The Charleston RiverDogs erased an early 3-0 deficit, but couldn't hang on to a late lead as the Rome Braves won 6-5 on Connor Lien's walk-off sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 11th inning on Sunday afternoon at State Mutual Stadium in South Atlantic League action.
The two teams split the four game series with the RiverDogs record now at 25-25 in the second half and 58-62 overall. With the victory, Rome advances to 22-28 since the All-Star Break and 46-74 overall.
Justin Kamplain started for Charleston and retired the first five batters he faced. Unfortunately, those were the only five outs he recorded as the next six men all reached via either a base hit or a walk. Following a two-run single by Connor Lien that put Rome up 3-0, Johan Camargo reached on infield single to deliver the final blow to Kamplain.
Chad Taylor came out of the bullpen and was lights out for the RiverDogs. He induced a fly ball to deep centerfield off the bat of Sean Godfrey that was caught at the wall by Brandon Thomas to end the second inning and strand the bases loaded for the Braves. Taylor tossed 3.1 innings of scoreless, one-hit baseball.
Neither team was able to muster any offense from the second inning on until Charleston got on the board in the sixth inning. Miguel Andujar led off the frame with one of his three hits on the afternoon and then moved to second when Jackson Valera was hit by a pitch. After both runners advanced on a wild pitch, Eduardo de Oleo hit a sacrifice fly to center that scored Andujar and cut Rome's lead to 3-1. Both teams then went 1-2-3 in the seventh inning to set the stage for an entertaining eighth frame.
Three straight hits led off the eighth inning for Charleston with Tyler Wade, Andujar, and Mike Ford all singling. Ford's base knock brought in Wade and made it just a 3-2 lead for the Braves. With nobody out, Pete Perez came on to pitch for Rome.
Following a one-out single by Eduardo de Oleo that plated Ford to tie the game at 3-3, Yeicok Calderon stepped to the plate and slugged the first pitch he saw from Perez over the right field wall for his first home run of the year with Charleston. The two-run blast gave the RiverDogs their first lead of the game at 5-3.
However, the lead did not last long. An error on Ford at first base allowed the leadoff runner to reach in the bottom of the eighth, and then Godfrey belted a two-run homer well over the left field wall to tie the game at 5-5.
It looked like the game would be won in the tenth inning with both teams loading the bases with only one out, but neither team was able to score a run with runners being forced out at home plate in both the top and bottom of the frame.
Rome made their next threat count. In the home half of the 11th inning, Sal Giardina started things off with an infield single up the middle. After a successful sacrifice bunt by Carlos Sanchez pushed Giardina to second base, another infield single, this time by Trevor Sprowl, let Giardina move up to third base.
With only one out and runners at the corners, Lien hit a fly ball to medium depth in right field that was caught by Michael O'Neill for the inning's second out. But, O'Neill's throw home was a bit late and Giardina scored to win it for Rome.
Carlos Diaz started for the Braves and spun four no-hit, scoreless innings before departing. Charleston's starter Kamplain allowed three runs on four hits and two walks.
The winning pitcher was Andy Otero who lobbed three scoreless innings of relief on three hits and one walk for Rome. The lefty improves to 2-4 with the victory. Fellow southpaw Evan Rutckyj took the loss for the RiverDogs to fall to 3-2. Rutckyj gave up one run and three hits in 2.2 innings.
COMING UP: The RiverDogs return home to Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park on Monday to begin a seven-game homestand against the Hickory Crawdads and Rome Braves. The first game of a three-game series against Hickory is Monday night at 7:05pm. RHP Gabe Encinas (0-2, 6.61 ERA) is scheduled to start for Charleston and RHP Tyler Smith (6-3, 3.27 ERA) is expected to pitch for the Crawdads. Tickets may be purchased at the Riley Park Box Office, (843) 577-DOGS (3647) or on-line at www.riverdogs.com. If fans cannot make it to the ballpark, they are encouraged to tune in to all the action this year both home and away worldwide on www.riverdogs.com and locally on 1250 WTMA, the new radio home for RiverDogs baseball.