The following is a release from the Rocket City Trash Pandas:
CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee –The Chattanooga Lookouts got six strong innings out of starting pitcher Connor Curlis, as well as a 3-for-4 performance from centerfielder T.J. Hopkins and two RBI by shortstop Jose Garcia in a 6-4 win over the Rocket City Trash Pandas in front of 2,522 fans Saturday night at AT&T Field.
The Trash Pandas started the scoring in the first inning. For the fourth time in five games, leadoff hitter David MacKinnon started the contest with a hit, this one a double to right-center. After a flyout moved him to third, MacKinnon scored on a sacrifice fly to left by right fielder Orlando Martinez to put Rocket City in front.
Chattanooga though would plate three runs in the third to take the lead for good. A walk and single started the frame before second baseman Alejo Lopez laid down a sacrifice bunt. Trash Pandas starting pitcher Jake Lee fielded the ball and attempted a throw to third for a fielder’s choice, however his throw went wide of the bag and down the left field line. Shortstop Leonardo Rivas scored from second on the play to knot the game at one while catcher Chuckie Robinson went to third.
With runners at second and third and no one out, designated hitter Jose Garcia lobbed a single to left to score Robinson and give the Lookouts the lead. Right fielder Narciso Crook followed with a bloop single to center to bring in Lopez and the Lookouts owned a 3-1 lead.
Chattanooga added to its lead with single runs in the next two innings. Leftfielder Lorenzo Cedrola reached on a one out fielder’s choice, then stole second. With two out, Robinson ripped an RBI double to right to bring in Cedrola. In the fifth, third baseman Robbie Tenerowicz lined a two out single, then scored when Hopkins laced a triple into the right-centerfield gap to make the score 5-1.
Rocket City made a game of it in the eighth with three runs, thanks to four hits to start the frame. MacKinnon and second baseman Michael Stefanic led off with singles before Martinez roped a double down the left field line to score MacKinnon and send Stefanic to third. Third baseman Mitch Nay followed with a ground ball single to left to bring Stefanic home while Martinez raced to third. Lookouts reliever Ryan Lillie was replaced by Julio Pinto who retired center fielder Ray-Patrick Didder on a sacrifice fly to right before getting back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning with Chattanooga holding a 5-4 lead.
The Lookouts added a big insurance run in the bottom-half. With two out and the bases empty, Lopez drew a walk, then came around on a double to left by Garcia, which was just beyond the reach of a diving Izzy Wilson.
In the ninth, the Trash Pandas got two runners on base with two away before reliever J.C. Keys got Martinez looking on strikes to end the game. The save was Keys’ first of the season.
Getting the win for Chattanooga was Curlis (1-0) who allowed only the hit to MacKinnon to start the game, along with three walks and two strikeouts. After a two-out walk to Nay in the first, Curlis retired 16 of the final 18 men he faced.
Taking the loss for Rocket City was starter Jake Lee (0-1) who allowed five runs (three earned) on nine hits over five frames.
Hopkins tripled and drove in the game-winner, while Garcia’s two RBI came by way a single and double. Lopez chipped in by going 2-3 with two singles and two runs scored.
Leading the way for the Trash Pandas was MacKinnon who finished 2-4 with a double and two runs. Martinez went 1-4 with a double, run scored and two more RBI to give him nine for the series. The final five hitters in the Rocket City order went a combined 0-15 with a sac fly and eight strikeouts.
The Trash Pandas (2-3) conclude their series with the Lookouts (3-2) on Sunday afternoon at AT&T Field with first pitch scheduled for 1:15 p.m. CT. The game can be heard on 103.9 FM THE UMP and SportsRadio 730 AM with Josh Caray on the call.