Trash Pandas split against Braves

Rocket City still leads North Division by half game
Trash Pandas Aaron Whitefield hit a 388 foot Home run in game two against the Mississippi...
Trash Pandas Aaron Whitefield hit a 388 foot Home run in game two against the Mississippi Braves Thursday night(WAFF)
Published: Jun. 9, 2022 at 10:08 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - A six-run first inning propelled the Rocket City Trash Pandas to a 7-0 win in the opener of their doubleheader against the Mississippi Braves on Thursday. But a brilliant pitching performance earned the Braves a 2-1 win and a split of the twin bill in front of 4,776 at Toyota Field.

Making his Toyota Field debut in the first game, Trash Pandas starter Mason Erla was sharp in the top of the first, pitching a scoreless frame. The Rocket City offense wasted no time in providing him with more than enough support.

Jose Gomez and Livan Soto singled against Mississippi starter Darius Vines (L, 3-3) to put runners on the corners for Rocket City. Aaron Whitefield grounded into a fielder’s choice, allowing Gomez to score while Soto was forced out at second. Back-to-back singles from Orlando Martinez and Jeremiah Jackson plated Whitefield with the second run. Ryan Aguilar followed with a walk to load the bases. Bryce Teodosio then crushed Vines’ 2-2 offering 385 feet over the wall in left for a grand slam, his eighth home run of the season and Rocket City’s second grand slam of the year, for a 6-0 lead after the opening inning.

Following a one, two, three second inning from Erla, Rocket City added a seventh run on a sacrifice fly from Orlando Martinez to extend the lead. Erla quicky got through the third and got the first two outs in the fourth before a two-out walk ended his start. In his first game since being activated off the Injured List, Erla pitched 3.2 scoreless frames, striking out two and allowing two hits.

Braden Olthoff entered in long relief and was brilliant for the rest of the game. He cruised through the fifth on just nine pitches, worked around a pair of base runners in the sixth, and got a double play to erase a leadoff single in the seventh. The game ended when Riley Delgado’s line drive was snared on a dive by Soto, giving the Trash Pandas their fourth shutout of the season.

At the plate, Teodosio’s grand slam was the big hit in a 2-for-4 performance while Jackson went 3-for-3 with an RBI. Soto and Gomez also added a pair of hits in the victory. Olthoff (W, 1-1) earned his first Double-A win with 3.1 scoreless relief innings, striking out three while allowing one walk and two hits.

In the nightcap, Rocket City struck first on a 388-foot solo home run from Whitefield, his sixth homer of the season, in the bottom of the first against Mississippi starter Tanner Gordon.

Trash Pandas starter Brett Kerry (L, 2-2) made that lead stick for the early part of his outing. A double play negated a one-out walk in the second and Kerry retired the side in order in the third.

But in the fourth, the Braves responded for their first runs of the day when Yariel Gonzalez singled and Drew Lugbauer followed with a two-run home run down the right-field line for his Southern League leading 14th home run of the season to put the visitors ahead 2-1.

Kerry kept the deficit at one with a scoreless fifth and got a Justin Dean to line out to start the sixth. That would be the end of his  night. Over 5.1 innings, Kerry allowed two runs on three hits with two walks and four strikeouts.

Eric Torres was first out of the Rocket City bullpen and kept the deficit at one by getting the final two outs of the sixth.

But Rocket City was unable to get anything offensively for the rest of the night off Gordon. Martinez was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double to end the fourth. Preston Palmeiro’s two-out single in the fifth would leave him stranded on base. Whitefield led off the seventh with a double as the tying run. Gordon worked around it by getting Martinez to pop up for the first out. Aguilar grounded into a fielder’s choice for the second out, and Palmeiro flew out to center to end the game.

Gordon (W, 3-2) went the distance for Mississippi, throwing a complete game with one run against on four hits with two walks and seven strikeouts.

Whitefield recorded two of the Trash Pandas’ four hits in the second game defeat. Kerry and Torres combined to hold the Braves to three hits in the loss, with Lugbauer’s home run the difference.

The Trash Pandas (31-23) continue their series against the Braves (26-28) with a Friday night matchup. First pitch at Toyota Field is scheduled for 6:35 p.m.

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