Blue Wahoos leap into first place

Jackson Stephens was in a zone Wednesday night for the Pensacola Blue Wahoos.

He threw seven scoreless innings, allowing only one run on five hits while striking out a season-best nine. His impressive effort helped propel Pensacola to a 5-1 win over the Birmingham Barons at Blue Wahoos Stadium, and in the process, extended his own scoreless inning streak to 12.

Stephens was part of a no-hitter last week in Jacksonville, throwing five innings in a 6-0 win, and said his latest game might have been even better than the last one.

“You can’t throw no-hitters all of the time, but at the same time, I really only gave up two hard-hit balls,” Stephens said. “I was getting early outs way better than the last time, getting earlier strikes and swings on pitches.”

Stephens threw only 97 pitches in the seven innings he worked, with 67 going for strikes, and pushed his record to 4-3. He threw 85 pitches in the five innings he pitched against Jacksonville.

“His approach with two outs was much better tonight. He kept the pitch count down,” Blue Wahoos manager Pat Kelly said. “He was very effective, very aggressive going after hitters.”

Tony Renda scored on a wild pitch in the first inning that put Pensacola in front 1-0 and Zach Vincej’s hit to center extended the advantage to 2-0.

Eric Jagielo, who is batting only .180 on the year, broke through with two hits, including one in the sixth that stretched Pensacola’s lead to 3-0. Brandon Dixon drove in the final two runs with a double in the eighth. The Blue Wahoos finished with nine hits, with seven coming off starter Tyler Danish, who gave up three runs and wasn’t nearly effective as in his last start against Pensacola when he threw a complete-game shutout.

The Blue Wahoos (27-19) have won two in a row and are a half game up on Biloxi in the South Division of the Southern League. They have won two in a row and have already won two more games than they did in the entire first half last season.

“We have good players on this team and the trust and confidence we have throughout the team helps tremendously,” Stephens said. “You have to play with confidence. Guys are doing that. Everyone knowing their role is a big key, too.”

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

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