Nick Ramirez came through for the Biloxi Shuckers for a second-consecutive night, this time driving in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning on Tuesday night to give his team a 4-3 lead over the Pensacola Blue Wahoos at MGM Park.
The Shuckers, playing their 10th of 12 games this season at home, jump over the Blue Wahoos in the standings to take over first place in the Southern League South and claim the top record in the entire league by half game.
Brett Phillips reached with one out in the seventh inning and moved to second on pinch-hitter Garret Cooper's groundout. Ramirez then punched a single to center, scoring Phillips for the 4-3 edge.
Biloxi (9-3) starter Javi Salas had a perfect game going through the first three innings, giving his team a chance to jump out in front for a second-consecutive night.
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Chris McFarland started the third with an infield single and moved over to third two batters later, when Nathan Orf executed a perfect hit-and-run with a grounder through the right side. Phillips drove in the runner from third with a line-drive single to left.
Pensacola (9-4) responded with a run of its own in the top of the fourth. Alex Blandino doubled with a drive off the top of the wall in left to break up Salas' perfect-game bid. A walk to Eric Jagielo put two on for Phillip Ervin, who bounced into a fielder's choice, but an errant throw by Javier Betancourt on the return throw to first got away from Salas, allowing Blandino to score.
The Shuckers pieced together three-consecutive one-out singles in the bottom of the fourth to retake the lead. A strikeout by Ramirez started the frame before Victor Roache, Betancourt and McFarland plated the second run on the game for Biloxi.
The one-run advantage would not last long, as the Blue Wahoos would tally two runs in the fifth to take their first lead of the game.
Tony Renda walked to start things out and Sebastian Elizalde singled the runner over. Chad Wallach's infield fly preceded Sal Romano's sacrifice attempt that resulted in all hands being safe as Ramirez tried to nab the lead runner at third, but came up empty. Beau Amaral drove in Renda with a single to left and Elizalde would come home on Blandino's fielder's choice.
Ramirez kick started a game-tying rally in the sixth with a leadoff double to right-center and advanced 90 ft. on Roache's broken-bat single to left. Betancourt lifted a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Ramirez to knot the game at three apiece.
Jed Bradley (1-0) earned his first win of the season by working 1.1 innings and allowing just one hit over that span. Hobbs Johnson needed eight pitches to get through a perfect eighth, setting up Jaye Chapman's save chance. The 28-year-old tossed a clean ninth and has set down all 18 batters he's faced over six innings to start the 2016 campaign.
Betancourt extended his on-base streak to nine with a single in the fourth.
Biloxi goes for its third-consecutive series victory to start the season on Wednesday morning against Pensacola. RHP Drew Gagnon (1-0, 0.00) makes his first start of the season for the Shuckers after being used out of the bullpen for his first three games. The Blue Wahoos will send out RHP Jackson Stephens (1-0, 2.53). First pitch is scheduled for 10:40 a.m., with coverage starting at 10:20 a.m. on the Biloxi Shuckers' Radio Network's flagship station, WGCM 1240-AM,, and the TuneIn Radio app. The contest can also be seen on milb.tv.
The series continues through Thursday night at MGM Park. Thursday will be Donate Life Night with the first 1,000 fans receiving a Biloxi Shuckers cap, courtesy of the Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency. It's also the first Double Play Thursday, featuring $2 hot dogs and regular soft drinks and $2 off select draft beer and reserved tickets.