The Rome Braves left the bases loaded three separate times without scoring during Wednesday’s afternoon contest and made a couple costly defensive miscues which added up to a 9-3 loss to Hickory at AdventHealth Stadium.
Rome (35-30) was unable to come through with a clutch two-out hit with the bases loaded in the first, fourth and sixth innings, went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left 10 total runners on base while the visiting Crawdads were able to cash in several of their scoring chances, including scoring five runs with two outs in the seventh to pull away for good.
Rome manager Kanekoa Texeira said Wednesday’s game was one where his team made a few too many mistakes and didn’t take advantage of opportunities enough to find a way to win.
“(When you leave the bases loaded) it’s a huge momentum changer,” said Texeira. “That game was right there within reach until they had the big seventh inning. If we get a couple hits in those situations with runners on, it’s a whole new ballgame.”
The Braves’ defense didn’t do starter Dylan Dodd very many favors either Wednesday as Hickory (38-27) got on the board in the fourth inning on an RBI single by Angel Aponte that drove in two, but one more run came home to score on the play as the ball got by the left fielder and rolled toward the wall. Aponte advanced to third on the error and then came home to score on a sac fly from teammate Frainyer Chavez for the second unearned run of the frame.
During the Crawdads’ big seventh inning, the first of the five runs in the frame were unearned as the rally got started with an error on a fly ball that dropped in short right field. Luisangel Acuna and Aponte each had two-out, two-run singles in the inning.
“Dylan was grinding today and went into the seventh and might have gone into the eighth if we made a few more plays defensively for him,” said Texeira. “Those plays are the kind we have to make, especially when you’ve got a guy pitching lights out like Dylan did today. After using several guys from the bullpen yesterday, having Dylan go deep today was a big boost. He had all his pitches working and got soft contact, but we didn’t play very good defense behind him.”
Dodd took the loss to fall to 6-5 on the season after pitching 6 1/3 innings and allowing five runs (two earned) on six hits while striking out seven. Davis Schwab came on in relief in the seventh and pitched 2/3 of an inning, allowing four runs on two hits while striking out two and walking three.
Trey Riley and Austin Smith each pitched an inning of scoreless relief for Rome after that as Smith struck out two and Riley struck out one.
Marc Church earned the win in relief for Hickory to improve to 2-2 as he pitched two innings and gave up two runs on four hits while striking out two. Leury Tejada picked up a hold after pitching 1 2/3 scoreless innings, not allowing a hit and striking out two.
Spencer Mraz tossed the final two innings and gave up one run on one hit while striking out four. Hickory starter Ricky Vanasco got a no decision after lasting 3 1/3 innings, not allowing a run, giving up three hits, striking out four and walking three.
The Crawdads were led offensively by Aponte who had two hits and four RBIs, and Acuna also tallied two hits, drove in two and scored two runs. Jayce Easley doubled and scored a run, and Trevor Hauver had a hit and scored twice.
All three of Rome’s runs in the loss came by way of solo homer as Vaughn Grissom hit an opposite-field shot to right in the fifth, and Bryson Horne and Jacob Pearson each hit one out to right in the sixth and ninth innings, respectively. Pearson also had a double as he was the lone Braves’ player with multiple hits.
With Hickory, who is above the Braves in the South Atlantic League South Division standings, now winners of the first two games of the series, Rome will look to bounce back on Thursday night when they host the Crawdads once again at AdventHealth Stadium with first pitch scheduled for 7 p.m.
“It’s always big to try to tie or win the series in a six-game set like we play now,” said Texeira. “We’ve got four games left in this one so we’ll see what happens. We need to string hits together a little more and play a lot better defense. When we do those things and start to click we are hard to beat. But when don’t we are in trouble.”