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Trash Pandas win wild one in Tennessee 11-9

Aguilar draws five walks, Soto drives in four in road win   

By Aaron Cheris

KODAK, Tennessee – The Rocket City Trash Pandas survived a back-and-fourth affair for an 11-9 win over the Tennessee Smokies in the fifth game of their six-game series from Smokies Stadium on Saturday night.

The win gives the Trash Pandas a three games to two lead in the series with the finale set for Sunday night.

Rocket City put together a patient rally to open the scoring in the top of the third. Walks to Ryan Aguilar and Anthony Mulrine and a walk to Kevin Maitan loaded the bases. Livan Soto followed with a line drive up the middle for a two-run single, giving Rocket City the lead. Two hitters later, Preston Palmeiro doubled down the right field line to double the advantage to 4-0.

Tennessee answered with a run off Coleman Crow in the bottom of the inning on Bryce Windham’s RBI single.

The Trash Pandas added to the lead in the top of the fourth on an RBI double from Maitan, and a two-run single from Preston Palmeiro to make it 7-1. The Smokies again cut into the lead on an RBI double from Bryce Ball, who later scored on a Luis Vazquez single to make it a 7-3 game.

Rocket City then got the pair of runs right back as Torii Hunter Jr. reached on a one-out single in the fifth and Jordyn Adams followed with an opposite-field two-run homer to right, his first Double-A home run to restore the six-run lead at 9-3.

In the bottom of the sixth, Crow worked into trouble that would end his night. With two outs and nobody on, two hits and a walk plated a run to make it 9-4. Zach Lingenfelter entered and struggled, allowing four men to reach as Tennessee made it 9-7 before being pulled in favor of Nick Jones, who got the final out of the inning to preserve the lead.

Crow (W, 6-2) would wind up with the win after allowing six runs on eight hits with three walks and three strikeouts over 5.2 innings.

Soto continued his hot streak with a two-run double in the top of the eighth to get the Trash Pandas into double digits at 11-7.

Jones worked into trouble in the bottom of the eighth as a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch plated a run. But he got out of it by inducing a ground out to third to end the inning and strand the runners. An inning later, Tennessee got one more off Luke Murphy, but a double play ground out from Yonathan Perlaza ended the inning with Rocket City up 11-9.

In the bottom of the ninth, Trash Pandas reliever Aaron Hernandez (S, 1) struck out the side in to finish the win and earn his first career save.

Soto led the way with four RBI while Adams’ first Double-A home run gave him hits in his first three games for Rocket City. Aguilar drew five walks without an official at-bat and scored three runs for the Trash Pandas in their second straight two-run win. Palmeiro added three hits and three RBI from the number three spot in the lineup.

The first-half North Division Champion Trash Pandas (44-30 overall, 3-2 second half) conclude their series with the Smokies (39-35 overall, 2-3 second half) on Sunday night. First pitch at Smokies Stadium is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Josh Caray will be on the call for 103.9 FM THE UMP and 730 AM SportsRadio.

Rocket City returns home to begin a six-game homestand with a special Independence Day matchup against the Chattanooga Lookouts on Monday, July 4. First pitch is set for 6:35 p.m. at Toyota Field. The Trash Pandas will be wearing specialty Patriotic stars and stripes themed jerseys for the game and following the game, the biggest fireworks show of the season will light up the Rocket City sky, courtesy of Raytheon.

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