Labor Day brought an end to the 2017 Rome Braves season, but the team didn’t feel the need to take the day off.
Displaying some of the strengths and talent which helped it find success this year more often than not, Rome rode strong pitching and advantageous hitting Monday afternoon to a 4-2 win over the Columbia Fireflies at State Mutual Stadium.
Jordan Rodgers went 3 for 4 with an RBI, and Bryse Wilson led a charge on the mound that saw four pitchers keep the reins tight on Columbia’s offense, allowing just two earned runs and striking out 12.
“It’s been the same all year. The guys have played hard every game until the last out, and they played hard until the last out of the last game,” Rome manager Randy Ingle said. “I’m so proud of them for that. We had some guys who had some really good years. We had a lot of guys who really improved.”
The Braves closed out the season with three straight wins, taking three of four from the Fireflies. Rome outscored Columbia 34-8 in the final series and set a season high for runs with a 16-4 win on Sunday.
The team celebrated another milestone on Monday as it finished the season above .500 in each half of the season for the first time in its 15-year history. The Braves went 38-32 in the first half and 36-33 in the second half for a total record of 74-65.
Ingle credited his coaching staff, including longtime Rome hitting coach Bobby Moore and pitching coach Dan Meyer, for the consistency of the team throughout the season.
“I can’t say enough about the staff here. Not only the hard work they bring in every day and the knowledge, but the way they care for each player out there. They put them first, and that goes a long way,” Ingle said. “We all work together to make something good, and I think we had a good year.”
Rome’s pitching staff once again comes through as one of the top staffs in the league, finishing first in strikeouts (1,254), and second in team ERA (3,19). Braves pitchers gave up the fourth fewest home runs in the SAL (60) and the third fewest earned runs (446).
Rome’s staff also included the league’s Most Outstanding Pitcher in Joey Wentz, top right-handed pitcher in Wilson, and the SAL postseason coach of the year in Meyer.
“I think overall, these kids really did a great job learning as they go and making adjustments,” Meyer said. “It’s a very talented league and we have a lot of young guys. For them to go out and not only compete, but be some of the best pitchers, if not the best pitching staff, in the league, that shows not only their talent but their ability to be coachable.”
Ryan Schlosser (1-7) got the win Monday with two innings of scoreless, one-hit relief. Wilson, who was named to the South Atlantic League’s Postseason All-Star Team last week, threw three shutout innings of no-hit ball, striking out six of the 10 batters he faced.
Rome went up 3-0 in the fifth after Kevin Josephina scored on a wild pitch and Izzy Wilson scored on a single. After Rome added a run in the seventh on a single by Rodgers, the Fireflies cut into the deficit in the eighth inning when Luis Carpio hit a two-out, two-run single.
Columbia had a runner on second in the top of the ninth, but Thomas Burrows struck out Jay Jabs to end the game.
Fried’s fast rise
Meyer said he got goose bumps when he got word after Rome’s game Sunday that former Rome pitcher Max Fried had won in his first major league start for Atlanta.
Less than a year since he pitched for the Rome Braves in the South Atlantic League championship game, the 23-year-old got the win as Atlanta defeated the Cubs, 5-1, at Wrigley Field.
“I mean this is why we do it,” Meyer said. “Whether we are at this level or a higher level, that’s why we do it, for those kids to get the chance to experience that. Not only to achieve history, but to help the organization, and I think everybody wins in that situation.”
Monday’s Rome Braves game marked the end of general manager Mike Dunn’s time with the organization as it was announced last week he will be the Atlanta Braves’ new vice president of Florida operations. In his new role Dunn will oversee the development of the future home of the Atlanta Braves’ spring training facility being developed in the West Villages in North Port, Florida.
Dunn became general manager of the Macon Braves in 1996 and followed the team when it moved to Rome in 2003. He was named SAL Manager of the Year in 2008 and was inducted into the South Atlantic League Hall of Fame in 2010.
See you next year
The Rome Braves open the 2018 season on April 5 hosting the Hagerstown Suns.