For a third consecutive game, the big inning haunted the Biloxi Shuckers, as the Pensacola Blue Wahoos struck for four runs in the first and three more in the sixth to top Biloxi, 8-1, on Thursday night. The loss shrinks the Shuckers' lead over the Blue Wahoos to just 1.5 games, and moves Biloxi to 3-8 in games decided by three runs or more. The Shuckers will look to avoid dropping their first series of 2016 in the middle game of the five-game set on Friday night at Blue Wahoos Stadium.
For a second consecutive game, the Shuckers jumped on the scoreboard first against the Blue Wahoos.
Brett Phillips singled with one out and moved to third on Jacob Nottingham's single to center. Garrett Cooper was hit by a pitch in the left hand to load the bases, and was replaced by Nick Ramirez.
A passed ball to Victor Roache allowed Phillips to score from third and give Biloxi the 1-0 lead.
Nottingham has put together consecutive multi-hit games after not having more than one hit in a game through the first 24 contests, and has extended his hitting streak to seven games. The hitting streak matches that of Javier Betancourt earlier this season.
Ramirez's hitless performance snapped his six-game hitting streak.
The advantage would not last long, as Pensacola used another big inning to pull ahead of Biloxi.
Jorge Ortega (0-2) induced a groundout off the bat of Beau Amaral to start the first, but three straight Blue Wahoos reached base on back-to-back singles by Alex Blandino and Sebastian Elizalde, and Phillip Ervin's hit-by-pitch. Donald Lutz struck out swinging for the second out of the frame, but Eric Jagielo lifted a grand slam over the fence in right center to put the Biloxi down three.
The Shuckers' starter allowed five runs over five innings of work on seven hits - two home runs - and four strikeouts. The 22-year-old has not issued a walk in 27.2 innings to start the season.
Pensacola (16-11) added insurance in the fifth with Blandino's first home run of the season, a solo shot into the bay beyond the left field wall, and tallied on three more in the sixth, capped by Blandino's two-run double to left.
Blue Wahoo's starter Jackson Stephens (2-2) retired the final 10 men he faced on the evening, and 17 of the final 18 batters he faced. The right-hander lasted six innings and allowed an unearned run on three hits and five strikeouts.
Tyler Spurlin made his Double-A debut for Biloxi in the seventh, and worked a perfect frame along with picking up his first strikeout in a Shuckers' uniform when Lutz went down swinging for the second out of the inning.
Kyle Wren snapped a streak of 14 consecutive Shuckers set down by Blue Wahoos pitching when the pinch hitter drew a walk against reliever Matt Magill with one out in the eighth. The runner would be left stranded as Tyrone Taylor (0x4) and Phillips were retired on a fly out and a strikeout.
Nottingham led off the ninth by reaching on an error by Blandino, but reliever Wily Peralta struck out the next three batters to finish off the game.
Biloxi looks to get on the board in the series and avoid dropping its first set of the season on Friday night at Blue Wahoos Stadium. LHP Josh Hader (0-0, 0.78) seeks his first win of the season for the Shuckers, while RHP Rookie Davis (2-1, 0.78) will attempt to win the series for Pensacola. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., with coverage starting at 6:10 p.m. on the Biloxi Shuckers' Radio Network's flagship station WGCM 1240 AM, 100.9 FM, Pascagoula's WPMO 1580 AM and the TuneIn Radio app. The contest can also be seen on milb.tv.
Biloxi return to MGM Park for a five-game homestand against the Miami Marlins affiliate Jacksonville Suns, Monday.