Making history: Trash Pandas clinch first half title

Trash Pandas Manager Andy Schatzley doused in water after Rocket City clinches first half title
Trash Pandas Manager Andy Schatzley doused in water after Rocket City clinches first half title(Georgia Chambers)
Published: Jun. 19, 2022 at 9:11 PM CDT
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MADISON, Ala. (WAFF) - The Rocket City Trash Pandas are postseason bound thanks to Sunday’s 7-2 win over the Montgomery Biscuits at Toyota Field. The Trash Pandas clinched the Southern League’s first half North Division title and will be playing playoff baseball for the first time in team history.

“[I’m] proud most of all for our players. Proud for the fans here. Proud for the affiliate. Proud for everybody that’s involved with player development with the Angels... It’s the by-product of all the hard work from a lot of people. But we still have a long way to go,” Trash Pandas Manager Andy Schatzley said.

The victory gives the Trash Pandas a spot in the Southern League playoffs, set to begin at the conclusion of the regular season in late September. The win also improves the Trash Pandas record to 39-24, 15 games above .500 for the first time in franchise history while also closing out the first half with an incredible 25-11 record in front of Trash Panda Nation at Toyota Field.

After jumping out to a 3-0 start following a sweep in Birmingham to start the season in April, the Trash Pandas led the North Division from nearly start to finish, never falling more than three games out of first place for the duration of the half.

Sunday’s game came down to the wire. With the score tied 1-1 in the bottom of the seventh, Bryce Teodosio stepped to the plate with two outs and lifted a fly ball to deep right. Montgomery right fielder Grant Witherspoon made a leap at the wall, but the ball went over his glove and off the fence. As the ball rolled away from Witherspoon, Teodosio was rounding third. Getting the green light from Schatzley, Teodosio sprinted home and dove in head-first for an inside-the-park home run, giving the Trash Pandas a 2-1 lead and sending the dugout into euphoria.

In the eighth, Rocket City added key insurance runs on an RBI single from Orlando Martinez to score Aaron Whitefield. Preston Palmeiro chipped in with an RBI single of his own. Braxton Martinez put the finishing touches on with a towering three-run home run 420 feet to left center, giving the Trash Pandas a 7-1 lead.

Kolton Ingram finished off the win in the ninth, setting off a wild celebration on the field and in the clubhouse.

The game didn’t begin as well as it ended for the Trash Pandas. Montgomery got the scoring started early as the second batter of the game, Curtis Mead, connected on a solo home run to left center field against Trash Pandas starter Chase Silseth for the first run of the afternoon.

The Trash Pandas got the run back in the bottom of the second on a sacrifice fly from Braxton Martinez to score Zach Humphreys, who reached with a one-out walk.

Silseth responded with a quick one, two, three inning in the third and worked around a one-out walk in the fourth. The fifth was like the third, as Silseth retired the Biscuits in order. He ended a stellar start by getting a double play to get through trouble in the sixth. In his second start back with the Trash Pandas after returning from his first Major League stint with the Los Angeles Angels, Silseth pitched six innings, allowing one run on three hits with one walk and seven strikeouts.

Luke Murphy was first out of the bullpen in the seventh and dominated for a one, two, three inning, setting the stage for Teodosio’s heroic dash around the bases. Murphy (W, 6-1) would earn his team-leading sixth win of the season with two scoreless relief innings. Teodosio’s inside-the-park home run was his ninth of the season and came one day after his 23rd birthday. Palmeiro led the way with three hits while Braxton Martinez drove in four of the seven runs.

The Trash Pandas (39-24) hit the road for their series of the first half with a six-game set against the Birmingham Barons beginning on Tuesday night. First pitch at Regions Field is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.

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