M-Braves return to the field after 612 days away

Published 7:27 am Thursday, May 6, 2021

PEARL — For 612 days, Trustmark Park has been a movie theater, golf course and COVID-19 testing and vaccination site.

On Wednesday, at long last, it was once again a baseball stadium.

The Mississippi Braves played their first game since Sept. 2, 2019, when they opened the 2021 Double-A baseball season against Pensacola. While plenty of vestiges of the COVID-19 pandemic that canceled the entire 2020 season remained — fans wore face masks, and the national anthem and first pitch were taped hours before the game and shown on the video board — it was another big step in emerging from a long national nightmare.

An announced crowd of 2,307 watched Pensacola beat the M-Braves 2-1. Pensacola starting pitcher Max Meyer, the third overall pick in the 2020 Major League Baseball draft, pitched five shutout innings and allowed only one hit. He carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning before Jefrey Ramos broke it up with a one-out single, and finished with five strikeouts.

It didn’t take long for Pensacola, the Miami Marlins’ Double-A affiliate, to score its first run of the season. Victor Victor Mesa led off the game by reaching on a three-base error to right field, and then scored when the next batter, J.J. Bleday, blooped a single to center.

Nick Fortes opened the second inning with a double for the Wahoos and scored two batters later on a single from designated hitter Lazaro Alonso to make it 2-0.

M-Braves starter Hayden Deal settled in from there, and did not allow another run before exiting after five innings. Three relievers followed him and also kept the Wahoos off the scoreboard. Unfortunately, the M-Braves weren’t able to muster much offense to back them. A solo home run by Jalen Miller in the sixth inning accounted for their only run.

The Braves put two runners on base in the bottom of the ninth with two outs on a single by Trey Harris and walk to Shea Langeliers, but C.J. Alexander grounded out to end the game.

Wednesday’s game was the first of six this week between the M-Braves and Blue Wahoos. The teams will play a doubleheader Thursday beginning at 5:35 p.m. — both games are scheduled for seven innings — after Tuesday’s game was rained out.

Thursday marks the first “Thirsty Thursday” of the season with 16-ounce beers and soft drinks on sale for $2. The first 1,000 fans will also receive a 2021 magnetic schedule.

The series continues through Sunday at Trustmark Park. Friday’s game will begin at 6:35 p.m., Saturday’s at 6:05, and Sunday’s at 2:05. Promotions for the weekend include a sports socks giveaway on Friday, postgame fireworks on Saturday night, and a Mother’s Day flowers giveaway to the first 200 mothers in attendance on Sunday.

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured sports reporters in the paper's 137-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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