Pensacola Blue Wahoos Advance To Southern League Championship

September 22, 2023

The explosion of joy, from the Blue Wahoos dugout to the party on the mound, reflected pure exhilaration.

With their fans standing and celebrating, Pensacola did it again, reaching the Southern League Championship Series with a 5-1 victory Thursday night against the Montgomery Biscuits at Blue Wahoos Stadium, clinching the divisional series in a two-game sweep.

For a team that posted so many feats this season, including the best winning percentage in club history, a record 10-game win streak, plus six new batting records, this latest one was the biggest one.

They will now face the Tennessee Smokies for a second time in the Championship Series, beginning Sunday at Tennessee. Game Two and Game Three, if necessary, will be played in Pensacola on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Blue Wahoos won the league title a year ago on the road in Tennessee.

“We have something special in this clubhouse, this group of guys,” said lefthander Patrick Monteverde, who delivered a sensational starting performance, working into the seventh inning without allowing a run. “Everybody on the roster … we are one big family, one big brotherhood.”

The special element began with Monteverde.

In his five previous starts against the Biscuits, all were quality. He was 3-0 with only two earned runs allowed in 31.2 innings. On Thursday, considering the stakes and the pressure, Monteverde was at his best.

He allowed just one hit and two baserunners in the first three innings. In the fourth inning, he worked out of a two-on, two-out situation. He finished working 6.1 innings, allowing five hits, just one walk and striking out eight batters. He threw 103 pitches in a gritty, memorable effort.

“Last year when I got here (to Pensacola) those guys (Biscuits) got me pretty good in my first Double-A outing,” said Monteverde, a Pittsburgh, Pa. native who is rated the No. 16 prospect in the Miami Marlins organization. “I take it personal, and I just didn’t want to have that feeling again against these guys.

“They have a really good offense and I knew I had to be dialed in.”

He worked efficiently with his array of breaking pitches and his fastball. Only once did Montgomery have multiple baserunners against him.

“You could tell right from the start he was on his A-game and he had his stuff and I’m super happy for him,” said Blue Wahoos first baseman Bennett Hostetler.

The Blue Wahoos jumped to a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning. Will Banfield and Victor Mesa Jr. both walked to start the rally. With runners on first and third, Jake Thompson drove in the first run with a double. Hostetler, the star of the Game 1 win with two homers and three RBI, followed with a clutch two-run single.

The Blue Wahoos made it 4-0 in the fifth inning on Paul McIntosh’s single to score Nasim Nuñez. In the seventh, Cody Morissette blasted a home run into the right field berm for a 5-0 lead.

Every Blue Wahoos hitter reached base. Seven players in the lineup had a hit.

“This is a special group of players and special group of coaches,” Nuñez said. “I believe in every one of them. I wouldn’t want to be out there with anyone else.”

Zach McCambley relieved Monteverde and produced three strikeouts in 1.2 spotless innings. In the ninth, Jefry Yan retired the first two batters and gave up a run on a two-out double before striking out the final batter, Carson Wiliams. He leaped with excitement as the players rushed him on the mound.

The on-field celebration included ice baths and drink dousing in a scene full of happiness as fans stayed and cheered.

“It is a special feeling,” Hostetler said. “Working the whole season, the goal is to get to the playoffs and when you get to the playoffs, the goal is to win.

“We are super happy for each other and super happy for Pensacola to see another Championship Series.”

Before the game, the Blue Wahoos honored 10-year employees from the Studer Family of Companies, which encompasses the Blue Wahoos. Each received a commemorative gift, and had photos taken on the field with players.

In addition, there was a fourth-inning check presentation for $42,000 for the Pensacola chapter of Habitat for Humanity for its season of community partnership with the Blue Wahoos.

This is the Blue Wahoos’ seventh time making the playoffs in the past eight seasons. The Blue Wahoos were co-league champions in 2017 in a playoff round shortened by a hurricane threat. They won their first outright title last year.

Sunday’s game is at 4:30 p.m. at Tennessee. Game 2 on Tuesday is at 6:05 in Pensacola, followed by Game 3 if necessary at 6:05 p.m. on Wednesday in Pensacola.

by Bill Vilona, photo Nino Mendez / Pensacola Blue Wahoos


One Response to “Pensacola Blue Wahoos Advance To Southern League Championship”

  1. Denbroc on September 22nd, 2023 4:47 am