Wahoos Winning Season Ends With Loss To Mississippi

September 11, 2016

The Pensacola Blue Wahoos finished with its first winning season in its five-year history with a franchise record 81 wins this year.

But the Cincinnati Reds Double-A affiliate, which won both the first and second halves this season, lost to the Mississippi Braves, 4-2, Saturday, ending its dream to win its first Southern League Championship.

It’s the second year in a row that Pensacola has lost in the opening round of the playoffs. After winning the second half of the season last year, it was swept in three games by the Biloxi Shuckers.

Mississippi’s victory at Trustmark Park earned it a 3-1 South Division playoff title. It advances to play the North Division title winner the Jackson Generals, who beat the Montgomery Biscuits, 8-2, Saturday.

Pensacola’s hitters were shut down by Mississippi’s pitching, generating just 10 runs and 30 hits in the four games. Meanwhile, the Braves scored 23 runs on 47 hits, getting 17 and 11 in the last two games.

In its three losses to the Braves, Pensacola seemed unable to get a clutch hit when it needed one. That was unusual for a team that set a franchise record with 12 walk-offs this season. But in the playoffs, the Blue Wahoos left 23 runners on base and was 5-31 or .161 at the plate with runners in scoring position.

The only player who did come through at the plate against Mississippi for Pensacola was shortstop Zach Vincej. He was 8-17 or .471 with two doubles, a triple, two runs scored and an RBI.

On Saturday, Mississippi right-handed starter Lucas Sims struck out the side in the third inning and struck out five of the six batters he faced between the second and third innings. He retired seven in a row. In his five innings of work, Sims allowed just two hits, walked two and struck out six.

He came out after Game 4 in Pearl, Miss., was delayed by rain for just over an hour at the end of the fifth inning.

The Braves loaded the bases with two outs in the first inning for right fielder Connor Lien who singled to right field to drive in second baseman Levi Hyams and left fielder Dustin Peterson to jump out in front, 2-0. Pensacola right fielder Sebastian Elizalde threw to second to catch Lien trying to stretch his single to a double to end the inning.

“They got some big two-out hits and that’s kind of what they did all series,” Pensacola manager Pat Kelly said after the game.

Mississippi third baseman Carlos Franco hit a two out double in the bottom of the third inning off the wall in right field to score Peterson from first to put Braves ahead, 3-0. Franco finished the series 7-15 or .467 with a home run and 6 RBIs.

Pensacola came back in the fourth inning when Elizalde singled to drive in Blandino, who walked, and left fielder Phillip Ervin, who doubled off the center field wall, and pulled the Blue Wahoos within, 3-2.

Mississippi went ahead, 4-2, in the bottom of the fourth inning when center fielder Mallex Smith singled on a ground ball to left field with two outs to score shortstop Johan Camargo. Pensacola reliever Barrett Astin came in and struck out Hyams to end the inning.

“I thought the fourth inning was huge,” Kelly said. “We throw a two-spot on the board, we come back 3-2, and then they score a run. The momentum switches a little bit right there.”

The run chased Pensacola starter Tyler Mahle out of the game. The 21-year-old right hander worked 3.2 innings, allowing four runs, three earned on seven hits and a walk.

In the seventh inning, Pensacola had second baseman Brandon Dixon reach base with a walk and shortstop Zach Vincej earned the Blue Waboos third hit of the game with no outs but they were both stranded on base.

Ervin got his second hit of the game Saturday when he hit a line drive off of Mississippi reliever Caleb Dirks hip in the eighth inning and the fourth in the game for the Blue Wahoos. Ervin went 2-4 in the game.

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