KODAK, Tenn. – The Rocket City Trash Pandas took the lead on the game’s second pitch and never looked back Tuesday in a 9-5 win over Tennessee in Game 1 of the best-of-three Southern League North Division Series.
With the win, the Trash Pandas will have an opportunity to close out the best-of-three series Thursday night at Toyota Field, with Chase Silseth scheduled for the start.
The Trash Pandas got off to a quick start Tuesday. Zach Neto doubled on the first pitch of the game down the leftfield line. Then, Preston Palmeiro teed off on Riley Thompson’s next pitch with a towering two-run homer to right, giving the Trash Pandas a 2-0 lead
Rocket City starter Ky Bush gave up a leadoff walk in the bottom of the first before retiring the next three batters.
In the second, Jordyn Adams made the score 3-0 when lifted a high fly ball down the right field line that carried just over the fence.
Bush recorded his first 1-2-3 inning in the third before getting into trouble in the fourth. Bryce Ball led off with a single and Chase Strumpf doubled off the wall to put runners at second and third with one out. However, Bush worked through the jam, this time by striking out the next two hitters on six pitches to keep Tennessee off the board.
Rocket City extended the lead in the fifth. Adams led off the inning with a double and Bryce Teodosio followed with a broken-bat infield single. Neto then laced a line drive into the gap in left-center to score Adams.
On the play, Teodosio, initially caught between third and home on the throw back to the infield, dashed for the plate and scored with a head first slide and a 5-0 Rocket City lead. Logan O’Hoppe’s one-hopper over the fence scored Neto from second. O’Hoppe would come around himself on a wild pitch, capping the inning’s scoring at 7-0.
Bush ended his night with a pair of strikeouts in the fifth.
In the sixth, Ben Joyce, a Knoxville native, entered for Rocket City and issued back-to-back walks with one out. Cole Roederer got the Smokies back in the game with a three-run homer to right. But Joyce induced an inning-ending double play from Harrison Wenson.
Tennessee got another run back in the seventh against Kolton Ingram on Jake Slaughter’s RBI ground out. However, with two outs, Ingram got Strumpf to ground out, ending the inning with the Trash Pandas up 7-4.
Luke Murphy came on in the eighth for the Trash Pandas and got two quick outs. Wenson then singled but Murphy struck out Zach Davis to end the scoreless inning.
The Trash Pandas got some key insurance in the ninth, as Jeremiah Jackson connected on a two-out, two-run triple to score Ryan Aguilar and pinch-runner Aaron Whitefield for a 9-4 lead.
In the bottom of the ninth, closer Eric Torres allowed a leadoff home run to Perlaza, then walked Slaughter before getting the first two outs. Strumpf singled but Torres got Roederer to ground out, giving the Trash Panada the series edge.
The Trash Pandas return home for Game 2 of the North Division Series against the Smokies on Thursday night. First pitch at Toyota Field is set for 6:35 p.m. Josh Caray will be on the call for 103.9 FM The Ump and 730 AM SportsRadio. The game will also be televised locally on WAAY 31.6, This TV.
All fans in attendance on Thursday will receive a limited edition “Let’s Ride” playoff rally towel, presented by Parsons.