Trash Pandas win!

Eighth inning rally propels Rocket City to come from behind win
Rocket City Trash Panda pitcher Brett Kerry (15) pitches against the Tennessee Smokies...
Rocket City Trash Panda pitcher Brett Kerry (15) pitches against the Tennessee Smokies Thursday June 8, 2023(WAFF)
Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 11:01 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - The Rocket City Trash Pandas stormed back from the brink, scoring four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning earn a thrilling 7-6 win over the Tennessee Smokies on Thursday night in front of an energetic crowd of 5,054 at Toyota Field.

Trailing 6-3 in the bottom of the eighth, the Rocket City offense went to work against Tennessee reliever Samuel Reyes. Sonny DiChiara and Tucker Flint got it started with back-to-back walks. A double play nearly got Smokies reliever Samuel Reyes through the inning. Kevin Maitan kept the inning alive with an infield single that deflected off Reyes to score DiChiara. Ryan Aguilar followed with a towering two-run home run to right, his first of the season, to tie the game at six.

Bryce Teodosio kept the rally going with a single. David Calabrese walked. Kyren Paris then hit a ground ball to third. Trying to reach third on the play, Teodosio ran into Smokies third baseman B.J. Murray. While Teodosio was originally thrown out at home trying to advance, interference was called on Murray for bumping into Teodosio, with the runner being awarded home plate to give the Trash Pandas a 7-6 lead.

In the ninth, Kolton Ingram (S, 1) shut the door on the Smokies to record his first save of the season and give the Trash Pandas their third win of the season when trailing after seven innings.

The game also began well for Rocket City.  Tennessee looked to take the lead with small ball to start the game, as Pete Crow-Armstrong began the game with a perfectly placed bunt single against Rocket City starter Brett Kerry. A sacrifice bunt moved him to second. Crow-Armstrong then looked to steal third, but was thrown out by a perfect strike from new Trash Pandas catcher Tyler Payne for the second out. Kerry got through the inning by striking out Owen Caissie.

In the bottom of the inning, the Trash Pandas struck first with a two-out rally off Tennessee starter Porter Hodge. Livan Soto got it started with an infield single. DiChiara and Flint then walked to load the bases. Payne continued his stellar Rocket City debut by lining a single up the middle, scoring Soto and DiChiara to give the Trash Pandas a 2-0 lead.

Rocket City added one more in the second when Aguilar walked, advanced to second on a walk by Calabrese while taking third on a wild pitch, and scored on a fielder’s choice ground ball from Paris.

The Smokies got a run back in the fourth on Haydn McGeary’s solo home run to left-center, his fifth of the season to make it 3-1. Kerry limited the damage to one run and ended his night with a one, two, three top of the fifth. In a strong start, Kerry allowed one run on four hits with one walk and five strikeouts.

In the sixth, Tennessee got a little closer as Caissie reached with a one-out double and came home on a balk from Trash Pandas reliever Kelvin Caceres. The Rocket City righty escaped further damage, getting a pop up and a strikeout to strand the tying and go-ahead runs on base.

But in the seventh, the Smokies turned the game around against Brandon Dufault, scoring four runs on a bases loaded walk from Caissie, a two-run single from McGeary, and an RBI single by BJ Murray to turn a 3-2 deficit into a 6-3 lead.

Smokies reliever Cayne Ueckert shut down the Trash Pandas in the seventh to hold the lead. Robinson Pina (W, 1-0) was strong in the eighth for Rocket City, striking out a pair to preserve the three-run deficit. He would wind up the winning pitcher after the Trash Pandas’ furious rally.

Offensively, Teodosio was the only Rocket City player to record a multi-hit game, going 2-for-4. Aguilar and Payne each drove in a pair while DiChiara went 0-for-2 with two walks and two runs.

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