MADISON, Ala. (WHNT) — The stars shined brightest at Toyota Field on Thursday night, as the Rocket City Trash Pandas clinched the second-half North Division title with a 5-2 win over the Birmingham Barons.
The win gives the Trash Pandas both the first and second-half title in the North Division, and the Trash Pandas will enter the playoffs next week with the best overall record in the Southern League at 79-56 with three games remaining.
Wearing specialty Huntsville Stars throwback jerseys for the first time, the Trash Pandas got off to a perfect start. Chase Silseth worked around a walk in the opening inning and a hit by pitching the second to keep the Barons off the board early.
In the bottom of the second, the Rocket City offense broke through. Logan O’Hoppe and Kevin Maitan singled to start the frame. Following a fielder’s choice ground out, Sonny DiChiara blooped a single to shallow right, allowing O’Hoppe to come home with the first run of the game. Two hitters later, Jordyn Adams lined a single of his own to right, scoring Jackson for a 2-0 advantage.
Silseth again navigated through base runners in the third and fourth. O’Hoppe extended the lead with a long solo home run down the left field line in the bottom of the fourth, his 11th with the Trash Pandas and 26th of the season to make it 3-0. Aaron Whitefield capped the scoring for the home team with a two-run homer off the foul pole in left for his ninth home run of the season, giving the Trash Pandas a 5-0 lead they wouldn’t give up.
The Rocket City starter ended his stellar night by once again working through runners in the fifth and sixth, completing a brilliant performance for the eccentric righty. Over six scoreless innings, Silseth (W, 7-0) allowed just two hits and struck out nine to earn his fourth win in a row and seventh of the season.
Jack Dashwood allowed a pair of runs in the seventh. Ben Joyce dominated to strike out the side in the eighth for a hold, and Luke Murphy (S, 1) earned his first professional save with a clean ninth, setting off a wild celebration on the field.
O’Hoppe powered the offense by going 3-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI. Kyren Paris went 2-for-4 and Whitefield’s two-run homer was his first since June.
The Trash Pandas (79-56, 38-28 second half) continue their series with the Barons (60-75, 29-37 second half) on Friday night. The first pitch at Toyota Field is set for 6:35 p.m.