BILOXI - Beau Amaral set the tone for Pensacola, leading off the game with a homer to right as the Blue Wahoos defeated the Biloxi Shuckers 5-0 Sunday afternoon at MGM Park.
Pensacola (9-2) maintained its lead in the South Division of the Southern League as Biloxi fell to 7-3. Biloxi's Josh Hader will go to the mound Monday night at 6:40 in Game 2 of the five-game series. He will be opposed by Pensacola's Amir Garrett.
It was an afternoon in which former Green Bay Packers and Southern Miss star Brett Favre made an appearance and tossed out a ceremonial pitch to start the second inning. Favre will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame later this summer.
"It's nice to get your leadoff guy to hit the home run,'' Blue Wahoos manager Pat Kelly said. "We got what I would call the ultimate shutout when you can score in the first inning and shut them out the rest of the game. The pitching staff was outstanding and we were able to get a few insurance runs in the ninth which helped out a lot.''
Daniel Wright (2-0) worked the first five innings for the win, limiting the Shuckers to one hit by Nick Shaw in the fifth. Nick Routt, El'Hajj Muhammad and Alejandro Chacin combined to shut out the Shuckers on one hit over the last four innings.
Jorge Ortega (0-1) was the hard-luck losing pitcher. He yielded six hits in 5 2/3 innings, including the leadoff homer, and left the mound trailing 1-0.
Hobbs Johnson, the fourth Biloxi pitcher, gave up four runs - three unearned - in the ninth as Pensacola batted around. There were three singles in the inning, and two errors, and only one of the singles got out to an outfielder.
In addition to Shaw's single in the fifth, Brett Phillips rapped a two-out single in the sixth for the Shuckers. Phillip Ervin went 4-for-4 for Pensacola, and Amaraj went 2-for-4.
"He (Wright) was effective both sides of the plate,'' Kelly said. "He had a good changeup, and had good use of his curveball and slider. He's is a four-pitch guy. He did a great job for us last year.''
This series is a rematch of the Southern League South Divisional Series of 2015, won by the Shuckers 3-0. Pensacola entered this week's series in first place with the Shuckers in second place, and it looks like they will be battling each other again for a title.
"I don't think it's changed,'' Kelly said. "There are a lot of the same players back and two good ball clubs. We should be battling all year.''