Blue Wahoos Fall In Extra Innings To Birmingham

May 16, 2021

The Blue Wahoos recreated a Saturday night experience devoid a year ago.

Absolute perfect weather. Overflow crowd. Festive mood. Post-game fireworks.

All this checklist lacked was a win.

After the Blue Wahoos carried a 3-0 lead into the seventh inning, the Birmingham Barons rallied to tie the game in the eighth inning, then scored six runs in the 10th for a 9-3 victory.

The crowd at Blue Wahoos Stadium filled both ends of the stands, the party decks and the grass berm behind the outfield.

The night also included Blue Wahoos president Jonathan Griffith getting his COVID-19 vaccine on top of the visitors’ dugout during the seventh inning stretch.

And he led the crowd in “Take Me Out To the Ballgame” while doing it, as part of a free vaccination opportunity provided by the Department of Health in Escambia County.

The Blue Wahoos will conclude their first homestand of 2021 with an afternoon game (4:05 p.m.) against the Barons.

The night began well on the field. Blue Wahoos starting pitcher Will Stewart was outstanding, pitching six scoreless innings and leaving with a 3-0 lead.

After retiring the Barons in order in the first inning, Stewart pitched with runners on base in the next five innings without allowing a run.

In throwing 85 pitches, he gave up only four hits, two walks and struck out three strikeouts. He made big pitches to end innings in the second, fifth and sixth.

It was a turnaround performance from his first start last week at Mississippi. That night he gave up seven hits and five earned runs in five innings.

Unfortunately for him, it became a no-decision.

The Blue Wahoos had a 3-0 lead in the seventh. Centerfielder Peyton Burdick led off the first inning with a walk, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on two groundouts.

In the sixth, Jerar Encarnacion tripled to score JJ Bleday and Nick Fortes followed with an RBI single.

But with two outs and two runners on in the seventh inning, the Barons’ Xavier Fernandez hit a fly ball off reliever Brien McKenna that seemed to cross up two Blue Wahoos outfielders.

Center fielder Peyton Burdick’s diving attempt had the ball pop out of his glove, scoring two runs.

In the eighth, second reliever Tyler Stevens gave up a bases-loaded walk on a 3-2 pitch to tie the game.

After the Blue Wahoos were retired in the ninth, the Barons exploded for six runs in the 10th inning to blow open the game.

Wahoos Beat Birmingham

May 15, 2021

As a later-round draft pick from Illinois State in 2019, pitcher Jeff Lindgren knew he had to prove himself quickly.

A performance like the one he delivered Friday night for the Blue Wahoos certainly helps.

Making his first professional start, Lindgren, 24, a Champagne, Illinois native, produced the longest outing by a Blue Wahoos starter, so far this season, tossing a 2-hitter in seven innings to lead Pensacola’s 3-2 win against the Birmingham Barons.

Lindgren did this in front of the first sellout crowd (5,038) of the opening homestand.

“It’s always playing with a chip on your shoulder,” said Lindgren, chosen in the 24th round by the Miami Marlins as a college senior and signed for a few thousand dollars. “When you have that kind of motivation it helps get to  where you want to be in my situation right now.”

On the first night since a mask ban was lifted for fans at Blue Wahoos Stadium, Lindgren got through a rough first inning then found a groove that let him breeze through innings.

He threw 86 pitches, striking out seven and not allowing a walk. He worked five innings and allowed four runs in his first Double-A start a week ago at Mississippi.

“I just continued to follow the game plan that (pitching coach Tim Norton) and (catcher Rick Fortes) put together before the game,” said Lindgren, who made all his prior appearances in relief, including his 2019 rookie season in Jupiter. “It really was working for me in the first game and things just got away from me. I settled back in and ran (Friday).”

When he exited after the seventh, he saw many in the crowd standing.

“It was awesome,” Lindgren said. “Especially after taking so much time off (not playing last year). I didn’t really realize the crowd until the end but my team had my back all day.”

Lindgren got the run support he needed when Demetrius Sims jumped on a first pitch to deliver a 2-run, 2-out single in the sixth inning.

That lead was saved by Anthony Maldonado, who pitched two scoreless, hitless innings. to record his third save.

Lindgren overcame a rocky opening inning. He plunked consecutive batters with one out, then yielded a bloop, 2-run single to Barons’ catcher Carlos Perez.

From this point, Lindgren was sensational.

He retired 16 batters in a row, before Ti’Quan Forbes reached on a two-base throwing error in the seventh inning to move into scoring position. But Lindgren ended the inning by getting Craig Dedlow to fly out to left on the first pitch.

Birmingham starter Konnor Pilkington was equally effective. After the Blue Wahoos got a run back in the first inning on Fortes’ 2-out single, Pilkington retired the next 12 batters he faced.

Nick Lovullo broke the string with a one-out single. It was one of just four hits the Blue Wahoos had in the game. But they made the most of them.

The Blue Wahoos (6-4) evened the series at 2-2 heading into Saturday’s fifth game against the Barons (7-3).

Jay Softball Wins Regional Championship; Northview Baseball Falls To Holmes County In Eight

May 14, 2021

SOFTBALL

Jay 10, Holmes County 0

The Jay Lady Royals are Region 1-1A champions and are in the state final four after beating Holmes County 10-0 in Bonifay Thursday night.

Mattie Cochran tossed a complete-game shutout, allowing one hit, two walks and striking out seven.

The Royals had two home runs. Cochran and Caitlyn Gavin both homered in the fourth.

Gavin went 2-3 with two runs and five RBIs. Brett Watson at 3-5 with three runs; Alayna Lowery was 2-4 with one run and one RBI; Mattie Cochran was 2-3 with one run and one RBI; Ella Nelson was 1-3 with a run; and Kassidy Nevels was 1-4 with a run.

Jay moves one to the state semifinals on May 18 against Wewahitchka. The winner will face either Branford or Trenton on May 19 for the state championship.

BASEBALL

Holmes County 3, Northview 2 (8 innings)

Holmes County defeated Northview 3-2 in the Region 1-1A championship Thursday night in Bonifay.

The game was 2-2 at the end of seven and moved into extra innings. Holmes County walked off with the win after Cody Jones singled on a 2-2 count, driving in the winning run.

For Northview Jamarkus Jefferson allowed four hits and one run over five and a third innings while striking out four. Josh Landis threw one and two-thirds innings in relief. allowing four hits, two runs, two walks and striking out two.

Jefferson went 2-3 for the Chiefs. Bryce Korinchak was 1-3; Rustin Pope was 1-3 with an RBI; and Landis was 1-3 with a run.

The Chief’s season ended at 17-7. Northview entered regionals as District champions for the first time since 2015.

Blue Wahoos Lose 16-6 to Barons On Mullets Thursday

May 14, 2021

The first Pensacola Mullets Night in franchise history attracted the week’s largest crowd, so far, but not the desired scoreboard totals.

Birmingham unleashed a 15-hit attack, highlighted by four 3-run homers in a 16-6 victory Thursday night, before 3,689 fans at Blue Wahoos Stadium.

With Pensacola players wearing colorful teal jerseys with fuchsia/teal hats and popular Mullets logo, the first-ever promotion created a pregame energy, following months-long popularity on social media.

The concept was decided earlier this year as a nod to the runner-up nickname when fans chose Blue Wahoos when the franchise launched in 2012.

A 3-year-old boy who won the best-looking mullet contest among public voting was joined by his parents and family members on the field to help throw out the “First Fish.” His father and mother did the honors to the crowd’s delight.

The game started well, too.

Pensacola answered the Barons’ first run to take a 2-1 lead in the first inning on Peyton Burdick’s RBI double and a throwing error allowing Burdick to come around and score on the play.

In fact, Pensacola had four runs on two hits in the first four innings.

The Barons, however, bashed their way to a 5-run second inning and added four more runs in the third.

Five Pensacola players had one hit apiece.

Pensacola starter Brandon Leibrandt had a tough outing. The hot-hitting Barons produced their first 10 runs off him in his three innings of work.

The Blue Wahoos will be back on Friday night with Jeff Lindgren (0-1) on the mound against Konnor Pilkington (1-0). The Mullets Night will return next Thursday against the newest division member, Rocket City Trash Pandas. Each Thursday home game throughout the season, Pensacola will wear the Mullets-theme uniforms.

by Bill Vilona, Blue Wahoos Senior Writer

Blue Wahoos Beat The Barons 4-1

May 13, 2021

The wind at Blue Wahoos Stadium suddenly began blowing harder to right field.

Jerar Encarnacion took full advantage.

Encarnacion went opposite field with a sixth-inning pitch that just had enough pop to clear a leaping right fielder for a 3-run homer, which carried the Blue Wahoos to a 4-1 victory Wednesday against the Birmingham Barons.

That blast, along with former No. 1 pick J.J. Bleday’s first professional homer, provided the run support needed to accompany another impressive pitching performance from fellow Vanderbilt star Jake Eder.

“Fortunately it was blowing out,” said Bleday, the fourth overall pick in the 2019 Major League Baseball Draft by the Miami Marlins. “When we were hitting balls off the machine, the ball was flying and we weren’t sure that was going to carry over in the game, so that definitely helped in our favor tonight.”

Bleday’s blast in the fourth inning was a no-doubter out of the stadium in right field.

“I was doing my best to tackle oneand I put a good swing on it and it felt good,” said Bleday, who played his final two prep seasons at Panama City Mosley. “It felt good to do it at home and get my first knock here so I pretty happy with that.”

It was the Blue Wahoos first home win as the Miami Marlins affiliate. The crowds the first two nights have caught the attention of the players.

“It was cool, definitely, to have fans rooting for you,” said Eder, who struck out 12 in five scoreless innings a week ago to get his first professional win against the Mississippi Braves. “The more fans the better. The more energy they can bring, the more that is going to help everyone’s game.

“It was a good turnout I thought and hopefully we can continue to pack it out.”

On the mound, Eder’s second professional start became as significant as last week’s debut. He twice pitched out situations with runners in scoring position to throw five shutout innings.

“My goal is to just keep stringing them together, hit a standard every time I’m out there,” said Eder, a fourth round pick in 2019. “Once this one happens, I’m on to the next.”

He finished with another impressive pitching line. In 72 pitches, he threw 47 strikes with seven strikeouts, two walks. He has not allowed a run in two pro starts.

The two relievers who followed, Jose Mesa Jr. and Anthony Maldonado were equally effective. Mesa gave up a solo home run that tied the game in the sixth, but that was the only hit he allowed in three innings.

In the bottom of the sixth, after a one-out double from Victor Victor Mesa and Bleday following with a walk, Encarnacion launched a towering shot that gained just enough lift from a 12-mph wind to right field that eluded a leaping attempt by Barons’ star right fielder MIcker Adolfo.

Maldonado finished the game in the ninth as the crowd at Blue Wahoos Stadium stood and cheered.

Barons started Kade McClure gave up just three hits and Bleday’s homer in his fivie innings of work. His father, Brian, played one season at quarterback for the Buffalo Bills and finished 10th in the 1985 Heisman Trophy balloting out of Bowling Green.

The Blue Wahoos will continue their series against the Barons on Thursday in the debut of Pensacola Mullet Night and the team wearing speciality uniforms, while taking on the nickname of Mullets for the one night.

by Bill Vilona, Blue Wahoos Senior Write

Photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

34 Scholarships Worth Over $100K Awarded To Pensacola Sports Senior Scholar Athletes

May 13, 2021

Each year, Pensacola Sports brings together the top senior student athletes in each sport from Escambia and Santa Rosa County schools for a scholarship recognition program.  The 2021 Senior Scholar Athlete Awards event had 227 senior nominees that were introduced during the event at at Olive Baptist Church.

“This might be our best event we do,” said Pensacola Sports President Ray Palmer.  “There are some tremendously smart and talented young adults growing up in our school districts and we get to meet and recognize them at this event.  It is a great night for everyone involved.”

Jane “Merrill” Dickerson from Washington High School volleyball and Jordan McCants from Pensacola Catholic High School baseball, won the overall female and male scholarships, respectively.  Pensacola Sports awarded these two individuals each with a $4,000 scholarship.

Other awardees were:

Dr. Alec Kessler Memorial Scholarship – named for Dr. Alec Kessler, a standout basketball player at University of Georgia and Miami Heat and later an orthopedic surgeon at the Andrews Institute before he passed away suddenly at the age of 40. This scholarship is awarded to students of good character who excels in academics and sports and involved in the community.

Riley Poggi – Pace

Tailor Ernst – Navarre

Levi Cherek – Pensacola

Timothy Burman – Navarre

Prosser Crow – Tate

University of West Florida Scholarship – Awarded to a student-athlete who is attending UWF in the coming year.

Jillian Thornton – Jay

Super Star Multi-Sport Scholarship – Awarded to two students who excelled in the classroom and in more than one sport their senior year.

Landry Cato – Jay

Chance Outten  – Escambia

Additionally, Pensacola State College awarded 24 individual sport winners with a one-year renewable scholarship.

The individual sport winners are:

Baseball — Hunter Pierson, Escambia

Girls Basketball — Kinsey King, Catholic

Boys Basketball — Trenton Moye, Central

Cheerleading — Ashlyn NeSmith, Tate

Boys Cross Country — Christopher Bissell, West Florida Tech

Girls Cross Country — Mira Helms , Gulf Breeze

Football — Brennan Smith, Escambia

Girls Golf — Meredith McGhee, Northview

Boys Golf — Maxwell Page,  Catholic

Girls Lacrosse — Lauren Thompson ,  Gulf Breeze

Boys Lacrosse — Joseph Snider,  Gulf Breeze

Girls Soccer — Kendall Blackmon, Tate

Boys Soccer — Jackson Hamrick,  Catholic

Softball — Kariana Williams,  Escambia

Girls Swimming — Paige Connors, West Florida Tech

Boys Swimming — Jack Rowell,  Pace

Girls Tennis — Adele Dorion,  Pensacola

Boys Tennis — Kyle Kizilbash, Pensacola

Girls Track — De’Aundra Johnson,  Pine Forest

Boys Track — Abe Pasion, West Florida Tech

Volleyball — Willow Sinkus-Blackburn, Pace

Schools in both Escambia and Santa Rosa nominate their senior athletes for each sport. A selection committee made of educators, community leaders, and Pensacola Sports board members reviews the anonymous applications and select the best person’s credentials for each sport. Those are the individual sport winners. Then they select the overall male and female winners from the individual sport winners.

Northview Baseball, Jay Softball Regional Games Postponed Again To Thursday

May 12, 2021

Both the Northview Chiefs baseball and Jay Lady Royals softball regional games in Bonifay were rained out Tuesday night. They were tentatively rescheduled for Wednesday night, but the games have now been moved to Thursday at 7 p.m.

Here’s another look at background information we first published on Tuesday:

Tickets will be sold at the gate for $7 (per game). We are told that there will not be a capacity limit. [Google map ...]

BASEBALL

The Northview High School baseball team will be at Holmes County in the Region 1-1A finals at 7 p.m. The Holmes County Blue Devils are 19-8, and the Chiefs are 17-6. Northview is averaging nine points per game, while Holmes County is averaging 6.9 points.

The teams did not meet during the regular season.

SOFTBALL

The Jay High School softball team will be at Holmes County in the Region 1-1A finals at 7 p.m. The Holmes County Blue Devils are 16-9, the Lady Royals are 22-5. Jay is averaging nine points per game, whiles Holmes County is averaging about 6.5 points.

The teams met once during the regular season. On March 5, Jay beat Holmes County 7-2.

Pictured: The Northview Chiefs (NorthEsambia.com photos) and the Jay Lady Royals (courtesy photo).

Blue Wahoos Fall 6-1 As Baseball Returns To Pensacola

May 12, 2021

Once all the afternoon rain stopped, the skies parted into a postcard sunset. And people filled the seats.

The only missing element was a Blue Wahoos win, after the Birmingham Barons jumped to a big lead in the first three innings en route to a 6-1 victory in the Wahoos long-awaited, home opener Tuesday night.

While the game didn’t evolve to the fans’ desire, the festive atmosphere became the overriding element.

After a 20-month, 600-plus days absence, Pensacola’s team ushered baseball entertainment and new affiliation with the Miami Marlins back into people’s hearts. The result was a good time among the crowd of 3,669 at Blue Wahoos Stadium

Wahoos Life was back. That mattered.

“The atmosphere was great from start to finish,” said Blue Wahoos manager Kevin Randel, who previously managed against Pensacola while with the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp

“(Fans) were out there, they didn’t miss a beat. I’m sure they were excited to get back out to the stadium and watch some baseball. It was a fun atmosphere. I just wish we could have played a little better for ‘em and had something for (fans) to cheer about, but it was one of those games.”

On the field, the second pro start for Blue Wahoos acclaimed pitcher Max Meyer did not go as well as the first.

After a clean first inning, it got difficult for Meyer, the No. 3 overall player chosen by the Marlins in the 2020 draft. Meyer worked only four innings, giving up eight hits, including a two-run homer by clean-up hitter by cleanup hitter Micker Aldofo in the Barons’ 4-run, third inning.

“He didn’t have great stuff out there (Tuesday), Randel said. “He battled out there, he competed well. His weapon, his slider, was unable to get going. (Barons) did a great job game-planning against him. I think their approach was to just let (slider) go and they were sitting on fastball.

“We are going to get back with him. He’s got some work to do in between starts. We’re going work on some fastball command get that slider in for strikes.”

It was one of five extra-base hits the Barons (6-1) produced against Meyer. The other four were doubles.

In all, he yielded five runs, all earned, two walks, two strikeouts on 71 pitches. It was a contrast to his dominating performance a week ago in the season-opener at Mississippi , where he tossed a 1-hitter against the M-Braves and didn’t yield a run in winning his debut.

But the night still began in a special way.

Without being unable to have traditional first-pitches, the Blue Wahoos (4-3) started a new one: “First Fishes.”

Led by popular WKRG-TV sports personality Robby Baker, who is moving to a new TV job in his home state of Arizona, actual fish were tossed into a waiting net held by Blue Wahoos mascot, Kazoo.

Then, after some microphone issues on the National Anthem, the crowd came to the rescue and sang the words in unison to rescue the moment. The singer and the players both reacted in a good way.

On the field, the second pro start for Blue Wahoos acclaimed pitcher Max Meyer did not go as well as the first.

After a clean first inning, it got difficult for Meyer, the No. 3 overall player chosen by the Marlins in the 2020 draft. Meyer worked only four innings, giving up eight hits, including a two-run homer by clean-up hitter by cleanup hitter Micker Aldofo in the Barons’ 4-run, third inning.

“He didn’t have great stuff out there (Tuesday), Randel said. “He battled out there, he competed well. His weapon, his slider, was unable to get going. (Barons) did a great job game-planning against him. I think their approach was to just let (slider) go and they were sitting on fastball.

“We are going to get back with him. He’s got some work to do in between starts. We’re going work on some fastball command get that slider in for strikes.”

It was one of five extra-base hits the Barons (6-1) produced against Meyer. The other four were doubles.

In all, he yielded five runs, all earned, two walks, two strikeouts on 71 pitches. It was a contrast to his dominating performance a week ago in the season-opener at Mississippi , where he tossed a 1-hitter against the M-Braves and didn’t yield a run in winning his debut.

The Blue Wahoos had their best chance for a big inning in the third inning. They loaded the bases with none out on a trio of singles by Lazaro Alonso, Riley Mahan and Connor Justus.

Birmingham starter Blake Battenfield then got Victor Victor Mesa to hit into double-play that scored the Blue Wahoos lone run of the game. Battenfield then retired JJ Bleday with a ground out to end the inning.

Birmingham racked up 11 hits in the game, but only three off a trio of Blue Wahoos relievers. Blue Wahoos shortstop Demetrius went 2-for-4, leading the way among the team’s five hits.

With so much uncertainty on how in-game activities would evolve, the Blue Wahoos were able to generate some of their most popular contests, including the beloved “Roach Run” after the fifth inning in the outfield. They ran the Military Mascot Races on the concourse after the sixth inning.

The Blue Wahoos also became a pregame site for coronavirus vaccines. Nurses from the Department of Health administered the Johnson & Johnson dose to a group of people in the Cox Clubhouse area on the concourse. Vaccinations will also be available on Saturday and Sunday before the final two games of this full-week series.

The homestand will continue Wednesday at 6:35 p.m. against the Barons.

The Blue Wahoos will play Thursday and Friday games at 6:35 p.m. as well, then have their first Fireworks Saturday game at 6:05 p.m. before closing the 6-game series on Sunday at 4:05 p.m.

By Bill Vilona, Blue Wahoos Senior Writer

Photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

Get A Vaccine At One Of Three Upcoming Blue Wahoos Games

May 11, 2021

You can watch a Wahoos game and get a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time at two upcoming games.

The Pensacola Blue Wahoos, in partnership with the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County, will offer free COVID-19 vaccines to fans at their games on  Saturday, May 15, and Sunday, May 16. Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccines will be available to medically-eligible fans ages 18 and up and will be administered by Department of Health nurses.

“We’re so excited for the opportunity to work together with the Florida Department of Health to offer vaccines to our fans,” team president Jonathan Griffith said. “Helping get Pensacola vaccinated meets our mission as an organization to improve the quality of life in our community. I’m so excited about this chance that I’ve committed to get vaccinated myself on the dugout during the 7th inning stretch while singing Take Me Out To The Ballpark!”

No appointments will be necessary for fans attending the games. 500 vaccine doses will be available at the ballpark in first-come, first serve fashion.

“This collaboration with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos is not only a great opportunity to increase vaccinations in our community but also a model of the vital role that partnerships play in our public health system,” Marie Mott, health officer and administrator for FDOH-Escambia, said. “The COVID-19 vaccine is an important tool to stop the spread of COVID-19, and I encourage all eligible persons to get vaccinated.”

Jay’s Jillian Thornton Wins State 1A High Jump Title

May 10, 2021

Jay High School’s Jillian Thornton took first place in the state in high jump at the FHSAA 1A track and field meet in Jacksonville.

She came in at 5-foot, 1.75-inches to take state. The senior joins just two other Royals that were track and field state champions in the past three decades.

Teresa Dobson, a current Jay track coach, took first place in the 3200 meter run and set a new state and school record in 1991, and Crystal Creamer Kelly was state champion in shot put in 1998.

Thornton was coached by Caleb Copeland for Jay.

Also at the 1A meet last Friday, Jay’s Isaac Black placed eighth and Landry Cato placed 11th in pole vault.

Pictured top: Jay High School’s Jillian Thornton won the Florida 1A High Jump Championship Friday the University of North Florida Hodges Stadium in Jacksonville. Pictured below: Thornton with Jay coach Teresa Dobson, who won the 3200 meter state championship in 1991 and set a state record. Photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

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