Trash Pandas walk off winners

Franchise holds Strike Out Cancer night at Toyota Field
Rocket City Trash panda fans hold signs in honor of those battling cancer July 7, 2023
Rocket City Trash panda fans hold signs in honor of those battling cancer July 7, 2023(WAFF)
Published: Jul. 7, 2023 at 10:53 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - For the second time in three days, the Rocket City Trash Pandas battled all night in a close game and ultimately won it with their final swing, walking off with a 5-4 win over the Chattanooga Lookouts to send an enthusiastic Toyota Field crowd of 6,007 into a frenzy on Friday night.

With the score tied at four in the bottom of the ninth, Jeremiah Jackson led off with a 10-pitch walk. He then stole second base to get into scoring position. Sonny DiChiara kept the inning going with a walk. Two hitters later, Tyler Payne was down 0-2 in the count but fought back to even the count at 2-2. On the seventh pitch of the at-bat, Payne lined a single to center, scoring Jackson with the winning run to give the Trash Pandas their second walk-off win of the series.

The game began as well as it ended for the home team, as the Trash Pandas were able to hold the Lookouts scoreless in the top of the first. Starter Jack Kochanowicz worked around a leadoff walk to strand a runner on second base.

Rocket City would waste little time in taking the lead. With one out in the first, Jackson laced a double down the left field line. A ground out moved him to third, and a wild pitch from Lookouts starter Sam Benschoter allowed Jackson to come home with the first run of the game.

Kochanowicz maintained the led by getting an inning-ending double play to get through the second. His team extended the lead in the bottom half. Gabe Matthews got it started with a single and Payne walked to put two on with nobody out. Benschoter nearly escaped with two strikeouts. But Mariano Ricciardi walked to load the bases and Calabrese walked to plate Matthews for a 2-0 lead. Jackson then lined a double to right, allowing Payne and Ricciardi to score and make it a 4-0 game. However, Calabrese was thrown out at home, ending the inning.

Chattanooga cut the lead in half in the top of the fourth on a two-run homer from Ivan Johnson, his 13th home run of the season. Kochanowicz got another double play to get through the fourth with the lead. He wouldn’t be as lucky in the fifth. Jacob Hurtubise got the inning started with a triple and came home on Blake Dunn’s RBI double. With two outs, Francisco Urbeaz tied the game with an RBI single to right. On the play, Alex McGarry was thrown out trying to advance to third base, ending the inning with the score tied at four.

Kochanowicz ended his night with a scoreless top of the sixth, with the help of his defense. The first hitter of the inning, Michael Trautwen lifted a high fly ball into foul territory in left. Trash Pandas left fielder Orlando Martinez reached into the crowd with his glove and deflected the ball back into the field, where he snared it with his bare hand to complete the catch for the out. Over six innings, Kochanowicz allowed four runs on seven hits with two walks and three strikeouts.

For Chattanooga, Benschoter allowed four runs in four innings, striking out five. From there, the battle of the bullpens began. Stevie Branche and Tommy Eveld combined on three scoreless innings to hold the tie. Ryan Meisinger did the same in the eighth.

Nick Jones was first out of the Rocket City bullpen and struck out three in the seventh. Kelvin Caceres dispatched the Lookouts to keep the score tied in the eighth. In the ninth, Kenyon Yovan (W, 3-2) quickly set the Lookouts down in order, setting the stage for the Trash Pandas’ third straight walk off win on a Friday night at home.

At the plate, Jackson led the way for Rocket City with a pair of doubles, two RBI, and two runs in a 2-for-3 performance. Gabe Matthews added two hits and Payne’s heroics provided the Trash Pandas’ fifth walk-off of the season.

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