By Brian Lester
One run games have haunted the Pensacola Blue Wahoos time and again.
Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Suns was the latest example.
Pensacola led by three at one point but watched their hopes for a win fade in the ninth inning of an 8-7 loss to the Suns in Southern League action at Pensacola Bayfront Stadium.
It was the ninth one-run loss for the Blue Wahoos since May 7 and the 17th overall in 2015.
Still, they had their chances.
After letting a 4-1 lead disappear, the Blue Wahoos (22-33) eventually tied the score at 5-5. They were down 8-5 heading into the bottom of the ninth.
And they nearly pulled off an impressive comeback.
“Our offense got us back in the game,” Pensacola manager Pat Kelly said. We went into the ninth with a little excitement.”
Ray Chang tallied a base hit with one out and Marquez Smith drew a walk. Juan Perez then came through with base hit that drove in a run and sliced the Suns’ lead to 8-6.
Lou Marson then reached on a fielding error, bringing home another run that trimmed Jacksonville’s lead to 8-7.
At that point, the sun-soaked crowd of 4,440 was cheering loudly, hoping its team would find a way to win in thrilling fashion. After Juan Silva drew a walk, Cam Maron popped up to end the game.
The story of the game had a different look earlier in the day.
Tied at 1-1, Marquez Smith delivered a highlight hit in the sixth, crushing a three-run home run high over the wall in left and into the bay, propelling the Blue Wahoos to a 4-1 advantage.
It was the first homer of the year for Smith, who belted 30 a year ago in a combined 134 games for High-A Bakersfield and Double-A Pensacola.
“It was nice to see him get off the snide,” Kelly said. “He’s a good hitter. He can drive in runs and swing the bat. Hopefully he can relax and do it more often.”
The blast by Smith put starter Keyvius Sampson in line for his second victory of the season. Sampson left the game after six innings. He gave up one run on four hits and struck out six, including the first two batters of the game as his day got off to a promising start.
But he would have to settle for his fourth consecutive no-decision. The Suns grabbed a 5-4 lead in the seventh before Smith’s ground out drove in a run to tie the score at 5-5.
Jacksonville took the lead for good at 6-5 in the ninth on a run-scoring double by Matt Juengel. The Suns (24-32) finished with 11 hits. Kyle McMyne took the loss, allowing three runs on three hits in the ninth.
When you turn it over to the bullpen with a three-run lead, you expect to win,” Kelly said. “You don’t expect to give up seven runs.”
Typically, seven runs is enough for a win. On this day, it wasn’t as the Blue Wahoos suffered their third consecutive loss. They tallied 10 hits, including three by Chang and two apiece by Marson and Perez.
“It’s a tough loss,” Kelly said. “But our guys kept fighting.”