Pensacola’s Comeback Foiled In 13-6 Loss To Tennessee

May 21, 2023

The Blue Wahoos are now on the wrong kind of streak.

After this week started with a pair of wins and a club-record 10-game winning streak, the Tennessee Smokies won their third in a row Saturday by answering the Blue Wahoos’ comeback attempt with a pair of 3-run homers in the eighth inning of a 13-6 blowout win.

A sellout crowd of 5,038 became energized when the Blue Wahoos rallied from a 7-1 deficit in the fifth inning and had a tying run thrown out at the plate to end the sixth inning.

The intrigue continued into the eighth.

That’s when the Tennessee Smokies Haydn McGeary blasted a first-pitch fastball from reliever Austin Roberts into the right-center berm for a 3-run homer.

The ball’s flight immediately had reliever Roberts kicking the mound in disgust.

The decisive moment then got worse for the Blue Wahoos (24-14) when reliever Zach Willeman gave up a walk, a single and second 3-run homer of the inning, this one by Bradlee Beesley, who went 2-for-3 in the game and scored four runs. The Smokies (21-17), leaders in the Southern League North Division, had 11 hits as every batter reached base.

But most of the crowd stayed around for the attraction of post-game fireworks presented by Navy Federal Credit Union.

Following the show, more than 130 Scouts of America youths, along with parents and scouting leaders, were part of a sleepover night at the ballpark.

Blue Wahoos starter Evan Fitterer sustained his worst outing this season. He did not make it out of the second inning. When he was lifted with two outs, the Smokies already had a 5-0 lead.

Fitterer threw 69 pitches, only half for strikes, as he struggled with location unlike any prior start. The righthander yielded a season-high five hits with four walks and three strikeouts.

In four prior starts, the 22-year-old Fitterer had allowed just five runs combined and recorded three consecutive wins in joining the team from High-A Beloit Sky Carp. He gave up four hits or fewer in each of those Pensacola starts.

Trailing 6-0 in the fourth inning, the Blue Wahoos started their comeback with Griffin Conine’s RBI single.

Troy Johnston then smashed a 3-run homer in the fifth inning, part of a night when he went 3-for-4 with 3 RBI and two runs scored.

Will Banfield homered to lead off the sixth inning. Nasim Nuñez drove home Bennett Hostetler with a RBI single. Nuñez was later thrown out at the plate trying to score on Dane Myers’ hit. Nuñez went 2-for-5 and was among seven Blue Wahoos batters with at least one hit.

All of that led into the eventual eighth inning when the Smokies blew open the game.

The Blue Wahoos will now hope to salvage a split in the 6-game series when closing the homestand Sunday afternoon against the Smokies.

M.D. Johnson (0-1, 3.67), who began the week Tuesday with a solid start (6 innings, 3 runs), returns to the mound for a repeat against the Smokies, who will throw Porter Hodge (0-3, 5.47) for a second time.

The game will also feature renowned baseball organist Nancy Faust, who performed 41 years for the Chicago White Sox beginning in 1970, and is considered a pioneer in game entertainment. She will be performing on the concourse behind home plate with the same kind of vintage organ she used at Comiskey Park.

by Erik Bremer, photo Nino Mendez / Pensacola Blue Wahoos


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