O’Hoppe’s homer powers 6-5 Trash Pandas win in Montgomery
By Aaron Cheris
MONTGOMERY – In the opener of a six-game series between two of the best teams in the Southern League, the Rocket City Trash Pandas got a late home run from their new top prospect to turn a deficit into a lead before the bullpen finished a 6-5 victory over the Montgomery Biscuits on Tuesday night at Riverwalk Stadium.
Trailing 5-3 in the seventh, the Trash Pandas fought back. Livan Soto took a one-out walk in the. Zach Neto singled to center to put the tying runs on base. Logan O’Hoppe then unleashed the biggest swing of the night, crushing reliever Josh Roberson’s (L, 2-7) first pitch 424 feet off the scoreboard in left field for a monstrous three-run homer to propel the Trash Pandas back in front 6-5. The home run was O’Hoppe’s ninth in 21 games for the Trash Pandas and 24th overall between Rocket City and Double-A Reading in the Philadelphia Phillies’ organization.
Pitching with the lead, Kolton Ingram shut down the Biscuits in the seventh with a ground out and a pair of strikeouts. He returned in the eighth and again retired the Biscuits in order, this time with a ground out, a pop up, and a strikeout. With two scoreless innings, Ingram picked up his Southern League-leading 13th hold.
Closer Eric Torres (S, 19) was called on for the ninth and dominated, striking out the side in order to earn his league-leading 19th save of the season.
The game began well on the mound for both teams, with starters Coleman Crow and Mason Montgomery trading zeroes as neither team got a run for the first three innings.
In the fourth, the Trash Pandas broke through when Neto connected on an opposite field solo home run to right, his fourth at the Double-A level and fifth as a professional, to give the Trash Pandas the 1-0 lead. That would be the final inning of Montgomery’s night, as he departed after allowing the one run with six strikeouts over four innings.
An inning later, the Biscuits turned the deficit into a lead with one big swing, with Brett Wisely’s three-run home run getting Montgomery on the board against Crow. A sacrifice fly from Kameron Misner plated one more to give the Biscuits a 4-1 lead after five.
Rocket City responded in the sixth. Jeremiah Jackson reached with a one-out double to right-center. Kevin Maitan followed with a high fly ball that hooked around the foul pole in right for a two-run homer, his ninth of the season, to make it a one-run game at 4-3.
Montgomery restored the two-run lead in the bottom of the frame with Jordan Qsar’s 13th home run of the season off Crow. A walk to Roberto Alvarez would bring an end to Crow’s night after 5.2 innings. The Southern League leader in wins allowed five runs on nine hits with two walks and three strikeouts in his 22nd start of the season.
Nick Jones was first out of the bullpen and got the final out of the inning to keep the deficit at two, setting the stage for the late comeback.
Offensively, O’Hoppe’s three-run home run was the difference in a 2-for-5 performance. Neto went 2-for-4 with the home run, two runs scored, and a stolen base. Maitan led the way by tying a season-high with three hits including his two-run homer. Jones (W, 3-0) earned the win in Rocket City’s first ever game in Montgomery by getting the final out of the sixth with a strikeout.
The Trash Pandas (76-51, 35-23 second half) continue their series with the Biscuits (63-57, 35-23 second half) on Wednesday night. First pitch at Riverwalk Stadium is set for 6:35 p.m. Josh Caray will be on the call for 103.9 FM THE UMP and 730 AM SportsRadio.