Mississippi Wins Pitching Duel 2-0 Over The Blue Wahoos

July 14, 2017

Pensacola Blue Wahoos fans were treated to a pitching duel between Keury Mella and Mississippi Braves Mike Soroka.

Mississippi and Soroka ended up getting the win, 2-0, over Pensacola to snap a four-game losing streak.

Pensacola manager Pat Kelly credited the 23-year-old Mella and the 19-year-old Soroka on their performances Thursday in front of 4,497 in Blue Wahoos Stadium.

“Those were two good young pitchers right there,” Kelly said. “Soroka got the best of him but Mella really competed.”

Mella, ranked the No. 19 prospect in the Cincinnati Reds organization, pitched his best game at home, Kelly said, and his best since his last victory June 15 against the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. He worked seven innings, only the second time he has done that this season, and gave up two earned runs on six hits, had no walks and struck out six, which was one shy of his season-high.

“He was solid,” Kelly said of Mella. “He was very aggressive with his fastball and had good use of his breaking ball.”

Mississippi, which have now won two of its last 15 games, scored its first run in the third inning when center fielder Connor Lien scored on a sacrifice fly to right field by right fielder Keith Curcio. Curcio also hit a two-out homer into the Hill-Kelly Dodge berm in right field for the M-Braves second and final run.

Mella, who has yet to win a start in Blue Wahoos Stadium, retired the last seven batters he faced.

Meanwhile Soroka, who pitched seven scoreless innings, allowed four hits, had no walks and struck out six. He is now 2-0 in three starts this season against Pensacola, allowing just one run in 19.2 innings for a 0.47 ERA.

A Canadian who chose baseball over being a goalie in hockey, now has 10 wins to lead the Southern League and his 2.37 ERA is only behind Pensacola starter Austin Ross, who has a 1.44 ERA.

Soroka is ranked as the No. 33 prospect in Baseball America’s midseason re-ranking lists and the 13th best pitcher.

“For a 19-year-old, he has a great feel for pitching,” said Kelly, who said Canadian baseball players are usually a year behind in development because the weather doesn’t allow them to play year-round.

Pensacola had an opportunity to score in the third inning on Soroka with runners on first and second and two outs but third baseman Nick Senzel struck out. Soroka mowed down the last eight Blue Wahoos batters he faced. Pensacola got just one more hit in the last four innings of the game when second baseman Josh VanMeter hit a bloop single to left field to start the ninth inning.

Senzel increased his hitting streak to 13 games, going 1-4 with a double off of Soroka in the third inning. The Cincinnati Reds top prospect is now 19-50 during the streak for a .380 batting average. The 22-year-old Senzel has hit in 15 of his 19 games with the Double-A team since being called up June 22 from the High-A Daytona Tortugas.

Pensacola is 10-11 in the second half. The South Division champions in the first half are 50-41 overall. Mississippi is 5-15 in the second half and 39-51 overall.

Pensacola is almost done playing 20 games in a row before getting a day off July 18 after the series with Mississippi is finished. Kelly said it isn’t easy.

“Twenty-game stretches are tough in this league with this humidity,” Kelly admitted. “It’s a good challenge for the players. We just have to be smart. This is July and this is in the South.”

Kelly also reported that Nick Longhi, who was playing in his seventh game for Pensacola after being picked up by the Reds in a trade with the Red Sox, complained about soreness in his throwing arm and said it affected his swing. Longhi is hitting .316 with a homer and seven RBIs for the Blue Wahoos.

“It was precautionary to get him out,” Kelly said.


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