After a homestand filled with special moments and five wins, the Blue Wahoos put themselves in a good position to clinch a playoff spot.

They have won five of six games against the Tennessee Smokies, who started last week with their own playoff hopes, and are now heading into the final week of the Southern League first-half schedule with a lead. of 4.5 games on the Biloxi Shuckers. As fate would have it, the Blue Wahoos travel to Biloxi on Tuesday to begin a six-game series, needing just one win to seal a top spot.

The Southern League returned to its old format. First place teams after the first half schedule qualify for the playoffs. The second half schedule begins on June 27. If a team wins its division in both halves, it goes to a division team with the second-best winning percentage to determine the other playoff berth.

“You try not to look ahead, but at the same time when we show up every day, we expect to win,” pitcher Bryan Mitchell said. “It’s just a feeling that whether we fold sooner or later, there’s no doubt in the dugout that we’re going to finish it.”

The Blue Wahoos completed a homestand at Blue Wahoos Stadium on Sunday that may have been their best in team history.

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It began on June 14 with a 3–0 victory played in 1 hour 55 minutes as the fastest home game in Pensacola’s 10-year history. They won the next two games, both in extra innings with two wins in two of the longest games of the season, both over three and a half hours.

Nancy Faust, the Hall of Famer who worked 41 years for the Chicago White Sox and became a baseball institution, tries out the organ she played this weekend at Blue Wahoos Stadium during her very first visit to Pensacola

And then Saturday featured the incomparable Nancy Faust, 75, who has been the trendsetter, Hall of Fame organist for 41 years with the Chicago White Sox. Playing a 1961 Hammond B3 organ on loan from a group in Pensacola, she wowed with skills that had been so entertaining in days gone by. It was part of a special Father’s Day gift to Blue Wahoos owner Quint Studer, his wife, Rishy, ​​and daughter, Mallory, who wanted to bring Nancy Faust to Pensacola.

Both Quint and Rishy grew up in the Chicago area. They had never met Faust until his arrival on Friday.

And ahead of Saturday’s game, a marriage proposal took place on the pitcher’s mound by a couple who first met in 2020 at the stadium during the non-baseball season. Their first date was at a dinner, bingo and target golf night at Blue Wahoos Stadium over the weekend to give people an outlet during the first onslaught of Covid-19.

“I think it was the best night we’ve ever had at the stadium,” said Quint Studer, who stayed on during the post-match fireworks display as Faust continued to play a medley of songs. to adapt to the moment. “So many beautiful things. I loved having (Faust) here and having an organist. It was wonderful. It’s a lot easier to carry on a conversation and still be entertained.

And then on Sunday, the Blue Wahoos honored the decorated legacy of Gen. Daniel “Chappie” James Jr., who rose from humble beginnings in Pensacola to become the first African-American four-star general in the forces’ history in 1975. American armies. His countless accomplishments have earned him the status of one of the greatest Air Force commanders in history.

Cliff Curtis, president of the Chappie James Flight Academy in Pensacola, addresses the crowd during Chappie James Day Sunday at Blue Wahoos Stadium.

The team wore royal blue uniforms with four silver stars under “Pensacola” on the front of the shirts.

Before the game, there was also a tearful final first pitch by an 11-year-old boy, Carson, who threw to his adoptive father. The ball bore the words “Let’s Make This Official” and Carson had the official adoption paper in his back pocket as the two cried in each other’s arms.

He ended an amazing week

Now the Blue Wahoos will try to secure a decisive playoff victory in Biloxi.

Recap of last week

June 14 – AJ Ladwig made his fourth best start with the Blue Wahoos, pitching seven shutout innings in the Blue Wahoos’ 3-0 victory. The first five innings were over in less than an hour and the game was played in 1:55 as the shortest home game at Blue Wahoos Stadium.

Josh Simpson sealed it with four strikeouts in two innings to earn his first save. Troy Johnston homered and Norel Gonzalez hit a two-run single.

June 15 – Troy Johnston scored a decisive double in the 11th inning, scoring Bubba Hollins for a 5-4 win over the Smokies. It was the third time in the last two homestands that Johnston produced the game-winning shot or scored the game-deciding point.

Reliever Colton Hock set up the win by throwing three scoreless innings from the ninth.

June 16 – Wearing their Pensacola Mullets jerseys as the norm for the past two seasons on a Thursday night, the Blue Wahoos picked up another hit victory. This time it was Norel Gonzalez who was dunked with the bases loaded hard in the winning run.

Jeffry Yan was the co-headliner with a three-inning shutout performance. It was the Blue Wahoos’ sixth win in their last nine home games.

June 17 –Starter Bryan Mitchell, who played 66 major league games, including four years with the New York Yankees, had his best start with the Blue Wahoos, working seven innings in a 3-1 win. Josh Simpson closed out the game again by striking out three in the ninth inning.

June 18 – The Blue Wahoos ended their big night in the stands and pre-game activities with a 5-3 win over the Smokies. They answered the Smokies two runs in the first inning with a 5-run rally late in the first that included a pair of two-run homers from Troy Johnston and Griffin Conine, as well as an RBI single from Devin Harriston.

Starter Jeff Lindgren had a season-best nine strikeouts as his family watched after traveling from Illinois to watch the game.

An 11-year-old boy, Carson, hugs his foster dad after he threw a first pitch on Father's Day with a ball that meant an adoption had become official.

June 19 – The Blue Wahoos trailed 4-0 in the seventh and missed chances to rally late in the frame as the Smokies cruised to a 5-1 victory. But starter Cody Mincey was solid on the mound again for the Blue Wahoos, overcoming a Smokies three-run rally in the second inning to go six innings and keep the team in position for a comeback.

This week

The Blue Wahoos will make their second trip this season to Biloxi, but this one with a playoff spot on the line. The Shuckers (30-31) lost their series finale Sunday at Chattanooga in extra innings. That game was over as the Blue Wahoos were at the start of their game on Sunday.

With the Blue Wahoos now leading Biloxi by 4.5 games, that means the Blue Wahoos could clinch Tuesday with a win in the series opener. AJ Ladwig is the scheduled starter with Blue Wahoos ace Eury Perez working Wednesday.

Since each team in the Southern Division has played a different number of games, due to Covid-19 issues, the winning percentage is what determines the winner of the first half. The other two teams in the division, the Montgomery Biscuits and the Mississippi Braves were eliminated.

Notable Wahoos

Hooray Jerar –Making his Major League debut on Sunday, former Blue Wahoos star Jerar Encarnacion made baseball history in the Miami Marlins’ 6-2 win over the New York Mets in New York.

Encarnacion, 24, who played 31 games for the Blue Wahoos this season and had a team-leading .358 average when called up to Triple-A Jacksonville, played in a seven-set Grand Slam that sealed the victory for the Marlins. He became the first player in MLB history since 1901 to make his MLB debut with a grand slam, stolen base and assist in the same game.

He became the ninth former Blue Wahoos player this season to make an MLB debut and No. 112 overall.

Chappie’s memory – The Chappie James Day celebration included Cliff Curtis and Joe Denmon representing the legacy of General Daniel “Chappie” James Jr. Curtis, president of the Chappie James Flight Academy, made an opening pitch, followed by Denmon, board member of administration of the Chappie James Memorial Bridge Foundation.

There will soon be a plaza built on the Pensacola side of the Chappie James 3-Mile Bridge that will have a replica airplane that James flew in combat missions, as well as a giant statue of Pensacola’s iconic figure.

Players’ uniforms worn in honor of James on Sunday were auctioned off for a charity sponsored by the Andrews Institute to benefit the military. Players also wore “The Nine” crest symbolizing the number worn by Jackie Robinson in the minor leagues, before becoming the first African-American player to play in the major leagues.

The Blue Wahoos are one of a select number of minor league teams participating in The Nine, an outreach program dedicated to raising awareness and growing baseball in the black community.

Do you want to follow?

WHO: Blue Wahoos vs. Biloxi Shuckers

WHEN: From Tuesday (June 21) to June 26.

WHERE: MGM Park, Biloxi, Miss.

HOURS OF PLAY: Start times are 6:35 p.m. for games Tuesday through Saturday, then 5:05 p.m. on Sunday (June 26).

TICKETS: www.biloxishuckers.com/tickets.

RADIO: ESPN-Pensacola (99.1 FM and 1330 AM and WYCT 98.7 HD4).

TV: YurView (check provider) and MILB.tv (streaming) via www.milb.com/live-stream-games with subscription discount using BLUE WAHOOS.

NEXT HOME SERIES: Starts June 28 against the Montgomery Biscuits.

SOUTHERN LEAGUE STANDING

(Before the games of June 21)

North Division

Rocket City Trash Pandas—39-24

Tennessee Smokies —33-30 (6 return games)

Chattanooga Lookouts — 32-31 (eliminated in the first half)

Barons of Birmingham—27-36

South Division

Wahoos Blue Pensacola—33-25

Biloxi Shuckers — 30-31 (4.5 games back)

Montgomery Cookies – 24-32 (eliminated)

Mississippi Braves – 27-36

Bill Vilona is a retired Pensacola News Journal sports columnist and now Senior Writer for Pensacola Blue Wahoos. He can be contacted at [email protected]