-Hitter - September 3
The Trash Pandas pitching staff was had its share of highlights, throwing 10 shutouts during the 2022 season. The ninth one of those cemented September 3, 2022 as a date to remember for the Trash Pandas.
Chase Silseth got the ball and was dominant from the start, retiring the first 20 men he faced in taking a perfect game to the seventh. But a catcher’s interference call ended his bid at perfection. Silseth rebounded to complete the seventh without further damage. However, that would be the end of his night. The offense gave Silseth plenty of early support on home runs from Zach Neto and Livan Soto.
Luke Murphy was next into the game in the eighth and worked around a pair of walks for a scoreless inning to keep the no-hitter alive. In the ninth, Eric Torres also issued two walks, but struck out three to end the historic game and start a celebration to remember.
The pitching trio combined to strike out 15 Biloxi Shuckers and issue five walks in the first no-hitter by the Angels’ Double-A affiliate since 2018.
"I think that accomplishing something like this is obviously meaningful, but I think the most impactful thing for everyone involved was that they were able to do it together," Schatzley told MiLB.com. "If you ask them about the morale or group dynamic of the locker room, it's not the history component that's going to be the focus of this, but that they accomplished something that's incredibly difficult together."
1 – Trash Pandas Clinch Playoff Spot With First Half Title – June 19
The Trash Pandas powered through the first half at an unbelievable pace in 2022. Entering their final home series of the first half against Montgomery, the Trash Pandas’ magic number was 10, needing they would need a little bit of help in order to have a chance to clinch at home.
Rocket City did its part, winning four of the first five games against the Biscuits. They also got plenty of assistance from the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, who defeated the Tennessee Smokies five straight times to set the stage for an epic Sunday finale at Toyota Field.
Needing a win to get in the postseason for the first time, the Trash Pandas fell behind early as Chase Silseth allowed a home run to the second batter of the game. Rocket City got the run back on a sacrifice fly by Braxton Martinez, one of the leaders of the team.
Silseth limited the Biscuits to the one run over six innings, keeping the score tied and handing it over to Luke Murphy, who kept it tied 1-1 with a clean seventh. In the bottom of the inning, Bryce Teodosio came to bat with two outs and nobody on and lifted a fly ball to deep right. From there, he was off and running, as he explains:
“I got it and took a good swing. I thought I hit it out, and I kept seeing the outfielder go back and further back. He jumped and it hit the top of the wall. After that, I kind of blacked out and started running as hard as I could,” Teodosio said. “I was turning past second and I saw Andy not stopping me. I was getting closer to third and I saw that he was sending me and I thought, ‘Uh oh, here it goes.’ I’ve had this happen before with a few inside-the-park home runs in my life. The adrenaline started kicking in, I almost tripped going around third. I slid into home and it was a really special moment. The crowd was as electric as it could get.”
Teodosio threw his helmet in celebration with the first inside-the-park home run in Trash Pandas history, putting the Trash Pandas ahead 2-1 late. The home team blew the game open in the eighth, capped by Martinez’s three-run homer to seal the 7-2 victory.
After Kolton Ingram got the final out, the celebration was on and the Trash Pandas enjoyed champagne in the clubhouse, knowing they were playoff bound for the first time.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” added outfielder Aaron Whitefield. “With all the hard work we put in, to play every day and get rewarded for playing well and doing everything right is special.”