Angel Ortega stepped up with the bases loaded and nobody out in the ninth, and the shortstop delivered with a walk-off single as the Biloxi Shuckers came away with a 3-2 victory over the Mississippi Braves on Thursday night at MGM Park.
It was the Shuckers’ fourth straight win, which tied a season high and pulled the Milwaukee Brewers’ Double-A affiliate within 6.5 games of first place in the Southern League South with 11 games left. The Shuckers also climbed within 1.5 games of a potential wild card spot should the Pensacola Blue Wahoos win the second half.
The rally started with Rene Garcia reaching on an error by Levi Hyams at third and racing to second on the play. Brett Phillips was intentionally walked, bringing up Johnny Davis with runners at first and second.
The speedster chopped a grounder to the right side, but an errant catch by Johan Camargo at third allowed all hands to be safe and loaded the bases for Ortega, who sent a long single just shy of the warning track to score Garcia for the winning run.
The game was scoreless until the bottom of the sixth. The Shuckers (27-32, 66-62) got the first two runs to pull ahead of the M-Braves, the Southern League South’s first-place team with a 67-60 overall record.
Davis legged out an infield single with one out on a bunt attempt and Ortega flew out to center, allowing Davis to advance to third.
Tyrone Taylor blooped a single just beyond the outstretched glove of second baseman Ozzie Albies, scoring Davis for a 1-0 lead.
With Clint Coulter batting, Taylor stole second before Coulter singled to left to score Taylor for a 2-0 lead.
Jorge Lopez extended the series trend of dominant Shuckers pitching. Lopez took a shutout into the eighth inning, when he was lifted with runners at second and third and one out.
Stephen Gaylor singled to left in front of Albies’ ground-rule double over the wall in right-center before Josh Uhen (1-0) relieved Lopez.
Connor Lien lifted a sacrifice fly to make it 2-1 and Albies moved up to third on the play. Levi Hyams followed with a single to left, scoring Albies to tie the game at 2.
Uhen retired Dustin Peterson on a fly out to center to end the inning.
Lopez finished the night with two runs allowed in 7.1 innings on five hits, a walk and five strikeouts.
The runs allowed by Lopez in the eighth stopped a string of 27.1 innings of scoreless pitching by Biloxi starters.
The runs also snapped a 25-inning scoreless string by the M-Braves.