Blue Wahoos seize opportunities in win over Lookouts

Sometimes it’s all about seizing opportunities and Phillip Ervin seized a big one Wednesday night.

Ervin, who reached base on an error in the fifth, stole second, advanced to third on a throwing error and then came across home plate on a wild pitch, stretching the Pensacola Blue Wahoos lead to two runs.

The Blue Wahoos never scored again but they didn’t need to, hanging on for a 3-0 win over the Chattanooga Lookouts in the opener of a five-game series at Blue Wahoos Stadium. Pensacola (3-3) improved to 26-11 at home this season.

“We’ve done a good job of taking advantage of mistakes,” Ervin said. “We also just seem to play well at home. We feel more comfortable going out there and making plays.”

The three runs were enough to help starting pitcher Tyler Mahle nail down his 10th win of the year, including his second at the Double-A level. Mahle, promoted right after the Southern League All-Star Break, pitched five scoreless innings, striking out eight while allowing four hits. He walked only two batters and showed his mental toughness in escaping a pair of bases-loaded jams.

“I know I have good stuff. I trust myself, my catcher and the defense,” Mahle said. “I’m pretty confident when I go on the mound.”

Pitching and defense have been the keys to the Blue Wahoos’ success all year. They have recorded five shutouts in 2016.

“Offensively, we find ways to scratch out runs but we depend on pitching and defense to win games,” second-year manager Pat Kelly said.

Zach Vincej drove in the first run as he crushed a ball to left field and Ervin extended the lead to 2-0 when he raced home on a wild pitch that rolled to the backstop. Taylor Sparks capped the scoring with his hard-hit trip to the corner in right field.

As for Mahle, well, the 2013 seventh-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Reds continues to impress.

“If you look at his numbers all the way through the minor leagues, he is extremely effective,” Kelly said. “He really commands his fastball and changes speeds on it. You usually don’t see a younger guy with that kind of feel.”

Pensacola is already assured of playing in the postseason after winning the first-half South Division crown but it wouldn’t mind winning the second-half title either.

The Blue Wahoos are 44-32 overall, including a 3-3 record in the second half, good enough to sit in a tie for first with the Mississippi Braves.

“It’s a different feel knowing you already have a playoff berth, but we want to try and win this half, too,” Ervin said. “We’re not taking our foot off the gas pedal but we’re also relaxed and having fun.”

Read more about the Blue Wahoos  in the June 30 edition of Navarre Press or subscribe online here.

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