BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The Rocket City Trash Pandas rallied for three late runs and held on at the end for a thrilling 3-2 win over the Birmingham Barons on Saturday night in the second game of their three-game set at Regions Field. The win clinches a series victory for Rocket City to start the 2022 season.
Down 1-0 with two outs and a runner on first in the seventh, the Trash Pandas finally got the clutch hits they were looking for when Bryce Teodosio laced a double to the gap in right-center, scoring Kevin Maitan all the way from the first with the tying run. Aaron Whitefield kept the inning going with a walk and Teodosio stole third to put runners on the corners. Livan Soto then lined a double into the right field corner, plating Teodosio and Whitefield with the go-ahead runs.
Pitching with a 3-1 lead, Rocket City reliever Brent Killam issued a pair of walks in the bottom of the frame but struck out Cornelius Randolph to strand the runners. An inning later, the Barons got a run back on an RBI single from Cespedes to make it a one-run game. With the tying run in scoring position, Killam induced a broken bat double play ground ball from Lenyn Sosa to hold the lead.
In the ninth, Killam returned for his fourth relief inning and retired the Barons in order to finish the come-from-behind victory.
Unlike Opening Night on Friday, it was the Barons that struck first on this night. Jose Rodriguez led off with a walk and Craig Dedelow singled to put two on with one out against Rocket City starter Mason Erla. Cespedes lifted a sacrifice fly to left, plating Rodriguez to open the scoring.
Erla rebounded to retire the side in the second and worked around a hit-by-pitch to record all three outs with strikeouts in the third. Another baserunner reached in the fourth, but again Erla worked around him. Two more strikeouts in the fifth kept the deficit at 1-0.
Although Erla was strong, Birmingham’s Johan Dominguez was a little better. The Trash Pandas’ biggest threat against Dominguez came in the third when a hit-by-pitch and two singles loaded the bases with two outs. Braxton Martinez laced a drive to left, but it was right at Randolph to end the inning and strand the runners. Dominguez pitched 5.0 scoreless frames, giving up just three hits and walking none with seven strikeouts to keep the Barons in the lead.
In the bottom of the sixth, Erla hit leadoff hitter Yolbert Sanchez with a pitch, ending his Double-A debut. Killam entered for Rocket City and immediately induced a double play from Dedelow to erase the hit-by-pitch. Killam got through the inning to by picking Cespedes off first base.
Over 5.0 innings, Erla was sharp, allowing one run on two hits with one walk and five strikeouts. In the first two games of the season, Rocket City starters have combined to give up one run in 10 innings with 13 strikeouts.
Once Killam escaped the sixth, the Rocket City offense came to life in the seventh with the rally that proved decisive.
Making his Double-A debut in his first career outing out of the bullpen, Killam (W, 1-0) was spectacular, allowing one run on two hits with three walks and two strikeouts to earn the victory for the Trash Pandas.
At the plate, Soto led the way by going 3-for-4 with two RBI while Teodosio doubled twice for his first two hits of the season.
The Trash Pandas (2-0) conclude their weekend series against the Barons (0-2) on Sunday afternoon. First pitch at Regions Field is scheduled for 4 p.m. Josh Caray will be on the call for 103.9 FM THE UMP and 730 AM SportsRadio.