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Blue Wahoos' Comeback Rally Spoiled by Smokies' Ninth-Inning Blast

May 22, 2024 - Southern League (SL)
Pensacola Blue Wahoos News Release

Pensacola Blue Wahoos in action
Pensacola Blue Wahoos in action
(Pensacola Blue Wahoos)

Pensacola, Fla. - The Blue Wahoos were an out away from their best comeback win so far this season.

And then a gut-punch happened.

Reliable closer Austin Roberts, the league saves leader, was unable to protect a two-run lead just delivered for the ninth inning, leading to the Tennessee Smokies celebrating a 6-5 victory Wednesday at Blue Wahoos Stadium.

A crowd of 4,144 saw plenty of fireworks before the actual show - the first Wednesday school's out display of the season. But in this case, the Smokies produced the grand finale.

After the Blue Wahoos, who were held to one hit the first seven innings, exploded with a 5-run rally in the eighth inning, a probable win turned the other way in the Smokies' final at bat.

After yielding a one-out walk, then two-out single that put runners on the corners, Roberts left a fastball too much over the plate and Tennessee first baseman Haydn McGeary crushed it deep into the night sky for a no-doubt, three-run bomb over left field. McGeary is one of 12 players on this team ranked among the Chicago Cubs' top 30 prospects.

He jumped on Roberts' first pitch for the game-deciding moment. It was Roberts' first blown save after producing eight saves this season.

The stadium went from anticipated winning cheer to silence. The Blue Wahoos were retired in order in the bottom of the inning and sustained their sixth loss in the past eight games.

But the crowd then saw the Jay High School baseball team, honored for winning the school's first state championship in 54 years, come on the field a second time Wednesday to help the countdown and ignite the fireworks display. The fireworks show was sponsored by the 5eleven Palafox event venue.

The Royals' players spent hours before the game watching both teams take batting and fielding practice and were recognized at home plate in pregame ceremonies.

When the game began, Smokies starter Kyle McGowin, a former Major League reliever with the Washington Nationals, was in command. He retired the first 12 Blue Wahoos batters in order, before Zach Zubia drew a one-out walk. McGowin struck out Harrison Spohn with the bases loaded to end the threat.

Meanwhile, Blue Wahoos starter Luis Palacios had a strong outing, save for one mistake curveball. Shortstop Josh Rivers blasted that pitch for a 3-run homer in the fifth inning.

After McGowin exited following the seventh inning, the Blue Wahoos lit up reliever Michael Arias. Four of the first five batters he faced reached base. Jacob Marsee had a one-out RBI single. Joe Mack followed with the Blue Wahoos' biggest hit, a two-run double to tie the game. Jacob Berry then hit a go-ahead single to further electrify the crowd.

Cody Morissette, who had the Blue Wahoos first two hits, was then hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to force in a fifth run.

But it didn't stand. The Smokies now have a 2-0 lead in the series that shifts to Mullet Thursday with the Blue Wahoos taking on their alternate identity as the Pensacola Mullets for a game that begins at 6:05 p.m.


--- Senior Ethan McDonald, a three-sport athlete (football, basketball and baseball) for Jay HS, threw out a ceremonial first pitch, after his baseball teammates lined the field, along with five coaching staff members. McDonald was a leader in Jay's championship run that included semifinal wins against higher ranked Class 1A teams.

The players all were able to be on the field during both teams' batting practices to study how high-level professionals prepare for a game.

"It's meant the world to them," said second-year head coach Duane Raley. "It's been awesome. It's opened their eyes, because their starting to understand that 'hey you (Raley) said that. You said if we do this it would work.' It was kind of neat because they saw we do the same thing in practice (as two pro teams).'

--- The Bayside Academy baseball team in Daphne also attended the game with a fundraiser event after playing at the stadium earlier this spring.

--- State senator Doug Broxson also was part of the group of ceremonial first pitch throwers and he visited with Jay's team.


WHO: Tennessee Smokies vs. Blue Wahoos

WHEN: Thursday, 6:05 p.m.

WHERE: Blue Wahoos Stadium

PROMOTION: Mullet Thursday. The Blue Wahoos will wear their Pensacola Mullet uniforms and there will also be alcoholic drink specials throughout the game. It's also Halfway to Halloween presented by Festival of Fears, and fans are encouraged to attend in a costume.

AUDIO BROADCAST: Available on with Blue Wahoos broadcasters Erik Bremer and Carter Bainbridge. The broadcast is also available on the MiLB app.

LIVE TV: The game will be available on a video stream through Bally Live and MLB.TV (subscription required).

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Pensacola Blue Wahoos in action
Pensacola Blue Wahoos in action


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Southern League Stories from May 22, 2024

The opinions expressed in this release are those of the organization issuing it, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.

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