A quick turnaround for the home squad and aggressive Pensacola pitching meant the only fireworks Biloxi Shuckers fans saw Tuesday night came after the Blue Wahoos secured a 4-0 victory.
The festive crowd of 6,098 was the second-largest in MGM Park history.
Wahoos pitchers Deck McGuire and Carlos Gonzalez kept Biloxi’s bats silent most of the night, giving up only two hits — a Johnny Davis bunt single in the fourth and a Michael Choice double in the seventh.
“McGuire was very aggressive all night,” Wahoos manager Pat Kelly said. “We did a really good job of keeping them off base.”
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Hard to hit
McGuire allowed just two hits and struck out seven with one walk in his seven innings of work. Gonzalez finished with two hitless innings, but walked a batter in the eighth and hit a batter in the ninth.
The Shuckers (42-39, 6-6 in the second half of the season) only threatened in the seventh inning. With one out, Michael Reed walked and Choice slapped a double off the left-center ally fence putting runners on second and third. However, McGuire got out of the inning without any damage, getting Dustin DeMuth to fly out to short center and Gabriel Noriega to ground out to third.
“Up 4-0, you are just trying to trade a run for an out,” McGuire said. “DeMuth is a really good hitter and we were just trying to stay away from him. It worked out in the end.”
“It’s difficult to score when you just get two hits,” said Shuckers manager Mike Guerrero.
However, while saying it was not an excuse, he also pointed out the Shuckers had a quick turnaround after closing out a six-game road trip at Birmingham with a 12-inning win Monday night. The Shuckers did not get back to Biloxi until 4:30 Tuesday morning. Several playees also tweeted the bus’ air conditioning went out, compounding the turnaround.
“Everything comes into play,” he said. “(Getting in late) will hurt your play the next day. But that’s part of baseball. You do good. You do badly. You do great. Doesn’t matter. The next day you have a new ballgame and you have to show up.”
While Wahoo pitchers were throwing zeros to Biloxi hitters, Pensacola batters came through in the clutch.
Wahoo for offense
Tyler Goeddel led off the top of the fourth with a single. Two outs later, Gavin LaValley laced a double. Goeddel rounded third as the ball was making its way to Biloxi catcher Dustin Houle. Houle went to apply the tag as Goeddel slide to the right. Umpire Lew Williams ruled Houle missed the tag and Goeddel was safe, giving the Wahoos an early 1-0 lead.
Biloxi pitcher Aaron Wilkerson and McGuire then settled into a pitching duel, with Wilkerson matching McGuire zero for zero on the scoreboard. However, in the seventh, Pensacola (46-36, 6-6 in the second half) broke the game open with a pair of two-out hits.
Nick Senzel opened the seventh with a single and LaValley followed with a walk. However, Wilkerson appeared to get out of trouble, getting the next two batters. Shed Long came into the game hitting just 2-for-26 and extended his slump to 2-for-28 in his first two at bats. However, Long sent a pitch over Biloxi centerfielder Davis’ head, scoring Senzel and LaValley.
“I’ve been hitting line drives right at people,” Long said. “I had been struggling at the plate since I came up.”
Long, though, said as soon as he hit the ball, he knew he had it past Davis.
“I never doubted myself,” he said. “I knew I could hit. I knew (the big hit) was going to come. And this was a moment we really needed it. A two-out hit really hurts the other team.”
The Shuckers then walked Hudson to bring McGuire to the plate. McGuire then helped himself with a single to plate the last run for the Wahoos.
LaValley had a double, walk, and two RBIs to pace the Wahoos. Long added two RBIs.
Wilkerson (6-4) took the loss for Biloxi, going seven innings, giving up five hits and striking out five.
“We did a pretty good job pitching,” Guerrero said. “However, we failed to execute in places. Anytime you give up runs with two outs, you are going to lose ballgames. When you give up runs with two outs, the pitcher made mistakes in crunch situations.”