KANNAPOLIS, NC — Justin Dean ripped an inside-the-park homerun on the first pitch of the game and the Rome Braves never looked back, opening the 2019 season with an impressive 9-1 win over the Intimidators in North Carolina on Thursday evening.
After adding a second run in the first inning on a Brendan Venter RBI single, Rome erupted for four runs in the third thanks to a Griffin Benson RBI double and a three-run homer from Venter.
Trey Harris added a solo shot in the fifth and Rome completed their scoring with two runs in the sixth inning on back-to-back RBI singles by Harris and Venter, extending the lead to 9-0.
Kannapolis got its lone run in the eighth inning on a double from Steele Walker into center field to pull it to 9-1. Rome never trailed in the game.
Venter finished his night 4-for-5 with a homer, double and five RBIs. Harris, Dean, and Andrew Moritz all contributed multi-hit efforts as well, and Greg Cullen had a hit and two walks.
As the Rome offense sizzled, their pitching staff enjoyed a successful night of its own. RHP Nolan Kingham got the win, tossing five scoreless innings and allowing only three hits, with a strikeout and no walks. Former position player-turned reliever Kurt Hoekstra was dominant on Thursday out of the bullpen, recording four strikeouts in 1 1/3 innings.
Game two of the series and season is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday evening at Intimidators Stadium in Kannapolis. Rome puts RHP Jasseel De La Cruz on the mound. Kannapolis will start LHP Taylor Varnell.