MADISON, Alabama — In a game that featured a plethora of early runs, the Rocket City Trash Pandas got the clutch late hit they were looking for in the late innings to prevail 8-6 over the Biloxi Shuckers in the opener of their six-game series on Tuesday night at Toyota Field.
With the score tied 6-6 and a runner on first with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Trash Pandas right fielder Izzy Wilson cranked a 1-0 pitch from Shuckers reliever Leo Crawford 434 feet over the right field fence for a two-run home run, giving the Trash Pandas an 8-6 lead.
Oliver Ortega returned to the mound and held the lead with a scoreless eighth inning before Connor Higgins did the same in the ninth to finish the win for the Trash Pandas.
The Rocket City offense started and ended the game with the long ball.
The second hitter of the night, Dalton Pompey, crushed a solo home run to right, his third of the season, 420 feet down the right field line with an exit velocity of 105 miles per hour for the first run of the game. Wilson added two more runs with a sharp single to right to put Rocket City ahead by three runs after one.
Biloxi got two of the runs back in the top of the second on a solo homer from Luis Castro off Trash Pandas starter Denny Brady and an RBI single from Cam Devanney.
With runners on first and third in the bottom of the frame, the Trash Pandas stole their fourth run. Ray-Patrick Didder broke for second and swiped the bag. On the throw to second, Torii Hunter Jr. broke for the plate and beat the tag at home to complete the double steal.
The teams traded runs in the third with Biloxi plating a pair in the top half before Mitch Nay connected on a two-run home run to left, his seventh of the season, to put the Trash Pandas ahead 6-4 after three.
Biloxi tied the score in the fourth on a two-run single from Payton Henry, capping the scoring against Brady. Over 4.0 innings, Brady gave up six earned runs on nine hits with one walk and a season-high eight strikeouts. He did not factor in the final decision.
Ryan Clark was first out of the Rocket City bullpen and kept the game tied with 2.0 scoreless innings, striking out two in the process. Ortega (W, 1-2) earned his first win of the season with 2.0 scoreless innings, allowing one hit with one strikeout. Higgins earned his fifth save of the year with the scoreless ninth. Combined, the Trash Pandas bullpen threw 5.0 scoreless innings with two hits against, one walk, and four strikeouts.
At the plate, all nine Trash Pandas starters recorded at least one hit while Wilson led the way in a 3-for-4 performance, including a home run, four RBI, and a stolen base. The home run is his league-leading 11th of the season and sixth in his last eight games.
The Trash Pandas (19-17) continue their series with the Shuckers (13-24) on Wednesday night. First pitch at Toyota Field is set for 6:35 p.m. Josh Caray will be on the call for 103.9 FM THE UMP and 730 AM SportsRadio. The game will also be televised locally on WAAY-31.6, This TV.