August 28, 2015
Northview High School’s Quarterback Club held a “Meet the Chiefs” event Thursday evening, giving fans a chance to get to know the team prior to the start of the regular season Friday night. Fans also had a chance to meet the cheerleaders and dance team. The Chiefs will travel to Crestview Friday night to take on the Bulldogs in a non-district game.
NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.
August 28, 2015
All second half of the Southern League season, left fielder Jesse Winker came through with a big hit when Pensacola needed it.
Winker’s last one — a double in the right field corner in the eighth inning — was the biggest and came under the most pressure.
It not only cleared the loaded bases by driving in three runs to catapult the Blue Wahoos back into the lead, 9-8, over the Mississippi Braves, it put Pensacola 1.5 games up on the Braves in the race for the playoffs in the second half of the Southern League’s South Division.
By the end of the eighth inning, Pensacola had scored five runs and beat Mississippi, 11-8, and received a standing ovation from its 23rd sellout of 5,038 Thursday night at Pensacola Bayfront Stadium.
Pensacola improved to 34-26 in the second half and remained in sole possession of first place, while Mississippi fell to 32-27.
With 10 games left in the season, this is the latest Pensacola has been in first place since July 22, 2012 in its first season.
Winker said he was looking for a fastball to hit deep and at least get a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded. Instead, he ripped a line drive to reach base all five times he came to bat. Winker was 2-2 with a double, four RBIs, three runs and walked three times. The last time he got on base five times was on June 11, 2014 for the Bakersfield Blaze.
“How sweet,” said Winker, who was drenched with water by his teammates after the game. “It was unbelievable with the playoff atmosphere, plus PK’s (manager Pat Kelly) birthday. It was real cool. It was a real fun game to be a part of.”
Winker has hit in 18 of his 23 games this month. He is hitting .367 (29-79) in August and .312 in the second half. The Cincinnati Reds top prospect currently holds the Pensacola Triple Crown, leading the team with 13 home runs, 53 RBIs and a .278 batting average.
In top of the fifth inning with Pensacola leading, 4-1, the video board flashed birthday wishes to Pensacola manager Pat Kelly, who turned 60 Thursday. One photo was him with a mustache during his minor league playing days and the other a shot from this season. He tipped his cap to the crowd and smiled.
However, Mississippi scored five runs after that in the fifth. Braves right fielder KD Kang came through with a three-run homer to left to knot the game, 4-4. Kang has reached base in 29 straight road games this year, the longest streak in the Southern League this season.
Then, the Braves second baseman Levi Hyams drove in two more runs on a line drive over the head of Pensacola center fielder Phillip Ervin to put Mississippi ahead, 6-4.
Mississippi added two more runs to go ahead, 8-4, in the seventh inning when Pensacola shortstop Alex Blandino threw wide of first base trying to turn a double play that allowed the Braves third baseman Rio Ruiz and catcher Matt Kennelly to score.
Pensacola entered the game 3-56 when trailing in the seventh inning.
“It was fantastic,” Kelly said of Pensacola’s rally in the eighth inning to win the game. “We were dead in the water. I thought, ‘Man, we are really in trouble.’”
But right fielder Juan Duran laced a low line drive single to centerfield with two outs and the bases loaded in the seventh inning to bring home Blandino and Winker and pull the Blue Wahoos within, 8-6. He ended up going 2-4 with a three-run home run for five RBIs on the night.
Duran’s homer in the third inning was Pensacola’s 16th dinger in 24 games. After hitting just 25 home runs in the first half, the Blue Wahoos have clobbered 76 home runs on the season, which is third best in the Southern League.
Winker and Kelly both expressed optimism about making the playoffs with a series against the Jackson Generals in Tennessee and then its final homestand against Mobile at Pensacola Bayfront Stadium.
“We are all locked in on what we can do to win,” Winker said. “It’s something special to be a part of. I hope we go there (to Jackson) and take five.”
Kelly said beating Mississippi in a five-game series for the first time this season is huge.
“This puts us in a great position by winning it,” Kelly said. “It takes us to the Jackson series with some momentum. We’re going into that series in good spirits.”