Never-say-die attitude fuels success of Blue Wahoos

Kyle Parker refused to let the hitting slump he was in the grip in get the best of him and made something positive happen.

Parker hit a blooper in the eighth inning that landed between the second baseman and right fielder, driving in the go-ahead run for the Pensacola Blue Wahoos in a 3-2 series-capping victory over the Mississippi Braves on a muggy Wednesday night at Blue Wahoos Stadium.

Parker entered the moment hitless in his last 19 at-bats. He ended the rough stretch with a clutch double that put Pensacola in front 2-1.

“I’ve played this game a long time and crazy things happen sometimes,” Parker said. “You kind of just have to forget the past and hope for something good to happen.”

Parker is a former first-round pick of the Colorado Rockies – he was drafted 26th overall in 2010 – and is also a former star quarterback at Clemson, throwing for more than 2,500 yards and 20 touchdowns as a freshman in 2009.

He played in 46 games with the Rockies last year but was released in April. He then signed a minor league contract with the Reds.

He is hitting only .205 in 13 games but understands how to handle tough moments.

“You have to keep a positive attitude and be present for opportunities. It’s a big deal in this sport,” Parker said.

Parker exemplifies what the Blue Wahoos have been about during an impressive first half of the Southern League season.

Pensacola (24-16), one win shy of its win total in all of the first half last year and just a half game back of Biloxi in the South Division, has a never-say-die attitude.

The win over the M-Braves marked the fourth of the series decided by one run and the eighth time this year the Blue Wahoos have won a game by a run.

“They are very determined and play hard for nine innings,” manager Pat Kelly said. “These guys are going to find a way.”

Pensacola trailed 1-0 after the Braves (17-23) scored on a wild pitch in the sixth but got the run back in the eighth when Alex Blandino came home on a wild pitch.

Parker’s hit gave Pensacola the lead for good and Brandon Dixon’s hit to right-center pushed the advantage to 3-1.

The Braves sliced the advantage to 3-2 in the ninth, and with the bases loaded and two outs, 2015 No. 1 draft pick Dansby Swanson stepped into the batter’s box. Reliever Alejandro Chacin wasn’t nervous. The crowd of 3,473 held its collective breath.

“He didn’t have his best stuff tonight but he showed no fear,” Kelly said. “He might have been the only one in the ballpark who wasn’t afraid of that situation.”

Swanson flew out to right and the game ended as the Blue Wahoos won their fourth homestand of the year. They are 13-6 at home.

“It’s huge to hold serve at home because playing on the road is tough in this league,” Kelly said. “We’ve been very fortunate.”

Read more  in the May 26 edition of Navarre Press or subscribe online here.

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