Wahoos Ends Year At Home With 6-2 Win Over Montgomery

August 27, 2014

The Pensacola Blue s ended the 2014 season with a standing ovation from the packed stadium.

It was a heart-felt and electrifying moment to end the team’s 70 home games this year and deeply appreciated by the Blue Wahoos players and coaches. Plus, it was particularly gratifying going out with a victory, 6-2, over the Montgomery Biscuits Tuesday at Pensacola Bayfront Stadium.

“It reminds me a lot of Wrigley Field,” said Pensacola Manager Delino DeShields. “The people keep coming back no matter what. The fans really make this place go. They are the best in the league by far in my opinion.”

Starting pitcher Michael Lorenzen admitted that the players joke that they like Pensacola so much, they don’t want to get called up.

“The atmosphere is always fun here, no matter the wins and losses,” said Lorenzen, who worked four innings and gave up two runs on five hits and three walks while striking out three. “We love it here. A lot of the players say we don’t want to go up. We want to stay because it’s so nice here.”

Pensacola’s closer Shane Dyer, who earned his franchise record 19th save Tuesday, was on the mound as the fans rose to their feet with two out and the last Biscuits player coming to the plate. Of course, Dyer struck out Montgomery’s Richie Shaffer, who has homered the past two games.

“It’s a great feeling,” he said of the loudly cheering fans. “That’s what guys in the bullpen thrive on. It’s always exciting to go out on top.”

The Wahoos ended their final game of the 2014 season with a sellout crowd of 5,038 to reach 311,687 total, which is the second highest total in the Southern League behind the Birmingham Barons.

It was the 33rd sellout in 70 home games this season for the Blue Wahoos, who averaged 4,453 fans a game. Pensacola had entered the final game 445 fans short of passing last season’s attendance total of 307,094.

The Wahoos are now 53,072 fans from reaching the 1 million mark in attendance in their fourth season in existence, which they will likely reach by the third homestand next season.

Jack-of-all-trades Brodie Greene came over from the Carolina Mudcats, which Quint and Rishy Studer bought and moved to Pensacola to start the 2012 season. Greene, who has played second base, shortstop and the outfield this season, has spent all three years in Pensacola. His season was cut short last year, when he broke his leg in July.

He ended his third season with the Blue Wahoos in fairy-tale fashion, belting a solo home run to deep leftfield – his third of the year and first at home.

“It was a good way to end a tough season,” Greene said. “I’ve been scuffling a little bit. I finally got one over the fence, though. It was great to see everyone behind us. It was like we were in the playoffs or something.”

The Wahoos have five more games on the road against the Birmingham Barons before the end of the Southern League season. They’re 56-78 overall and out of the playoff picture.

Many are making their plans for the offseason, such as playing in the Arizona Fall League, running a baseball academy in Europe, coaching a Wyoming and Colorado high school All-Star team, playing winter ball in Venezuela and returning home to their families, among other things.

One thing’s for sure. As they break for the winter, the Blue Wahoos fans’ standing ovation Tuesday will still be ringing in their ears.

The final five-game series for the Pensacola Blue Wahoos in the 2014 season is against the Chicago White Sox Double-A affiliate the Birmingham Barons. It gets underway after a day off Wednesday with a 7:05 p.m. start Thursday. LHP Tim Adleman (3-7, 3.00) takes the mound for the Wahoos and is scheduled to be opposed by the Barons RHP Tony Bucciffero (2-2, 5.59). The season concludes Labor Day on Monday, Sept. 1.

by Tommy Thrall

Northwest Escambia Chiefs Open Play In Excel Jamboree

August 26, 2014

The Northwest Escambia Chiefs traveled to Excel this past Saturday for a Jamboree at Excel (AL) High School.

Results were as follows:

Freshman Team
Lost vs. Excel
Won vs. Neal

Sophomore Team
Lost vs. Excel
Lost vs. Neal

Junior Team
Lost vs. Excel
Won vs. Neal

Senior Team
Won vs. Excel
Won vs. Neal

The regular season for the Northwest Escambia Chiefs (formerly the Eagles) will open August 30 at Flomaton with games at 4 p.m., 5:15 p.m., 6:45 p.m., and 8:15 p.m. The Chiefs won’t play their first home games in Northview’s Tommy Weaver Memorial Stadium on Saturday, September 13.

Submitted photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

Wahoos Lose To Biscuits

August 26, 2014

Kyle Waldrop became the first Pensacola Blue Wahoos player this season to earn the Southern League’s Player of the Week honors Monday.

As if that wasn’t enough, Waldrop lined a double to centerfield that scored Yorman Rodriguez and tied him for the franchise record of seven consecutive games with an RBI.

The Pensacola Blue Wahoos (56-78), though, failed to overtake the Montgomery Biscuits (64-70) and lost, 4-3, Monday in front of 3,074 fans at Pensacola Bayfront Stadium. The last home game of the regular season starts at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Waldrop has been on a hitting tear and for the week ending Sunday, August 24 was recognized as the league’s top player by Minor League Baseball. During the week, the left-handed hitter batted .533 (16-for-33) with two home runs, three doubles and a triple and a slugging percentage of .900.

“I’ve always felt in the second half I’ve done well,” Waldrop said. “‘Finish strong is my motto. I’m more patient and looking for a certain pitch to put good swings on the ball.”

The 22-year-old Waldrop now has an eight-game hitting streak, including six multi-hit games. Over the past week, he has raised his average 37 points to .309. His average is tops on the team and his 33 RBI leads the team since the All-Star break.

“He’s a solid hitter,” said Walt Jocketty, the Cincinnati Reds president of baseball operations and general manager, who was visiting Pensacola. “He’s proven he can come up here and make adjustments. If he does that, he will keep moving up.”

The left-handed hitting Waldrop was part of a group of seven High-A Bakersfield players who joined the Wahoos after the All-Star break. He was leading the California League with a .359 average.

Pensacola Manager Delino DeShields said Waldrop impressed him the most among the Bakersfield seven.

“Of all those guys, he was the most ready coming in and it shows,” DeShields said. “He was swinging the bat that way in Bakersfield and is making the adjustments faster than the others.”

Waldrop isn’t the only hot-hitting Blue Wahoos player. Yorman Rodriguez also is swinging a big stick, smacking a solo home run to right field Monday to go along with two doubles and a single in a 4-4 night and he scored all three Wahoos runs.

Rodriguez smacked home runs in three straight games against the Jacksonville Suns in the last series and now has nine homers on the year. In addition, the 22-year-old outfielder has an 11-game hitting streak, hitting .486 (18-37) with four home runs and 11 RBI.

The Venezuelan said through interpreter Yovan Gonzalez, the team’s catcher, that he has been taking extra hitting in the batting cages and working with hitting coach Alex Palaez.

“I’m throwing my hands hard through the ball and I’ve been successful doing that,” Rodriguez said. “I’m also being more patient, especially as the leadoff hitter.”

DeShields praised both Rodriguez and Waldrop for their hot hitting lately.

“They’re both playing at a high level right now,” he said.

The final home game of the 2014 season is against the Tampa Bay Rays Double-A affiliate the Montgomery Biscuits and gets underway at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. RHP Michael Lorenzen (4-6, 3.09) takes the mound for the Wahoos and is scheduled to be opposed by the Biscuits RHP Victor Mateo (12-9, 3.61).

by Tommy Thrall

Wahoos Win At Home Against The Montgomery Biscuits

August 25, 2014

Excitement ran high when Ben Lively toed the mound for the first time in his hometown for the Double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos.

A much larger than usual sellout crowd packed the ballpark to see the big 22-year-old righty from Gulf Breeze High School start, after he tore up the California League for the High-A Bakersfield Blaze.

Sunday night in his last home start, Lively had several members of the Cincinnati Reds front office looking on, including Walt Jocketty the president of baseball operations and general manager.

Lively delivered his first win in seven starts at Pensacola Bayfront Stadium as the Blue Wahoos stomped the Montgomery Biscuits, 9-4, in front of 4,019 on Sunday. The Wahoos have two more home games left against the Biscuits at 6:30 p.m. Monday and Tuesday.

Jocketty, who was making his second visit to Pensacola, gave his critique of Lively after watching the game in the stands behind home plate. Lively ranks as the sixth best prospect in the Reds organization.

“It was the first time I’ve seen him pitch,” he said. “From what I saw he has pretty good stuff. He has a rising fastball and a good curveball. I wished I had seen him earlier. He’s had a great year.”

Lively, who entered the game 0-4 with a 3.86 ERA in front of family and friends from across the Pensacola Bay where he used to play in Gulf Breeze, was “absolutely” happy to post a W. On the year, he is now 3-6 with a 3.76 ERA and his five strikeouts in five innings last night gave him 167 on the year to remain among the top three pitchers in strikeouts in all of minor league ball.

“I stayed relaxed,” said Lively, who admitted not even remembering where he was in his first start in Pensacola. “I was a lot more calm than I was before.”

Right fielder Kyle Waldrop who had two singles, a double and a triple in five at bats scored twice and knocked in two runs said he was happy for Lively.

“It definitely feels great to get him some runs,” said Waldrop, who is batting .471 over the last two series with two home runs and 11 RBI. “He has pitched well all year.”

After the game, Lively said even tougher than fighting his nerves in his first start was fighting the 93-degree temperature to start the game. He said the heat and the 80-plus percent humidity was something he wasn’t use to anymore.

“Every time I pitched, I could see sweat flying off my arm,” he said. “It’s tough to pitch in a sauna. I just had to bear down and throw strikes when I needed to.”

The biggest adjustment Lively said he has made at Double-A is throwing a two-seam and four-seam fastball to vary the miles per hour from the high 80s to mid 90s and getting better command of his curveball that dips to the low 70s.

“We’ve been working on it and all the pitchers have been helping me out,” Lively said.

He said he’s happy to have gotten the chance to pitch in his hometown despite looking up and seeing people he knows almost every time he looks into the stands and having his cell phone light up with texts. His goal this offseason is to build his strength, especially in his legs, so he can pitch deeper in starts.

“This has been a good learning experience,” he said. “It’s been awesome.”

Wahoos Manager Delino DeShields has liked what he’s seen out of Lively, especially handling playing in his hometown.

“Ben is a competitor,” he said. “He’s pitched a lot better than his record indicates. He will be a lot better for playing here. If he plays here next year, he will be a lot more prepared.”

The fourth game of the five-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays Double-A affiliate the Montgomery Biscuits gets underway at 6:30 p.m. Monday. RHP Robert Stephenson (6-9, 4.84) takes the mound for the Wahoos and is scheduled to be opposed by the Biscuits LHP Jimmy Patterson (3-0, 3.67).

Biscuits Take Second Straight Over Pensacola

August 24, 2014

After spending the past two seasons pitching for the Low-A Dayton Dragons, Joel Bender finally got the call to start for the Pensacola Blue Wahoos.

The 23-year-old prospect from Oak Hills High School in Cincinnati and a lifelong Reds fan made the most of it.

Bender gave the Wahoos four strong innings, but the Montgomery Biscuits rallied to win a second straight gave over Pensacola, 8-6, Saturday in front of a sellout 5,038 fans at Pensacola Bayfront Stadium.

Bender left early with a blister on the tip of the middle finger of his throwing hand. He worked four innings allowing two runs on three hits and struck out three.

“It was very frustrating,” Bender said. “I wanted to compete and stay in the game but it was a close game. I’ve been waiting a long time to do this.”

He might have gotten out ot the game allowing no runs but a high fly ball by Montgomery’s Taylor Motter was misplayed by Wahoos centerfield Brodie Greene. He lost track of the ball, twisted around and fell behind him near the warning track for a double.

Pensacola Manager Delino DeShields said Bender showed good command of his fastball, curveball and change up.

“His command was impressive,” DeShields said. “He wasn’t overwhelmed a bit. He was confident and executed his pitches.”

Bender, who was drafted in the 27th round by Cincinnati in 2010, arrived in Pensacola Saturday morning to help the Wahoos who were desperate for a starter when its winningest pitcher Daniel Corcino, who had 10 wins, was tabbed Thursday night for the first time to play for the parent club Cincinnati Reds.

At Dayton, the left-handed Bender compiled a 6-3 record and two saves in 43 appearances that included one start. Bender has come on late this season. He’s only allowed three runs in 17.2 innings over his last eight appearances. His longest outing was his last when he pitched 5 innings, allowed one run on three hits, and struck out a season-high nine batters.

Bender had played with a lot of the Wahoos staff in Dayton and spring training, including Robert Stephenson and Michael Lorenzen.

“Words can’t tell you how good it feels to get this opportunity,” Bender said. “It’s an honor to be in the rotation with them.”

Designated hitter Kyle Waldrop kept Pensacola in the game early knocking in Yorman Rodriguez in the first and third innings on a single and double, and knocking in Devin Lohman on a single in the fifth inning that tied the score at 3.

However, the Biscuits sent eight batters to the plate in the top of the ninth and had four singles and a double to add four runs to go ahead, 8-3.

The third game of the five-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays Double-A affiliate the Montgomery Biscuits gets underway two hours later than normal at 6 p.m. Sunday. RHP Ben Lively (2-6, 3.63) takes the mound for the Wahoos and is scheduled to be opposed by the Biscuits RHP Albert Suarez (3-4, 3.57).

Chiefs Warm Up For Orlando With Scrimmage Game (Photos)

August 23, 2014

It’s been a couple of years since 1,600 plus North Escambia residents hit the road for Orlando’s Citrus Bowl to watch their beloved Northview Chiefs win a state championship. Last year, the road trips ended in Cottondale with an agonizing regional level loss.

This year, if Coach Sid Wheatley gets his way, Northview fans are going to need to start saving up gas money for Orlando.

The Chiefs held a Garnet and Gold scrimmage game on a very hot Friday night.  The Garnet team — coached by Wheatley, Gary Mattes and Logan Weber — won 12-8 over the Gold team — coached by Derek Marshman and Glenn Weber.

“I thought we played hard,” Wheatley said, noting that it’s really hard to evaluate your full team when they are split….We’ve got to be better blockers, better tacklers; we’ve got to get better fundamentally wise.”

The Chiefs will open their regular season on the road at Deane Bozeman School in Panama City. As for earning that Orlando trip, Northview won’t face a district opponent until they host Jay for the Chiefs homecoming on October 3.

For a photo gallery, click here. (Cheerleader, band, dance team and NJROTC photos will be published Sunday.)

Pictured top: Senior Keondrae Lett  (#2) avoids a tackle by Chasen Freeman. Pictured inset: Sophomore Jacob Weaver barely misses a pass. Pictured below: Camron Newsom (#22) gains yardage for the Gold team. NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.

Preseason Volleyball Tournament At Northview

August 22, 2014

Five schools took part in a volleyball preseason classic Thursday at Northview High School with Laurel Hill taking first place.

Play included  seniors from Northview, Laurel Hill, Central, Jay and Pensacola Christian Academy high schools in a dual court format.

For more photos, click here.

Scores were as follows:

PCA vs Central
22-25, 26-24, 15-11

NHS vs Laurel Hill
11-25, 24-26

Jay vs PCA
25-16, 24-26, 15-9

Laurel hill vs Central
24-16, 17-25, 15-8

Laurel Hill vs Jay
26-24, 25-17

The Chiefs will begin their regular season on the road at Holmes County on August 28, with their first home game set for September 2 against Baldwin County High School.

NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.

Pensacola Takes Series Final 7-6 Over Jacksonville

August 22, 2014

The Pensacola Blue Wahoos (24-36, 55-75) took the series finale, 7-6, over the Jacksonville Suns (35-25, 71-59) at the Baseball Grounds in Jacksonville. With the victory, the Wahoos went 10-20 in 2014 against the Suns.

The Blue Wahoos got on the board early with a two-out RBI single from Travis Mattair in the top of the first. The Suns responded with three first inning runs off Wahoos’ starter Michael Lorenzen. The Wahoos did one better in the next half inning, scoring four runs in the top of the second. Yorman Rodriguez continued his stellar series with a two-RBI double. He came home on a Kyle Waldrop single and Mattair gave the Wahoos a 5-1 lead on an RBI groundout.

Lorenzen helped his own cause with a two-out RBI single as the Wahoos stretched their lead to three runs in the third inning. Lorenzen gave up 3 R/2ER and lasted 3.0 innings. The Suns chipped away at the lead in the fifth off RHP Drew Hayes, who allowed 2 R/ER on three hits over 2.0 innings. Again, the Wahoos responded as Rodriguez notched his third RBI of the night on a sacrifice fly.

The Suns cut the lead to just one run in the seventh and it was RHP Shane Dyer who came in to close out the game in the bottom of the ninth. Dyer induced a game ending double play off the bat of Viosergy Rosa to finish off the Suns. It was Dyer’s 18th save of the season, which is a new Blue Wahoos’ team record. Trevor Bell previously held the record with 17 saves in 2013.

Hayes ended up with the win for the Wahoos and Suns’ starter Trevor Williams fell for the first time in 2014.

The Blue Wahoos return to Pensacola Bayfront Stadium on Friday for their final home series of the season. RHP Daniel Corcino (10-11, 4.13) is set to start the series opener for the Wahoos. RHP Mike Colla (7-12, 4.60) gets the nod for the Montgomery Biscuits.

by Joey Truncale

Power Boat Stops In Cantonment In Advance Of Saturday Grand Prix

August 21, 2014

The Stihl offshore racing boat US-1 was on display Wednesday at A-1 Small Engines  in Cantonment in advance of this weekend’s 1st Annual Pensacola Grand Prix Sunday on Pensacola Bay.

Sunday’s races will start at 1 p.m. and 2 pm. with Plaza de Luna and Maritime Park designated as prime viewing areas. For more info, click here.

During Wednesday’s Stihl US-1 visit to Cantonment, A-1 Small Engines held a couple of giveaways — Brad Early won a  Stihl blower, and Tim Bragg won a 25 quart Engel cooler.

Pictured: The Stihl offshore racing boat US-1 at A-1 Small Engines in Cantonment Wednesday. Photos courtesy April Conatser for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

Suns OutSlug The Wahoos

August 21, 2014

The Jacksonville Suns scored eight runs over the first four innings to knock Blue Wahoos starter Robert Stephenson (L, 6-9) from the game on their way to a 10-6 win on Wednesday night at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.

The Blue Wahoos had the bats going again with two more home runs after blasting a team-record five on Tuesday night. Yorman Rodriguez had the first with a two-run homer in the second. Travis Mattair matched his 2013 home run total with his 13th round-tripper in the fifth.

Kyle Waldrop had a nice night offensively with an RBI double in the first inning for Pensacola’s first run. He added a single later in the game for a 2-for-5 night. Pensacola also got some production from catcher Yovan Gonzalez. He collected his first hit since joining the Wahoos with a single in the second inning. He later doubled and scored in the eighth inning as part of a 2-for-4 night.

Stephenson struggled on the mound in his start. The hard throwing right-hander was charged with 8 R/7 ER on six hits over 4.0 innings. He walked two and struck out five. He ended up with the loss. Pensacola knocked around Jacksonville’s starter Justin Nicolino (W, 12-4). He allowed 5 R/ER on nine hits over 5.0 innings with just three strikeouts. It was the first time he had allowed as many as five earned runs since Pensacola scored five against him on May 19. Despite his struggles, the Suns lefty still picked up the win.

With the win, Jacksonville will hold on to a share of the lead in the South Division and they lock up the series win.

Pensacola will try to end the season series with the Suns on a high note Thursday night. RHP Michael Lorenzen (4-6, 3.01) will start for the Blue Wahoos against an unannounced starter for Jacksonville. First pitch is set for 6:05 p.m. CT from Bragan Field at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.

by Tommy Thrall

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