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Trash Pandas Walk Off With Wild 5-4 Win

Whitefield scores on wild pitch to punctuate victory over Smokies
Aaron Whitefield scored the winning run on Friday night. (Javier Sanchez/Rocket City Trash Pandas)
June 9, 2023

Down to their final three outs, the Rocket City Trash Pandas rallied to tie the game in the ninth and walked off in the tenth for a 5-4 win over the Tennessee Smokies, sending a season-high crowd of 6,393 into a frenzy on Friday night at Toyota Field. In the

Down to their final three outs, the Rocket City Trash Pandas rallied to tie the game in the ninth and walked off in the tenth for a 5-4 win over the Tennessee Smokies, sending a season-high crowd of 6,393 into a frenzy on Friday night at Toyota Field.

In the ninth, Livan Soto and Jeremiah Jackson reached with one-out singles against Tennessee closer Blake Whitney. Orlando Martinez followed with a line drive into the right field corner for an RBI double, tying the game at four and putting the winning run at third with one out. An intentional walk to Tucker Flint loaded the bases. Aaron Whitefield looked to win the game with a fly ball to right. But Tennessee right fielder Cole Roederer got the catch and made a strong throw home, nailing Jackson out at the plate as the potential winning run to send the game to extra innings.

In the tenth, Trash Pandas reliever Dakota Donovan (W, 1-0) was brilliant, retiring all three hitters he faced to strand automatic runner Nelson Maldonado on the bases. In the bottom of the inning, Whitefield started at second and advanced to third on a bunt single from Bryce Teodosio. With David Calabrese at the plate, Smokies reliever Danis Correa’s offering was off the mark and went to the backstop for a wild pitch, allowing Whitefield to slide home with the winning run.

The victory is the Trash Pandas’ second consecutive last at-bat win and evens their six-game series with the Smokies at two games apiece.

The game began in a simpler fashion than it ended. Rocket City starter Victor Mederos began the game in an inauspicious manner, hitting Pete Crow-Armstrong with the first pitch. Shortly after, catcher Edgar Quero made a perfect throw to catch Crow-Armstrong trying to steal second base, helping starter Victor Mederos through the first inning unscathed. That would be the start of a pitcher’s duel between Mederos and Tennessee starter Walker Powell. The pair traded zeroes for the first three innings at a rapid pace.

In the fourth, the Smokies scratched across the first run of the night. Owen Caissie began the inning with a walk and a single from Haydn McGeary put runners on the corners. With two outs, a wild pitch from Mederos allowed Caissie to come home and put the visitors in front.

Rocket City got the run right back in the bottom of the inning off Powell. Calabrese got the inning started with a triple off the center field wall. Quero followed with a sacrifice fly to left, scoring Calabrese to even the score at one.

Mederos kept the tie by cruising through a one, two, three fifth. But a pair of walks ended his outing with one out and runners on first and second in the sixth. Luke Murphy entered and retired the next two hitters he faced to end the inning. Over 5.1 innings, Mederos allowed one run on one hit with five walks and seven strikeouts in a no-decision in his first start after turning 22 on Thursday.

In the bottom of the inning, Teodosio got the Trash Pandas started with a single. Calabrese followed with two-run homer 375 feet over the right field fence, his seventh home run of the season, to put the Trash Pandas in front for the first time 3-1.

Tennessee loaded the bases in the seventh with two singles and a walk. Trash Pandas reliever Ivan Armstrong escaped the jam by striking out Cole Roederer and inducing a fly out from Owen Caissie to maintain the 3-1 Trash Pandas lead.

In the eighth, Tennessee again put runners on base. McGeary reached with a double and Andy Weber reached with a two-out walk to keep the inning going. With the go-ahead run coming to the plate, the Trash Pandas turned to closer Kenyon Yovan. He was unable to get the job done. On the first pitch thrown by the new reliever, Tennessee second baseman Scott McKeon teed off for a three-run home run to left center, propelling the Smokies in front 4-3. Yovan kept the one-run deficit with a scoreless ninth, and the Trash Pandas got him off the hook in the bottom half and earned their first extra-inning win.

Donovan would earn his first Double-A win for his great relief work in the tenth. Offensively, five Trash Pandas recorded multi-hit games, with Calabrese’s triple and home run leading the way in a 2-for-3 performance.

The Trash Pandas (26-29) continue their series with the Smokies (30-25) on Saturday night. First pitch at Toyota Field is set for 6:35 p.m. Josh Caray will be on the call for 103.9 FM THE UMP and 730 AM SportsRadio. The game will also be broadcast locally on WAAY 31.6, This TV.

Following the game, a dazzling fireworks show will light up the Rocket City sky, presented by Booz Allen Hamilton. Saturday night’s game is Negro League Tribute Night with a special pre-game kickback. Former Birmingham Black Barons pitcher Horace Moore will throw the ceremonial first pitch. Also throwing a first pitch will be former Auburn and NFL cornerback Jerraud Powers, a native of Decatur. As part of the pre-game kickback, the Trash Pandas will have live music, food trucks, networking opportunities, and a whiskey tasting from Uncle Nearest.