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Trash Pandas extend winning streak to five games

By Aaron Cheris

MADISON – The Rocket City Trash Pandas got another dynamic pitching performance from Mason Erla and Braden Olthoff, and the offense provided more than enough support for a 9-0 victory over the Montgomery Biscuits on Wednesday night at Toyota Field.

The win is Rocket City’s fifth in a row and improves their record to 36-23, a franchise-best 13 games over .500 with nine games remaining in the first half. Over the Trash Pandas current homestand, they have given up two or fewer runs in all eight games recording three shutouts for a stellar 0.93 ERA in that span.

Making his third Double-A start, Erla was strong front the outset. Two ground outs and a strikeout in the first allowed him to work around a ground-rule double from Curtis Mead. Erla worked into and out of trouble in the third as an error and a walk put two on with one out, before Grant Witherspoon grounded into an inning-ending double play.

The Trash Pandas responded by giving Erla much-needed support in the bottom of the frame. Bryce Teodosio and Kevin Maitan began the inning with infield singles. Anthony Mulrine followed by lifting a ground-rule double to left, plating Teodosio with the game’s first run. Orlando Martinez’s sacrifice fly scored Maitan with the second run of the inning and Preston Palmeiro extended his hitting streak to a season-high 10 games with a double of his own to score Mulrine for a 3-0 lead.

Mead doubled again to lead off the fourth for the Biscuits. Erla got through it with a ground out, a pop up, and a fly out to maintain the lead. Erla ended his start with a one, two, three fifth inning featuring a pop up to second and two strikeouts.

Over five scoreless frames, Erla (W, 1-0) limited the Biscuits to just three hits and one walk while striking out five to earn his first Double-A win and second professional victory in the sixth outing of his minor league career.

Olthoff entered in long relief for Rocket City and was just as stellar. A hit-by pitch and an error in the sixth weren’t enough to get the Biscuits on the board.  Rocket City broke the game open for good in the bottom of the frame. Aaron Whitefield and Palmeiro signed to get the inning started. Jackson then hit a high fly ball that carried over the left-field fence for a three-run homer, his fourth of the season and third in two games, to double the lead to 6-0. Mulrine drove in a run with a ground out to third and Martinez’s RBI single gave the Trash Pandas a five-run inning and an eight-run advantage through six.

Olthoff got a double play in the seventh to strand a runner on third and the Trash Pandas added the final run of the night on Ryan Aguilar’s RBI single in the bottom of the seventh. Olthoff ended the night on the mound by retiring the final six hitters he faced to finish the Trash Pandas fifth win in a row.

In his fourth Double-A appearance, Olthoff (S, 1) pitched the final four innings to earn his first professional save, striking out a pair while allowing two hits. Erla and Olthoff combined for their second straight shutout, after the dynamic pitching duo combined to hold Mississippi off the board in a 7-0 win in the first game of a doubleheader on June 9.

At the plate, eight of the nine Rocket City starters recorded at least one hit, with five players recording a multi-hit game. Jackson led the way with three RBI while Mulrine and Martinez also drove in a pair.

The Trash Pandas (36-23) continue their series against the Biscuits (23-29) on Thursday night. First pitch at Toyota Field is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. Josh Caray will be on the call for 103.9 FM THE UMP and 730 AM SportsRadio. The game will also be televised locally on WAAY-31.6, This TV.

Thursday night is Negro League Tribute Night at Toyota Field, presented by the Youth Friendship Foundation and Psi Kappa Kappa Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. In partnership with the Negro Southern League Museum in Birmingham, there will be a traveling exhibit of Negro League artifacts and memorabilia on the concourse for fans to explore. Former Negro League players Horace Moore and Eugene Scruggs will be on hand to throw the first pitch.

Thursday is also Burgers & Buds Thursday, where fans can get a burger and a Bud or Bud Light for $12, available at Dumpster Dive, Gravity Grille, or All-Stars concession stands. From 5-7 p.m., fans can enjoy $3 domestic drafts and a live performance from Tim Myles on the Inline Electric Rock Porch as part of Happy Hour.

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