The Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp closed in on a Southern League South Division second-half title with a doubleheader sweep of the Biloxi Shuckers Wednesday night, as Jacksonville pitchers worked 17 shutout innings before a Biloxi run, and John Norwood had four combined hits in a 1-0, 11-inning victory and 4-1, seven-inning triumph at MGM Park Wednesday night. Jacksonville (37-28 second half, 67-68 overall) can clinch its first playoff berth since 2014 with a win over the Pensacola Blue Wahoos at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville Thursday – the opener of a five-game series.
In Game 1 Wednesday, right-hander James Needy made his Jumbo Shrimp debut by tossing six scoreless innings, allowing four hits and three walks with six strikeouts. Shuckers right-hander Jon Perrin matched him with six no-hit innings before left fielder Kyle Barrett’s leadoff single in the seventh inning. Perrin went 6 1/3 shutout innings, and former Jacksonville right-hander Matt Ramsey escaped a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning. Jumbo Shrimp pitchers combined to no-hit the Shuckers (31-32, 67-65) for the final 7 2/3 innings, retiring the final 14 batters. Right-hander Tyler Kinley pitched two scoreless innings, before left-hander Daniel Schlereth (1-1) went the final three perfectly. Jacksonville scored the only run in the top of the 11th inning against left-hander Quintin Torres-Costa, who walked second baseman Alex Yarbrough and center fielder Braxton Lee. Left fielder Austin Dean singled, and a two-out wild pitch by Torres-Costa scored Yarbrough.
In Game 2, Jumbo Shrimp right-hander Joe Gunkel (6-9) did not allow a run in the first six innings. The Jumbo Shrimp opened the scoring in the second inning against Shuckers right-hander Cody Ponce (1-1). First baseman Taylor Ard reached on a two-out error by third baseman Gabriel Noriega, and catcher Rodrigo Vigil singled to right field. Right fielder Clint Coulter misplayed the ball, allowing Ard to score. In the fifth inning, Ard hit a leadoff double, and Vigil put down a sacrifice bunt, which Noriega threw past first base, bringing in Ard again to make it 2-0. In the sixth inning, Norwood singled, third baseman David Vidal walked, and Vigil hit a two-run single. Biloxi first baseman Dustin DeMuth hit a seventh-inning home run for his team’s only run. Right-hander Andy Beltre got the final two outs.
UP NEXT: The Jumbo Shrimp begin their final regular season series with Pensacola at 7:05 p.m. Thursday. Gates open at 6 p.m.