Shuckers launch title run Tuesday at MGM Park
By Garrett Greene, Biloxi Shuckers
With their season on the line, the Biloxi Shuckers (85-59, 3-2 Playoffs) put together a five-run rally in the bottom of the eighth inning to top the Pensacola Blue Wahoos (78-66, 2-3) 8-4 Sunday evening at MGM Park and win the 2019 South Division Title.
Biloxi secures its second consecutive South Division title and third trip to the Southern League BC Powder Championship Series in five seasons.
The Shuckers face the Jackson (Tenn.) Generals in a best-of-five series in the Southern League BC Powder Championship Series beginning Tuesday at 6:35 p.m. at MGM Park. Game 2 will be Wednesday at 6:35 p.m. at MGM Park.
Tickets to both games are available for purchase at the MGM Park Box Office, online at biloxishuckers.com or over the phone through Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-300. With the 2020 Southern League schedule announced, Shuck Nation Memberships for the 2020 season are available by calling 228-233-3465 or by visiting the Biloxi Shuckers front office.
The see-saw battle to advance to the championship was dramatic Sunday night at MGM Park.
Going to the eighth inning with the score even at 3-3, the Blue Wahoos took the lead on a solo home run by Ryan Jeffers, his second of the postseason, with one out in the inning, jumping to a 4-3 advantage. RHP Anthony Bender (W, 1-0) entered with a man on base for Biloxi and recorded the final two outs to end the Pensacola threat.
Luis Aviles Jr. started the bottom of the eighth inning with a single to right and Cooper Hummel worked a walk, bringing Dillon Thomas to the plate with runners on first and second and no outs. Thomas squared to bunt but was struck in the face by the pitch from LHP Steven Gonsalves (L, 0-1). Thomas was removed from the game and Clayton Andrews took his place at first after the hit by pitch. Weston Wilson knotted the game at 4-4 with a sacrifice fly before C.J. Hinojosa doubled down the left field line, driving in both runners to put the Shuckers up 6-4. After a throwing error allowed Jake Gatewood to reach base, Bruce Caldwell padded the Shuckers lead with an RBI single in front of Joantgel Segovia, who doubled to center to put Biloxi ahead 8-4.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, Bender struck out the first two batters, but Jimmy Kerrigan walked and Alex Kiriloff singled to left. Facing Twins' top prospect Royce Lewis, Bender struck out the shortstop to end the game and start the celebration for the Shuckers.
Pensacola and Biloxi went back and forth all night. The Blue Wahoos scored the first run in the top of the second on a triple by Mark Contreras and a throwing error by Aviles Jr. Hinojosa tied the game in the bottom of the frame with a solo home run to left, his second of the postseason, to tie the game at 1-1.
Max McDowell put the Shuckers in front for the first time in the bottom of the third with a solo home run to left, his first of the playoffs, giving Biloxi a 2-1 lead. Pensacola struck back with two runs in the top of the fourth inning to jump in front 3-2 and held their lead until the bottom of the sixth when Hinojosa drove in the tying run with a sacrifice fly. All told, Hinojosa went 2-for-3 with a double, a home run, four RBI's and two runs scored in the Shuckers victory.
In Game One Tuesday, the Shuckers will send RHP Alec Bettinger (0-0, 5.40) to the mound while Jackson has not yet identified a Game One starter.