Perhaps the game turns out differently if Phillip Ervin doesn’t dive for the baseball in the eighth inning of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos’ game against the Mississippi Braves Tuesday night.
Ervin stretched out across the grass to make the phenomenal grab in centerfield, denying the Braves a second run and ultimately helping the Blue Wahoos secure a 3-1 victory at Blue Wahoos Stadium.
Ervin was one of several players making big plays for Pensacola, which features, arguably, the best defense in the Southern League.
Tony Renda made a couple of key catches in left, including one in the ninth where he ran hard into the wall, and shortstop Alex Blandino leaped up to deny a hit in the ninth as well.
“It’s terrific,” said manager Pat Kelly of the Blue Wahoos’ defensive effort. “We squandered some opportunities early and should have had more runs, and that puts pressure on the defense. Ervin’s catch was fantastic. I didn’t think he had a shot at it.”
The catch by Ervin didn’t surprise starting pitcher Nick Travieso, who was sensational in seven innings of work. He allowed one hit and no runs while striking out six as he picked up his third win of the year. Ervin also drove in a run with a base hit in the first inning.
“Phil is one of the best in our organization. He goes over the top and gives 100 percent every time,” Travieso said.
Pensacola has used a successful combination of pitching and defense to minimize opportunities for opponents throughout the season. The Blue Wahoos (23-16) have given up two runs or less just 15 times and have made only 27 errors.
The play of the defense takes a ton of pressure off the shoulders of the pitching staff.
Travieso will be the first to tell you as much and wasted no time attacking the Braves lineup with an aggressive pitching performance.
“When you have the best defense in the league, it really helps,” Travieso said. “I’ve struggled lately but tonight I went out there and attacked the hitters. It really worked out for me.”
The Blue Wahoos wrap up their five-game series with the Braves (17-22) tonight and have an opportunity to clinch the series. They enter it a half game behind first-place Biloxi in the South Division.
“We have to be able to rely on timely hitting and great defense,” Kelly said. “We know if we win every series we will be 14 games over and have a chance to win the division. We just have to go out and do our jobs.”
Read more about the Blue Wahoos in the May 19 edition of Navarre Press or subscribe online here.