KODAK, Tennessee — Down to their final four outs and trailing by a run, the Rocket City Trash Pandas blasted a pair of home runs to turn the deficit into a lead for a 6-4 win over the Tennessee Smokies on Thursday night in the third game of their series at Smokies Stadium.
Down 4-3 with two outs and nobody on in the top of the eighth, Izzy Wilson got the Trash Pandas even with one thunderous swing by launching a solo home run to right, his second of the night and ninth of the season to tie the game at four.
In the ninth, Michael Cruz was hit by a pitch to begin the frame. Torii Hunter Jr. followed by launching a two-run homer to right-center to put the Trash Pandas back in front 6-4. That would prove to be the winner after Nathan Bates (W, 2-0) retired the Smokies in order in the bottom of the ninth.
Tennessee got on the board in the bottom of the first against Rocket City starter Cooper Criswell as Christopher Morel laced an RBI triple to center before coming around to score on a single from Chase Strumpf for a 2-0 Smokies lead.
Rocket City used the long ball to get back in the game against Tennessee starter Peyton Remy. Wilson got the Trash Pandas on the board with a solo homer to right in the top of the second. An inning later, Hunter Jr. led off with a double to left. Orlando Martinez then put the visitors in front with one powerful swing, a two-run blast to right-center for his seventh home run of the season and a 3-2 Trash Pandas lead.
Tennessee got the run back in the fourth on an RBI ground out, and the score would stay 3-3 for the next few innings. Criswell finished his outing after giving up three earned runs on four hits with five strikeouts over 4.1 innings. He didn’t factor in the final decision.
Kieran Lovegrove was first out of the bullpen for the Trash Pandas and he kept the Smokies off the board until the seventh when a wild pitch allowed Morel to come home from third with the go-ahead run. Lovegrove ended with the one run against on two hits with five walks and four strikeouts over 2.2 innings.
Wilson’s homer in the eighth got Lovegrove off the hook while Hunter Jr.’s blast in the ninth proved to be the game-winner.
At the plate, Wilson was the star in a 4-for-4 performance with the two solo home runs to give him a Double-A South best nine for the season as well as a pair of stolen bases. With four home runs in the win, the Trash Pandas currently lead Double-A South with 48 home runs. On the mound, Bates earned the win with 2.0 scoreless innings to finish the Trash Pandas’ fourth straight win.
The Trash Pandas (16-16) continue their series with the Smokies (10-21) on Friday night. First pitch at Smokies Stadium is set for 6 p.m. Josh Caray will be on the call for 103.9 FM THE UMP and 730 AM SportsRadio.